Ben Linfoot was on hand at Newmarket on Thursday to get the latest fallout from the meeting while gathering some snippets for Friday's racing.
Thursday's Newmarket reports
The wrong one
Sheikh Mohammed won the Princess Of Wales’s Stakes, but with the wrong horse in the wrong colours.
This was all about former Derby winner Masar, backed into odds-on favouritism, expected by connections to regain the winning thread on his way to bigger and better things.
He finished last.
Charlie Appleby was despondent afterwards. He spoke of the small field and the lack of pace and the fact Masar was keen early on, but this was not part of the plan.
A downbeat ‘we’ll have to sit down and talk things through’ with the Sheikh followed and you do wonder if that’s the last we’ll see of Masar. He would be going out on a whimper, but nobody can take away that Derby performance.
So maybe there’s some truth when Charlie Johnston, assistant to dad and trainer Mark, says: “I still don’t think this horse gets the credit he deserves.”
Communique was the party-pooper today and he’s assumed the role before, when winning the Jockey Club Stakes from Defoe on the Rowley Mile course in May.
He loves Newmarket, though, and he loves Silvestre de Sousa. This was his fourth win from four goes at the combined Newmarket courses, while he’s now six from 11 for the Brazilian jockey.
“They clearly get on very well together,” says Johnston. “He’s a horse that relishes Silvestre’s strong handling and they’re a formidable partnership.
“He’s won at both Newmarket tracks, he likes a galloping track and fast ground, but he’s won at Newbury as well and he’s basically a very solid performer.”
Solid is the word, but a tilt at the £1million Sky Bet Ebor looks an unlikely target, despite his last-minute entry in the race. A crack at a Group One in Germany before a top-level target in England appears to be his destiny.
Wherever he goes, I think we know who’ll be riding him.
Beaten July duo set for Vintage rematch
All the pre-race chat was about Johnston’s Visinari prior to the Tattersalls July Stakes, his clock-busting debut win over the same course and distance last month ensuring he went off the 4/6 favourite for Thursday’s Group Two.
Only third, he traded at 1.31 in-running on Betfair and was only beaten a short head and a head, so it was far from doom and gloom afterwards, although Frankie Dettori was cautioned for careless riding as he allowed Visinari to drift left-handed, carrying the winner, Royal Lytham, off his intended line late on.
The reason for that? The trip, according to Johnston.
“He’s run very well,” said his trainer after the race. “It was just too sharp for him which we feared beforehand.
“He’ll be stepping up to seven furlongs next time, probably in the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood.”
And there he’s likely to meet Platinum Star, the Windsor Castle runner-up who filled the same position on Friday for Godolphin and trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
He said: “He ran his race, I’m happy with him. He always tries hard, for a second I thought he’d won the race. The plan will be to take him to Goodwood for the Vintage Stakes.
“The step up in trip could help him, but he’s a horse for the future, there is better to come from him.”
It looks like we’re all set for a Vintage smash-up.
Song in tune for Duchess test
Saeed bin Suroor’s horses are in great nick after six winners and a hatful of placed horses in the last few weeks and he has a major chance of Group Two glory on Friday with Final Song in the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes.
Third in the Queen Mary last time out, the Dark Angel filly was doing her best work at the finish - suggesting that the step up to six furlongs will suit her well.
Her best work, though, it turns out, was on the gallops only last week.
“She’s a nice filly,” Bin Suroor said on Thursday. “She worked very well the last time she galloped, very well. I’m happy with her, although it’s a very tough race.
“But she’s in good form and we’re hoping for a good run, the step up in trip could suit.”
Johnston team eye Friday opener again
Mark Johnston has a superb record in Friday’s opener, the bet365 Handicap over 10 furlongs, and he sends a trio of horses to post in the contest this year.
I asked Charlie Johnston which one he fancies the most, hoping to glean some inside info, but he just laughed and said: “I don’t care which one of them wins, as long as one of them does!”
No joy there then, but Team Johnston clearly fancy their chances in a race they’ve cleaned up in over the years and, collectively at least, it seems confidence is high.
“We’ve won five of the last six renewals and we’ve three bullets to fire,” Johnston went on.
“The Trader will hopefully have improved plenty for been gelded, he’s got good form, Oasis Prince will hopefully improve for stepping up to a mile and a quarter and Dark Vision’s a class horse dropping down in grade.”
A good team, there is no doubt. It could well be Johnston again.