Mike Cattermole on the resumption of racing and key Guineas weekend action

Action from Lingfield on Monday

Mike Cattermole says while the BHA have received deserved praise following the resumption of racing, others need to be given credit too.


I had my first day out since the lockdown at Lingfield on Monday and was most impressed with the bio-security measures that had been put in place.

They clearly had been extremely well planned and thought out, were easy to follow and everybody respected them. It was just good to be back.

In fact, it would be hard to find a dissenting voice against the way racing has been resuscitated since returning on June 1.

That said, while recognising that the BHA ultimately did very well with the operational aspects, there is a rumbling of uneasiness behind the scenes about the lack of acknowledgement given to others who played a critical role in ensuring the sport’s return.

There was dismay in the middle of April when it became known that the BHA had had no contact with ministers in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and that the governing body had conceded privately that they didn’t have a top contact at the Treasury, either.

Racing couldn’t start without the government’s approval and with the restart looking a long way off, there was a growing feeling among some elite racing professionals that something had to happen or somebody had to do something to help things along.

I am told, therefore, that significant members of racing’s training and bloodstock community made direct approaches to Matt Hancock and other senior ministers.

Far from turning their backs, the ministers welcomed this, were keen to help form a plan and made it known that, privately, the government - including Chancellor Rishi Sunak whose constituency covers Middleham - was eager to see racing return.

With Hancock, Sunak and other key Cabinet members now in the loop, and the word getting out in government circles, racing could start to form a proposal.

Things began to crystalize. As the BHA were working on how racing might work behind closed doors, the BHA’s chief medical adviser Dr Jerry Hill and his team, assuming that everybody coming into and out of a racecourse would need to be tested, were struggling to get around the costs which could be as much as £1m a month.

However, the government, now in the picture, made it clear that that would not be necessary.

A well-known Newmarket-based professional told me: “The BHA was worried about public perception and were hiding behind football and cricket. Matt Hancock and other senior ministers once again proved friends to racing.

“Nobody is looking for recognition for anything they might have done to help. It is great that we have racing back but it is clear that we need to improve the government’s relationship with the sport.

“We need to act together with our senior political connections so we can rely on the BHA going forward.”


He may only have prevailed narrowly but Kameko was much the best horse in 2,000 Guineas field on Saturday. That he managed to win from the position he found himself in was both a credit to him and the man on top, Oisin Murphy.

Murphy really is racing’s new star and in mopping up his first domestic Classic, put another brick into the construction of what should be a mightily successful and long career.

In one sense, he is already ahead of three legends of the saddle, already being champion jockey when breaking his Classic duck.

Lester Piggott, champion for the first time in 1960, did things the other way round, winning his first Derby in 1954 and adding a handful of Classics later that decade.

Kameko and Oisin Murphy - 2000 Guineas winners

When Willie Carson won his first Classic, also in the Guineas, on High Top in 1972, he wasn’t champion jockey until the end of that year. Likewise Frankie Dettori, who notched up his first Classic in the 1994 Oaks on Balanchine, the same year he was crowned champion for the first time.

Kameko’s Guineas was a triumph too for Andrew Balding, who achieved something that his father, Ian, never did and doubled his own Classic tally, 17 years after Casual Look’s Oaks.

He is too good a trainer not to win more and who’s to say that Kameko won’t add the Derby next month for Sheikh Fahad’s Qatar Racing? Perhaps Sheikh Fahad’s adviser, David Redvers, was having a spot of fun when reportedly being cool on going to Epsom in order to protect the colt’s stud value?

It is true that Guineas winners might be considered a bit “sexier” these days but winning both Guineas and Derby, a la Nashwan, Sea The Stars and Camelot, is a rare thing.

So, will Kameko stay? The sire’s side says probably, the dam’s side says “not sure.” A mile and a quarter should be no issue at all but nobody is going to know until he comes down that hill with two furlongs to run.

Then, not only has he got to stay, he may have other good ones to beat, too.


English King is an impressive winner at Lingfield

By that I mean principally English King, who was a far more impressive winner of the Lingfield Derby Trial than Anthony Van Dyck was last year.

Ed Walker’s colt just did everything right, he settled, he moved well, quickened effortlessly and clocked a time almost three seconds faster than the Oaks Trial. He was way too good for Berkshire Rocco who lined up quietly fancied by the Balding team and was well clear of the rest. Who was on board Berkshire Rocco? Oisin.

No doubt our new sportinglife.com recruit will be revealing his thoughts nearer the race!

English King seemed to have stacks in reserve but he will need to, as beating a horse rated 104 just under three lengths is not Derby-winning form yet.

That said, he looks incredibly exciting and may be the horse that his trainer has been looking for. And if this is the year for Classic breakthroughs for our young jockeys, it could be Tom Marquand’s turn, too.


Pinatubo goes to post in the Guineas

And what about Pinatubo for Epsom?

There weren’t many takers when I mooted this on Twitter after his Guineas third!

Pinatubo’s standout run last year was over in Ireland and he didn’t quite reproduce the same fireworks in the Dewhurst when I felt he looked to be crying out for a mile at that stage.

He still beat Arizona and Wichita then but the third turned the form around with him last Saturday as he suffered his first defeat. There was no disgrace in this and he was still a good third, clear of the rest, and saw out the mile well. You couldn’t fault his attitude, either.

However, one could argue that Pinatubo has more of a chance of seeing out a mile and a half than Kameko.

Pinatubo’s dam, by Dalakhani, won at 11 furlongs and his family is the same as Rafha, the winner of the Prix de Diane and the Lingfield Oaks Trial. There is plenty of stamina in there.

The trouble is that although his sire Shamardal won the French Derby, he does tend to throw some fast horses – Blue Point being the best of them.

However, he also sired Mukhadram who saw out a mile and a half well when third in the King George at Ascot.

Of course, Team Godolphin already has another Shamardal heading for a Derby as Victor Ludorum is inked in for the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly on July 5. To be honest, Pinatubo would also be an ideal candidate there, too, but it would be unlikely that both would turn out.

Charlie Appleby seemed to be favouring the St James’s Palace Stakes immediately after the Guineas but it’s surely worth a discussion to let Pinatubo have a bit more time to get over his first start in eight months, give Ascot a swerve and head to Epsom?


Sceptical scorches at Naas

It was wonderful to see Sceptical do on the turf what he has been doing on the all-weather recently as he once again hacked up, this time in Listed company at Naas.

This Godolphin-bred was one that was let go by the boys in blue and it is hard to believe that the son of Exceed And Excel and Queen Mary heroine Jealous Again was picked up for a mere £2800 by his owner James McAuley at Goffs UK last August!

There were obviously some big problems but McAuley and Denis Hogan were prepared to give him a chance.

Now he is lining up for the King’s Stand Stakes at Ascot next Tuesday, Frankie has been booked (as apprentice Joey Sheridan cannot ride in the UK until June 22) and a huge story is waiting to happen!

One man’s surplus is another man’s superstar and big breeding and racing operations such as Godolphin are always likely to let some slip through the net.

Indeed, it wasn’t that long ago that Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell allowed a future Guineas winner in Makfi to go for just 26,000 guineas.

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