Ascot runner-up English Oak (left) has a bright future, according to our man
Ascot runner-up English Oak (left) has a bright future, according to our man

Things you may have missed including Tommy's Oscar, Algiers, Inspiral and English Oak

Matt Brocklebank takes a look back at some of the weekend developments, from Woodbine in Canada to Tommy's Oscar's win at Kelso.

Too early for a Wokingham fancy?

Allow me take you all the way back to Friday (the weekend starts there for some) and a good old-fashioned eyecatcher. In fact, less ‘eyecatcher’ and more ‘horse you cannot do without!’ – namely the Ed Walker-trained English Oak, who had shaped encouragingly when third in a Newmarket novice in July before failing to settle when pitched into a hot mile race at the Ebor meeting on handicap debut.

Dropped right back to six furlongs for the first time in his career at Ascot last week, the son of Wootton Bassett ran a stormer in second, beaten a neck by two-time Wokingham winner Rohaan, who has become a bit of an Ascot legend and had been backed as if defeat were almost out of the question (2/1 favourite in a 16-runner sprint handicap says it all).

English Oak had to do a lot of running on his own out towards the middle of the track too, compared to the winner who stalked eventual third Mitrosonfire closer to the stands’ rail in typical Rohaan fashion, and yet he still nearly pulled it off.

Rated 89 for this, the assessor won’t be overly kind on reassessment, but the horse might be put away now as he seems to want a sound surface to show his best. I wouldn’t put it past Walker to already be working back from next year’s Royal meeting with his newly-discovered sprinter.

Too early for a Wokingham fancy? Technically, yes, as clearly nobody will offer me a price, but it's one to bare in mind.

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Trip switch for Inspiral in California?

Get John Gosden on his own down the backstretch at Santa Anita and he’ll gladly regale you with tales of how it all began for him there in the late-70s and early-80s, with three injury-plagued horses working out of rented barns at the Arcadia track in California.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since those days but few overseas challengers know the intricacies facing horses at this particular venue quite like Gosden, who is expected to have a small squad in situ as the Breeders’ Cup returns to The Great Race Place early next month.

You won’t have missed Inspiral’s demolition job in Saturday’s Sun Chariot at Newmarket, nor the fact it was Frankie Dettori’s 500th winner at the course he calls home, but what next for Inspiral is an interesting poser.

Gosden senior will leave a decision over her long-term future to Cheveley Park Stud owner Patricia Thompson, but regardless of whether she races on as a five-year-old - which does seem unlikely on the face of it - she’ll almost certainly get one more shot before this season’s out.

It’s the QEII at Ascot on Champions Day or the Breeders’ Cup by all accounts, but which race would suit her best at Santa Anita?

If the ground is as quick as one might expect, Gosden will be all too aware you often need more of a sprinter to win at a mile and a strong-running miler over the mile and a quarter. In which case, her first crack at a 10-furlong Group 1 in the Filly & Mare Turf could well be Inspiral’s most likely destination.

Frankie Dettori and Inspiral after the Sun Chariot
Where now for Inspiral?

Algiers comeback offers hope

On the subject of Breeders’ Cup clues, it was obviously a major weekend in the US and Canada.

Last year’s Turf third War Like Goddess won the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at ‘Aqueduct’, while there were Saturday defeats for Brits abroad - Live In The Dream and Master Of The Seas - at Keeneland, though the former is still bang on course for the Turf Sprint after his game, front-running fourth, and Charlie Appleby’s Master Of The Seas may finally get a crack at the Mile.

He missed most of 2022 through injury, having been withdrawn from the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Del Mar when getting upset in the stalls, so perhaps it’ll be a case of third time lucky for the Dubawi gelding.

The pick of Sunday’s action came at Woodbine, where the Appleby-trained Nations Pride beat Roger Varian’s Royal Champion in the feature Canadian International Stakes. The winner is bound for Bahrain rather than California but earlier on the same card there was a big win for the ex-Richard Fahey-trained Fev Rover, who readily beat another Appleby runner in With The Moonlight to land the E.P. Taylor Stakes.

The Filly & Mare Turf will be the next stop for Fev Rover, who is now trained by Mark Casse, he of Tepin fame.

European Breeders’ Cup runners on the main track are a rare sight these days but with a bit of luck Algiers is still on track for the Dirt Mile following his low-key Saturday comeback in Canada.

Ridden by Rab Havlin for just the second time, Simon and Ed Crisford’s sizeable six-year-old didn’t get a great run through from the inside stall but was a staying-on second on Woodbine’s Tapeta circuit, which has to go down as an encouraging effort given he hadn’t been seen since his second in the Dubai World Cup back in March. However, unlike in Canada, Algiers won’t be able to use Lasix at Santa Anita.

Indigo keeps bending rules, but doesn't break any this time

In Ireland, the four-year-old Indigo Five, who was thrown out after mistakenly running in - and winning - a three-year-old-only handicap at Killarney the previous Saturday, gained compensation by winning a three-year-old-plus apprentice riders’ handicap at the Curragh.

The filly’s trainer John Feane admitted to the Killarney mix-up and accepted his fine, some of which connections presumably clawed back after the heavily-punted Indigo Five justified favouritism under jockey Hugh Horgan.

There was another postscript to the race with Horgan picking up a nine-day suspension, but Feane still stated the legitimate win was "a nice boost for everyone at the end of a bad week."

Indigo Five is in the Tattersalls HIT Autumn Sales later this month.

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Taxis for Mr Mullins!

Once described by Grand National-winning jockey Marcus Armytage as “the love child of Becher’s Brook and The Chair - on steroids”, Pardubice’s ‘Taxis Ditch’ clearly has a bit of a reputation.

Coming up early as the fourth of 31 obstacles in the Velka Pardubicka, the fearsome fence lived up to its billing again in Sunday’s edition of the mad Czech event as one horse (Santa Klara) briefly considering a refusal ultimately saw the mare unseat her rider and wipe out four helpless rivals in the process.

They included Ireland’s champion amateur Patrick Mullins, who was left with absolutely no hope aboard last year’s winner of the race, Mr Spex. Thankfully, Mullins reports all well with horse and rider this morning. It’s back to the day job for him on Tuesday and the relative calm of a mares’ bumper at Punchestown.

Velka Pardubicka victory went to the 10-year-old Sacamiro, who was sent off favourite in the hands of Jan Faltejsek, the jockey claiming his sixth victory in the race but possibly better known on these shores for his stint with trainer George Charlton, highlighted by a surprise Cleeve Hurdle win on Knockara Beau (66/1) when beating At Fishers Cross on Trials Day in 2014. Bonus point for those who can name the third.

Bravo, Oscar

British jumps racing was dealt a very early and bitter blow on Sunday at the loss of I Like To Move It in Uttoxeter’s three-runner novices’ chase. The two who went on to fight out the finish - Chasing Fire and Pembroke - are well up to competing at a decent level over here before the pick of the Irish join the party later in the season, but the standout performance on the day was surely Tommy’s Oscar winning the big handicap chase at Kelso off a mark of 152.

Top weights seem to have been winning valuable handicap chases every weekend over the past five or six seasons now and on this evidence that trend looks set to continue.

Which reminds me, I see Frodon has slid back to his last winning mark.

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