Horses To Follow » La Rioja

La Rioja

It may pay to retain faith with La Rioja for another little while. Henry Candy’s filly ran better than her finishing position suggests in the Group 3 Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock on Saturday.

She travelled well through the early stages of the race just behind the leader Gifted Master, but she was short of room at the two-furlong pole when Oisin Murphy wanted to go forward. The gap between the leader and Gracious John just closed at the wrong time. Then they were enveloped by the horses with momentum, Quiet Reflection on the near side and Buratino on the far side. In the space of half a furlong, she had lost her position just behind the leaders, and was stone last of the seven runners.

You can’t call her an unlucky loser or anything, the winner was very good and, if she had been able to quicken at the two-furlong pole, she would have been able to get into the gap before it closed. And she didn’t flash home at the end. Even so, she lost her position at a crucial stage of the race, and Oisin Murphy was not hard on her once her winning chance had gone. She is better than this.

Her inexperience was probably a factor. This was just her fourth run ever, it was her seasonal debut and her first run out of juvenile company. It was a whole new experience for her. She was still competing against her own age group, but she was taking on colts, and all her main rivals were far more experienced than she was: Donjuan Triumphant had raced eight times, Gifted Master had raced eight times, Buratino had raced nine times. Even the winner, Quiet Reflection, the other filly in the race, had raced five times.

La Rioja should benefit from this experience. She should also do better when she can get back on easier ground. The times on the day suggested that the ground on the straight track was just on the fast side of good. Also, Henry Candy’s yard was quiet enough in the run up to Saturday’s race. It is often quiet in May. They had no winners from 32 runners in May this year (and they had just one winner from 30 runners in May 2015, and none from 24 in May 2014). June is usually a much better month for the yard (eight winners from 36 runners last year), as is July (10 winners from 38). La Rioja will be of interest wherever she goes next, and she will be of particular interest when there is a little bit of cut in the ground.

28th May 2016