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The first five home in the seven-furlong maiden at the Curragh on Sunday were covered by less than a length, and there were a few hard-luck stories. The runner-up, Point Gellibrand, was the most obvious unlucky loser as he flew home when finally getting in the clear inside the final 100 yards, failing by just a short-head. But it's possible to make a case that Men On The Hill would also have been on the premises had he enjoyed any luck in running.
Men On The Hill was sixth, a length and a half behind the five involved in the blanket finish, but that doesn't tell the whole story as he was persistently denied a run inside the final couple of furlongs and had to be snatched up when badly hampered close home.
That was a promising introduction from Men On the Hill, whose trainer Fozzy Stack has had a productive campaign with his juveniles by Starspangledbanner. Stack has done well with Castle Star, Hermana Estrella and Cheerupsleepyjean (even if she failed to meet expectations on Sunday), and Men On The Hill is another two-year-old to be positive about.
This looked an up-to-scratch fillies’ maiden for the track with plenty of well-bred newcomers on show, not least the winner Inspiral, who looked potentially smart as she stretched clear of her rivals in the final 100 yards. She was sent off the 2/1 joint favourite with Another Romance, who could only finish fifth, but shaped much better than the result implies.
Another Romance represents a yard who are in form and generally do well with their juveniles, so it was no surprise to see her strong in the market, and she broke alertly from the stalls, soon prominent but immediately doing too much too soon. Jockey Jack Mitchell quickly sought some cover but Another Romance continued to pull fiercely for the first two furlongs before looking more tractable in the middle part of the race. Undoubtedly, she will have to settle better in future if she is to fulfil her potential, but Another Romance was still on the bridle in behind the leaders when the rest of her rivals were being pushed along around two furlongs out, leaving the impression she possess plenty of ability. It was no surprise to see her fade inside the final furlong given her earlier exertions and she wasn’t knocked about.
The obvious move would be to drop back in trip with her given the exuberance she showed, but it is likely that Another Romance will have learnt plenty for that initial experience. She has the potential to be an above-average juvenile, one who is surely up to winning a maiden sooner rather than later provided she learns how to conserve her energy better.
This maiden should prove to be a rich source of future winners. The first two, Discoveries and Tuesday, are both sisters to classic winners and look sure to be operating at a higher level themselves sooner rather than later, while several of those in behind also shaped with plenty of encouragement.
That comment certainly applies to the fourth-placed Kerkiyra, who did well to finish as close as she did after being left with plenty of ground to make up in a steadily-run affair. She was slowly into stride and raced with just one behind her through the first part of the race. The tempo increased at around halfway, at which point Kerkiyra still appeared to be travelling well within herself, but she was forced to delay her challenge after finding herself briefly short of room entering the final two furlongs. She made good late headway once getting into the clear, but the damage had already been done as the first two – who were both ridden much closer to the pace – pulled a little way clear of the rest.
Kerkiyra was still beaten less than four lengths and this certainly represented a promising start to her career. She is from a useful Aga Khan family (by Siyouni and a half-sister to three winners) and looks sure to learn plenty from this initial experience. It’s surely only a matter of time before she’s winning races, with a step up to a mile also likely to play to her strengths when the time comes.
There was a blanket finish to the seven-furlong handicap at Newmarket on Thursday - the first seven home were covered by two and a half lengths - so it is difficult to take a high view of the form. However, the first two can have their efforts upgraded and are worth being positive about. The winner, Ametist, rattled home to justify favouritism and is one to follow in valuable handicaps, particularly when stepping up to a mile. However, the runner-up, No Nonsense, won't often bump into such a progressive, well-handicapped rival, and he showed enough to suggest that he can cash in on his reduced mark.
No Nonsense made his handicap debut in the Wokingham last season off a mark of 98 having been highly tried as a three-year-old (he was runner-up to Calyx in the Group 3 Pavilion Stakes). He made little impact in three starts last season, but he was gelded prior to his return at Kempton in May and offered a lot more encouragement, finishing second. He disappointed on his next outing but returned to form at Newmarket and looks like a well-handicapped horse having dropped to a mark of 85.
No Nonsense was held up after breaking awkwardly from the stalls, but he moved stylishly through the race and was still going well a furlong out when short of room. He had to weave his way through the pack, by which point the winner was in full flight down the outside, but he kept on well to grab second close home and would have finished clear of the third under different circumstances.
This maiden was run at a strong gallop and they finished well strung out, with a pair of promising newcomers who were strong in the betting coming to the fore. The winner Seattle King did particularly well to overcome greenness, staying on strongly to lead inside the final furlong in the style of one who will relish stepping up to at least a mile.
By contrast, the fourth-placed Codify, who had the benefit of previous experience, shaped like a non-stayer over seven furlongs on soft going. He tanked along at the head of affairs but simply failed to get home in the conditions, conceding the lead entering the final furlong and then weakening to pass the post over 10 lengths behind the winner.
Third on his debut at Newbury the previous month, Codify failed to advance his form here but should prove capable of doing so when he drops back to six furlongs. He certainly has the physique of a sprinting type and the dam’s side of his pedigree is all speed. He is a half-brother to several winners, including the very smart Ekhtiyaar and the useful New Providence, both of whom showed their best form at up to six furlongs.
It remains to be seen whether Codify can scale the same heights as that pair, but he is almost certainly capable of better than he has shown so far. Look out for him in a maiden or novice back at six furlongs, where he should be able to put his experience and brazen early speed to better use.
Godolphin’s Frankel filly Wild Beauty landed the odds under a penalty in the seven-furlong novice for two-year-old fillies at Newbury’s evening meeting and looks a useful performer in the making. But there was a promising debut from the filly who chased her home. One of only two newcomers in the seven-strong field and with no great confidence behind her in the market (20/1), the Ed Walker-trained Kawida shaped very well despite her inexperience being there for all to see.
After a very slow start, she began to make progress from the rear from two out and kept on well in the final furlong under a hands-and-heels ride from Ed Greatrex to finish a length and a quarter behind the winner. Kawida will stay a mile later this year and is one to follow with improvement to come.
Owned and bred by Kirsten Rausing, Kawida, a daughter of Derby winner Sir Percy, makes plenty of appeal on pedigree as her dam, who won over an extended nine furlongs in Ireland, is a half-sister to Zaaki who was a smart winner at around a mile for Sir Michael Stoute and has gone on to Group 1 success in Australia this year.
June 14-20 - Naval Crown is a horse to take forward from Royal Ascot
June 7-13 - Night Hunter caught the eye at Leicester
May 31-June 6 - To Be Wild was among the latest horses to take the eye
May 24-30 - Eyecatchers from Timeform including Bernardo O'Reilly
May 17-23 - Check out the week's eyecatchers from Timeform including Bezzas Lad
May 10-16 - Including a two-year-old to note from the Sunday meeting at Ripon