Ben Linfoot reflects on three days at the Craven Meeting at Newmarket with thoughts on 2000 Guineas hope Masar, eyecatchers and plenty more.
Weapon of Mas destruction
For all the pre-race gallops at the Craven Meeting this week, it was good to see a colt firmly stamp his credentials for the Qipco 2000 Guineas with a dominant performance on the track.
Dominant hardly does Masar justice, though, as he pulverised his opposition in the bet365 Craven Stakes. You can point to the fact Roaring Lion didn’t settle and consequently failed to do himself justice, but Masar lengthened clear in the style of a top-notch Classic candidate, winning by nine lengths as he liked.
A top two-year-old last year, he was third to September in the Chesham at Royal Ascot, won well at Sandown in the Solario and was then too keen when third in the Lagardere before finding trouble in the run at the Breeders’ Cup.
That tendency to get on with things, though, has been ironed out. A blast on the Meydan Dirt looked like it might’ve been a big step backward, but, on Thursday’s evidence, that is far from the case.
“He came here fit, there’s no doubt about it, but at the end of the day we’re talking about a Guineas that takes place in over two weeks’ time,” said a bubbling Charlie Appleby afterwards.
“I’ve not gone over the top by doing what we’ve done today, but what I was delighted to see was, William said to me, ‘God he was professional out there’, I said ‘William, he was professional from the moment he turned up for the races’.
“If you remember last year he had a hood on him in the preliminaries, he’s had a hood on him in Dubai, he was just all gas, wanted to get on with it and today we’ve taken the hood off.
“On what we’ve seen out there I think he’s going to be a big contender [for the 2000 Guineas] for sure. He’s a live shot, there’s no doubt about it.
“For me you don’t want to be 70 per cent fit [in the trial], you want to be up there. He’s not going to have a bounce factor anyway!”
The 8/1 with Sky Bet available immediately after the race didn’t last long. The 7/1 available now is more than fair. This was only a trial, but Masar looks the real deal.
Craven Meeting Eyecatcher: Roller, Mick Easterby
Roller finished sixth in the Plusvital Energene-Q10 Handicap on Tuesday on his first start for 10 months, shaping as though he can score off his current mark of 88 at some point in the coming months.
He should come on for this and there could be more improvement to come when Easterby steps him up slightly in trip. His dam, Buffering, won over 9.5 furlongs and she’s related to 10-furlong winner Prince Apollo.
Jackstar a nice hint for Dascombe juveniles
The Montaz Restaurant EBF Novice Stakes is gaining a reputation like the local curry house that sponsors the juvenile contest (hot and good) and hopes are high for this year’s winner, Jackstar, trained by Tom Dascombe.
Connections will be hoping he can follow in similar footprints to last year’s winner, Sound And Silence, a colt that won the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot before going on to further Listed and Group Three success.
A £120,000 Dark Angel yearling, he looked well forward in the preliminaries, was well backed and travelled like a good horse, slightly drifting to his left but keeping going to beat representatives from Charlie Hills’ and Aidan O’Brien’s well.
You can easily see him scooting around Chester in the Lily Agnes before taking in Royal Ascot and it bodes well for Dascombe’s two-year-olds as they traditionally really get going in May.
The Dascombe yard has had 29 juvenile winners in May at a 17 per cent strike-rate over his career, backing up the thought that he’s an adept trainer with early juveniles.
It’s not his best month for juvenile winners, though. That’s December (18 winners at a 25 per cent strike-rate), but with May a close second it could be worth keeping an eye on Dascombe’s two-year-olds in the coming weeks, especially after Jackstar kicked them off on turf in style.
Craven Meeting Eyecatcher: Eastern Impact, Richard Fahey
Eastern Impact has dropped to a very good mark on 97 and he might’ve taken advantage of that number if they’d gone a stronger pace in the Weatherbys General Stud Book Handicap, the opening sprint on Wednesday.
The good news is he shouldn’t go back up too much for this and his trainer reports him to have come out of the race well, with the six-furlong handicap that he’s won and finished second in before firmly on his agenda back here on Guineas weekend.
Scat Daddy all the rage at Tattersalls
Racing fans on this side of the pond know all about the progeny of the ill-fated North American Coolmore sire Scat Daddy following the exploits of Lady Aurelia, Acapulco, Caravaggio and most recently Mendelssohn in recent years.
It was no surprise, then, that some of his final crop went for enormous sums at the Tattersalls Craven Breeze Up Sale this week.
Lot 163 topped the sale, a Scat Daddy out of Madera Dancer, with agent Stephen Hillen getting his hands on the colt for a sweet 900,000 guineas.
"He is for a client who wishes to stay anonymous," said Hillen, "but the colt will be staying in the UK. I saw this horse at Mayfield Stables twice this winter - the first time I thought he was a bit small, but he developed and developed and when I saw him the second time, I loved him.
"He will be a two-year-old and should not be too long to get to a racecourse. Scat Daddy is a great sire and Mayfield does a great job producing its horses."
Another expensive Scat Daddy went on the first day of the sale as Lot 71, out of a winning Cape Cross mare Alegendinmyownmind, went to Charlie Gordon-Watson following a bidding war with Jeremy Noseda.
"The horse has been bought for Dr Johnny Hon and his global brand," said Gordon-Watson, who laughed: "I didn't think he would cost that much!”
The Scat Daddy factor had a lot to answer for and a third expensive purchase from the sire went for 775,000 guineas on the Wednesday when Jamie McCalmont, who was buying on behalf of MV Magnier, bought a colt out of the Medaglia D’Oro mare Lauded.
McCalmont said: “The late Scat Daddy was a stallion that was just getting better and better. He can produce anything and he has two of the world's best three-year-olds this year."
Following the sums involved, the bloodstock world will be keeping a keen eye on these expensive ‘Scat Daddies’, with new connections hoping they have unearthed the next big thing, although getting value for money might be stretching things.
Craven Meeting Eyecatcher: Cotubanama, Mick Channon
So many horses for the notebook in the maidens, but one that stands out in my mind was the Heeraat filly Cotubanama following her third in the bet365 EBF Maiden Fillies’ Stakes on Wednesday.
She was almost last with only the well-adrift Swiss Miss behind her approaching the final furlong, but she flew home under John Egan to grab third passing the post. Her dam’s related to a couple of winning sprinters and Cotubanama looks like one of those in the making.
Varian begins to unleash big guns
It’s been an unusually slow start to the year for many trainers because of the weather but especially so for the Roger Varian stable.
April is usually a fruitful month for the local trainer, based at Carlbug Stables on the Bury Road, as these stats show; April 2011 (4 winners from 16 runners at 25 per cent), April 2012 (6 from 22 at 27%), April 2013 (3 from 23 at 13%), April 2014 (10 from 52 at 19%), April 2015 (5 from 38 at 13%), April 2016 (7 from 41 at 17%) and April 2017 (15 from 44 at 34%).
But this year Varian was 0 from 18 for April until Qazyna won the bet365 British EBF Maiden Fillies' Stakes impressively on Wednesday, the imposing Frankel filly streaking clear to win by over three lengths.
Entered in the Oaks, Varian said she might take in a trial over 10 furlongs, but given how she tanked through this mile contest it could be that this is her trip for now.
Either way, it will have been highly encouraging for Varian to get a winner on the board and he wasn’t far away in the Nell Gwyn, either, with the same owner, Nurlan Bizakov, seeing his Altyn Order chase home Soliloquy with the promise of more to come when she steps up to a mile.
Varian then doubled his tally for the month when Sheikha Reika won her maiden in good style on Thursday, owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum gaining a small pick-me-up with the win following the news that his exciting 1.9million guineas purchase Willie John had been ruled out until July, missing the 2000 Guineas in the process.
Varian and Sheikh Obaid team up again on Saturday with Defoe, a talented four-year-old that could have a big say in the top races over a mile-and-a-half and further this campaign.
He reappears in the Group Three Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes at Newbury on Saturday, a race Varian’s old boss and mentor Michael Jarvis won a decade ago with Royal And Regal.
If Defoe scores on Saturday, and he has every right to on all known form, the ball will be well and truly rolling again for Varian and his team.