Horses To Follow » Horses To Follow


It was a bit disappointing on the face of it that Masaarr could not finish any closer than fourth in the London Gold Cup, but events conspired against him. Settled in midfield early on behind a relatively sedate pace, he was keen enough behind horses until the pace lifted four furlongs out. Roger Varian’s horse travelled well early in the home straight, and he made nice ground towards the outside at the three-furlong pole. It looked at that stage as if he was going to be involved in the finish, but the front three quickened again on the far side, and he just couldn’t get close enough to land a blow.

He did keep on all the way to the line, he closed on the third horse Chief Ironside through the final furlong, but he couldn’t get closer to the winner Communique than the five lengths by which he was beaten. It was a race in which the prominent racers held sway. The first three home occupied the first three places from early, and they picked up again in the home straight towards the far side, as Masaarr tried to make his ground from mid-division out in the centre of the track.

The London Gold Cup is often a strong race, and this year’s renewal is already looking good. Connect, who finished last in the race, came out next time and won a good 10f handicap at Epsom on Derby day, a race in which London Gold Cup runner-up Poet’s Prince finished fourth. London Gold Cup eighth, Glencadam Master, finished second in a one-mile handicap at Doncaster next time, on the same day, Derby day, while ninth-placed Master Of Wine finished second in the 10f handicap on the same card.

Masaarr remains an interesting horse. He didn’t make his racecourse debut until last October, and he won on his second run, at Lingfield in November. On his second run this season, he stayed on well to win a handicap at Doncaster over a mile off a mark of 88. He was raised to a mark of 96 for the London Gold Cup, but he should be capable of going beyond that mark now. He is lightly-raced and he remains progressive, and this 10-furlong trip looks like a good trip for him.

Newbury, 19th May 2018


Mutaaqeb did well to finish a close-up second in the King Charles II Stakes, given how keen he was through the early stages of the race.

Dane O’Neill had to take him back to the rear of the five-strong field in order to try to get him to settle early on. He still didn’t settle too well but, even so, he was able to make good progress on the far side from the 2f marker, and he emerged as a real challenger to favourite Purser as they raced inside the final 1f. He couldn’t get past John Gosden’s horse, but he only went down by a head in the end. The winner was well-fancied and well-backed, he was racing for the seventh time and he had race-fitness on side, whereas Mutaaqeb was racing for just the third time in his life and he was making his seasonal debut. And the form of his run in a listed race at Doncaster last October to finish second to Speak In Colours looks even better now than it did then since that horse ran such a good race in a listed race at Navan in April on his debut for Joseph O’Brien, and followed up by finishing third behind Sioux Nation in the Group 3 Lacken Stakes at Naas.

The King Charles II Stakes is usually a strong listed race and this year’s third Aurum has already come out and run a good race to finish second to Lake Volta in the Listed Surrey Stakes at Epsom on Oaks day on a track that he didn’t appear to handle. Mutaaqeb should improve for this run, and he should do better when he learns to settle better. He was entered in the St James’s Palace Stakes, so he is obviously held in high regard, and he will be of interest wherever he goes next. He could be an interesting outsider in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot if he was aimed at that race. This King Charles II Stakes is often a good pointer to the Jersey Stakes. Tariq won both races in 2007 and Jeremy won both in 2006. Also, the 2016 King Charles winner Thikriyaat finished second to Ribchester in the Jersey Stakes, the 2015 winner Tupi finished fourth in the Jersey, beaten a length and a half, the 2012 winner Aljamaaheer finished third in the Jersey, beaten a length, and the 2011 winner Codemaster finished second in the Jersey, beaten a half a length.

Newmarket, 19th May 2018


Aspetar was impressive in winning the Listed Cocked Hat Stakes over 1m 3f. Settled back in the field early on by Kieran Shoemark behind a relatively slow pace, he didn’t have a lot of room at the top of the home straight. Fifth of the seven runners when they straightened up, he had to switch to the outside, around Bombyx, in order to deliver his challenge. But he picked up impressively when his rider asked him to, into a quickening pace. He hit the front just inside the furlong pole, and he went on to win by a cosy length in the end.

This was just Roger Charlton’s horse’s second run ever. Well backed on his debut at Windsor in April, he was impressive in winning there, coming clear of his rivals impressively, and he stepped up on that here. He may not want the ground to be too fast, his trainer said afterwards that he loved the easy ground on Friday, but he does hold an entry in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot, so he does have that option if the ground does not come up too fast. Roger Charlton also mentioned the St Leger as a possible. Charlton trained his sire Al Kazeem who was a multiple Group 1 winner over a mile and two furlongs, and who was a Group 2 winner over a mile and a half. Aspetar is two for two, he has lots of scope for further progression, and he will be of interest wherever he goes next.

Goodwood, 25th May 2018

U S Navy Flag

U S Navy Flag also put up a big performance in finishing second to Romanised in the Irish 2000 Guineas.

Sent to the front from flagfall by Ryan Moore, Aidan O’Brien’s horse travelled easily in the lead. He was not given an easy time of it by Elarqam, who raced up just behind the leader on the inside through the early stages of the race, until he started to fade as they passed the 4f marker. Left in front on his own at that stage, the son of War Front kicked at the 2f marker and immediately took a couple of lengths out of his field in the style of a high-class individual. He looked the most likely winner at that point, and he still looked set for victory as they raced to the 1f pole, but Romanised finished best of all on the near side and wore him down. It was a big performance by Ken Condon’s horse, but it was a big run by U S Navy Flag, who kept on all the way to the line to retain second place, over 1l clear of his stable companion Gustav Klimt in third.

The U S Navy Flag story thus far is a rare story. The Ballydoyle colt raced no fewer than 11 times last season as a juvenile, and he improved with just about every run until he disappointed on dirt in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Winner of the Middle Park Stakes and the Dewhurst last season, he has started off this season similarly, improving from run to run, from his debut at Leopardstown in April, to finishing a close-up fifth in the French 2000 Guineas, to finishing second in the Irish 2000 Guineas. It is reasonable to expect that he will improve again next time.

You can argue that 7f might turn out to be his optimum trip this season, but he is also top class over 1m, and you can also understand why Aidan O’Brien appears to be favouring the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes over the Group 3 Jersey Stakes as his Royal Ascot target, given that he is already a dual Group 1 winner. He should be a big player in the St James’s Palace Stakes too if he takes his chance in it. Apparently at his best when he races from the front, the fact that the St James’s Palace Stakes is run over the round mile as opposed to the straight mile is significant. U S Navy Flag remains a top class individual, and it may be that he will be under-rated next time on the back of his Irish Guineas defeat.

The Curragh, 26th May 2018


Hazapour only finished fifth in the Derby in the end, but he still ran a big race. They went a fast pace from early, and Dermot Weld’s horse was never far off it. He raced along the inside in fourth or in a share of third place with The Pentagon behind Knight To Behold and Kew Gardens. He travelled well into the home straight, and when Frankie Dettori moved him towards the outside and allowed him move up to join the leaders, it looked as if he could go on and win it. He traded at 2/1 in-running at that point. He just wasn’t as strong in the finish as the closers, but he still kept on well enough to retain fifth place, with a nice break between him and the sixth horse Delano Roosevelt.

Hazapour is out of a half-sister to his owner The Aga Khan’s 2016 Derby winner Harzand, but he is by Shamardal, and he just didn’t have the requisite stamina in the end for the Derby. That was accentuated by the fact that he raced close up behind a fast pace from early. It was a race that was run to suit the hold-up horses, and the four horses who finished in front of him were all behind him through the early stages of the race. And it is interesting that, before he made his seasonal debut in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, trainer Dermot Weld said that he was showing so much pace at home, he considered running him in the Amethyst Stakes over a mile on the same day instead.

That said, he saw out the 10 furlongs of the Derrinstown race well. And that was his seasonal debut, and just his fourth run ever, so it was legitimate to expect that he would improve for it.

He will be interesting dropped down to 10 furlongs, which is surely the plan for him now. All the top 10 furlong races during the season are open to him, races like the Juddmonte International, the Irish Champion Stakes and the Champion Stakes. It would not be surprising if Dermot Weld was working back from the Irish Champion Stakes, with the objective of having him at concert pitch for 15th September.

Epsom, 2nd June 2018