Weekend Review: Future Champions Day
Dave Ord (DO), Will Hayler (WH), Michael Shinners (MS) and Ben Linfoot (BL) take a look back at Future Champions Day and what we learnt from the weekend.
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The Dewhurst - usually an excellent guide to the next year's Classics. Same again this time?
DO: It seemed the done thing to crab War Command in the immediate aftermath of his win on Saturday but I was reasonably impressed. He travelled well through the first five furlongs and while he needed shaking up to fend off Cable Bay, he was well on top at the finish. He looks to have a very solid 2000 Guineas profile and if he turns up at Newmarket next spring, he won't be a double figure price.
MS: I felt that War Command was workmanlike rather than scintillating. In winning the race he showed his versatility on the ground and also proved that he has the battling qualities to be a very good 3 year old. However in beating Cable Bay by just under 2 lengths, his performance also suggested that he needs to improve over the winter if he is going to take next year's 2000 Guineas. We went 8/1 from 10/1.
BL: The absence of Kingman was undoubtedly a blow to the race but I would be wary of dismissing the Dewhurst form despite Cable Bay's proximity in second. Charlie Hills' horse was flattered to finish where he did, lying closer to the pace than Outstrip and Anjaal and getting first run on the pair. In time I'm sure those two will prove to be better than they appeared to be on Saturday. As for the winner, I was impressed by his effort considering he's a completely different horse on fast ground. If there's 'firm' in the going description come the Guineas next May, he's a huge player.
WH: I have to agree with Ben. At this stage, I'd rather be with War Command than Kingman for the 2000 Guineas, but the former is nearly twice the price of the latter in places. It's almost certain to be quicker ground at Newmarket next spring than it was on Saturday and that's sure to suit.
What did you make of Astaire's win in the Middle Park?
DO: I loved the way he battled when the going got tough and he's clearly a very useful colt. He's improving with racing and certainly deserves a crack at a Guineas. He's an Intense Focus half-brother to a mille winner in Batya (by speed influence Whipper) and while connections are confident he'll get seven furlongs, they expressed some doubts about the mile. With the three-year-old sprint programme so thin I suspect they'll give him the chance to bounce and out and prove his stamina at HQ. If he stays he'll be a threat to all.
MS: You certainly can't question his attitude as Neil Callan was quite whip happy in the final furlong! Astaire looks and out an out sprinter and although we quoted him at 33/1 for the 2000 Guineas, I would be amazed if we didn't see him campaigned over six furlongs. Races like the Duke Of York Stakes could be early season targets next year
BL: A magnificent training performance from Kevin Ryan to train the first two home and he's got two very different horses to go to war with next season. Hot Streak looks an out and out sprinter and you can see him competing in races like the King's Stand and the Nunthorpe while Astaire will probably take his chance in the Guineas. However, I doubt he'll be good enough - I doubt he's a miler. He got the run of the race out in front on Saturday and I can envisage him fading over a mile before dropping back in trip next term.
WH: I have no intention of trying to discredit such a game Group One winner and that's not the first time his determined attitude has impressed this season, but if he wins the 2000 Guineas me and this great game are through.
What about the victories of previously once-raced horses Al Thakhira and Kingston Hill in the Rockfel and Autumn Stakes respectively?
DO: There was an element of style over substance with both. Al Thakhira's move from the rear of the field to hit the front leaving the Dip oozed class. 93 and 96 rated horses filled the placings and she'll need to take a step forward again next year but I'd surprised if she wasn't capable of going higher.
Kingston Hill looked green at times through the Autumn Stakes but was well on top at the finish. And is another interesting prospect. Roger Varian feels he may be capable of making an impatct at mile next season but his future looks over further and it would be no surprise to see him aimed at a race like the Dante next spring.
MS: You couldn't help but be impressed by Al Thakhira who showed a touch of class in the Rockfel. She would need to improve again but looks to have plenty of scope. We introduced her into the 1000 Guineas market at 14/1. Kingston Hill looks a useful prospect, although I'm not totally convinced how good a race it was.
BL: Both were impressive considering their inexperience and I was particularly taken with Al Thakhira who slammed her rivals in the Rockfel. I was as impressed with her as anything in the 1000 Guineas betting and 16/1 seems fair enough. I wouldn't take the Lightning Thunder-Miss France form line too literally but I'm surprised she isn't closer to the market leader in the betting. Kingston Hill looks a lovely middle-distance prospect for his sire Mastercraftsman.
Anything else catch the eye over the weekend?
DO: No prizes for originality but Mushir at York. There was a strong word for Roger Varian's charge before his Kempton debut and he overcame greenness to score there. A lot went wrong on the Knavesmire too but he again showed a good attitude to knuckle down and get the job done. I don't think we've seen anything approaching the best of him yet.
MS: Seussical looked a class apart at York on Saturday and in winning off 103, he could easily be a Group horse next year. We could easily have seen a Melbourne Cup horse for 2014.
BL: I'm not giving up on Humidor who had no luck at all in the Coral Sprint Trophy at York on Saturday. As they congregated up the stands' rail his draw in 20 became a nightmare and he went sidewards as much as forwards in the closing stages in a bid to get a clear run. He continues to slide down the handicap but he retains his class and I'm convinced he has a decent prize in him.
WH: Having attended a wedding of an old friend on Saturday, my principal eyecatcher away from the big races which I was able to enjoy on an Ipad kindly set up on the bar was the delicious Lamb Wellington.
Does Future Champions Day have a future?
DO: I hope so and I wouldn't be keen on jumping on the bandwagon to see the Dewhurst switched to Champions Day at Ascot. It's not got a bad record for crowning our champion juvenile at its current venue and the Berkshire track still has the habit of throwing up wide-margin winners who don't quite go on to achieve the same rating elsewhere. The fixture definitely needs a bit of work - and scheduling it on a Friday won't help with the push to get people through the turnstiles - but I defy anyone to suggest the seven-race programme on Saturday didn't make for a compelling afternoon's entertainment.
MS: Who knows? It seems strange to call the day Future Champions and yet have the Cheveley Park and the Fillies' Mile run a couple of weeks earlier at the Cambridgeshire meeting.
BL: Absolutely. The Dewhurst in particular continues to be the go-to race for our best juveniles and if Kingman had turned up and beaten War Command by three lengths on Saturday we'd all be talking about the new Frankel. I also think it's important that the day remains at Newmarket on the same course where the same horses will be bidding for Guineas glory the following May. Yes there are negatives with moving it to a Friday - perhaps Newmarket does deserve the exposure a Saturday meeting gets for one. But having it the day before Champions Day might not be such a bad thing and I for one will be turning up if the races promise to be as enjoyable as Saturday's.
WH: There isn't a job in the sport I would like less than the excellent Amy Starkey's at the helm of Newmarket racecourses, because it's so hard to fathom quite why this project still isn't quite working. I wasn't at the track on Saturday, but watching the television pictures there were vast empty patches around the winner's enclosure that made the place look anything but the thriving centre of the sport that it should be - this is the Home of Horseracing, for goodness sake! I wouldn't give up on the fixture (even though the idea of having the Dewhurst and the Middle Park on the same card still grates), but I might try bringing the ticket prices down or offering free entry to stable staff from the town. As Russ Abbot sang: "Atmosphere. There's nothing like a party with a happy atmosphere."