Talking Horses

    David Lawrence takes a weekly look at the racing scene and as well as his horses to follow, has a statistical look at the Ayr Gold Cup, plus ratings for Newbury’s Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup confirmed entries.
  • Wednesday 20 September 2017
  • Blog


Training racehorses, some say, is nothing more than a numbers game: the larger your stable, the more winners you have. That may well be the case, but it surely fails completely to explain the phenomenal strike-rate of Aidan O’Brien’s team in the Beresford Stakes. O’Brien has taken this Group Two event an amazing 16 times - including victories in each of the last six renewals - and he appears determined to improve his record when this term’s edition is staged, at Naas, on Sunday, 24 September. Ireland’s multiple-champion trainer has seven entries for the one-mile contest and, according to my figures, his leading contenders are NELSON , a son of Frankel, KEW GARDENS , by Galileo, and ROSTROPOVICH , another by Frankel. You can be pretty certain bookmakers will be running for cover if any of that trio collects.


William Haggas is among the trainers I most respect for a number of reasons - not least that he places his team to best effect - and I envisage him finding a suitable opportunity for PRETTY BABY to break her duck after her debut second in a five-furlong novice event at York on 10 September. Haggas’s charge could not quite match May Girl - who beat her a half-length - but that winner subsequently took third in the Flying Childers Stakes and is clearly useful. Pretty Baby, by Orpen, may handle a sixth furlong.

Significantly longer distances than that will ultimately suit STEPHENSONS ROCKET , a highly encouraging first-appearance second in the one-mile maiden at Sandown on 15 September. Trained by Ed Walker, this son of Teofilo lost ground with an awkward start, but was soon up with the pace and, after taking the lead approaching the final furlong, was caught late on by the more experienced favourite, Crossed Baton. Stephensons Rocket seems sure to improve for his initial run, and notch a success this autumn.

Leading jumps trainers in Britain and Ireland are beginning to gear up for valuable autumn events and Willie Mullins introduced a four-year-old hurdler with enough potential to contest Graded races when MAKITORIX landed a maiden contest at Listowel the following afternoon. A gelding by Makfi, who had previously won on the Flat in France, Mullins’s grey gelding led for much of the two-mile trip, before drawing clear from two flights out to collect by 18 lengths. He is suited, it appears, by testing ground.


Doncaster’s St Leger Festival was run on ground that did not suit all the runners, so much of the form is arguably best treated with caution, but there is no possible doubt SHABAABY was visually impressive in taking the meeting’s opening contest, a six-furlong conditions stakes for two-year-olds. This Owen Burrows-trained Kyllachy colt eased home seven lengths ahead of the officially 92-rated John Kirkup and judged on his Town Moor effort - a big step on previous efforts - he can collect in a higher grade.

ALJEZEERA appeared to find the extended mile and three-quarters of the Group Two Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster the following day, 14 September, just a little too testing at this stage of her career and may well be dropped a little in distance next time out. If she is, Luca Cumani’s three-year-old daughter of Frankel would be worth noting, as she is still lightly-raced - this was her fourth outing - and therefore likely to progress in the care of her patient trainer. I can picture her lifting a Pattern-prize this autumn.

PIVOINE registered his first win on turf when landing the mile-and-a-quarter classified stakes on Town Moor’s 15 September card and seems precisely the kind of progressive three-year-old with whom Sir Michael Stoute does so well. Twice previously successful on Kempton’s all-weather surface, this son of Redoute’s Choice scored far more easily at Doncaster than the half-length official margin indicates and his style of racing - he lengthens, rather than quickens - suggests he will handle a longer distance.

Stoute scored a day later at Lingfield when DREAM OF DREAMS took a seven-furlong conditions race by five lengths from the BHA 101-rated Mutawathea and this three-year-old Dream Ahead colt, formerly in the care of Kevin Ryan, for whom he was a decent juvenile, looks another horse on the up. Stoute’s charge may have been slightly flattered by this victory, as not all his rivals handle the soft ground, but he won comfortably and, being out of a Dansili mare, has obvious prospects of staying at least a mile.


Charlie Hills appears set to launch the career of a two-year-old named REWAAYAT in the next few days and, if the information I have been given is accurate, the son of Pivotal is rated close to the top of the pecking-order in his Lambourn stable. By Pivotal, and out of a mare related to the Group One winner Muhaarar, Hills’s colt moves sufficiently well at home to have been handed a Dewhurst Stakes entry.

BARITONE , a juvenile in the care of Sir Michael Stoute, holds no such big-race engagements, as far as I am aware, but he too has been attracting watchers’ attention on work mornings. By Camelot, hero of the 2000 Guineas and Derby, Baritone is out of the Rock Of Gibraltar mare Star Ruby, who finished second in the 2009 renewal of York’s Musidora Stakes, so is bred to be useful over middle-distances.


Punters assessing the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup - due to be run on Saturday, 23 September - should probably note that backing the favourite has been an expensive exercise in recent seasons.

In fact, just one market-leader - 6-1 shot Don’t Touch (2015) - has scored in this valuable six-furlong heritage handicap within the past decade.

No second-favourite has collected in the same period, so those sticking to runners at the head of the betting have struggled to make a profit over the last ten years.

Successes by long-shots such as Advanced (20-1 in 2007) and Highland Colori (20-1 in 2013) have, furthermore, demonstrated how hard it is to predict the result of this event.

Concentrating on previous winners over the big race trip certainly looks a sensible strategy, as seven victories in the past decade were notched by runners with an earlier success at six furlongs, although just two of those - Highland Colori and Don’t Touch - were last-time-out scorers.

However, as three others - Jimmy Styles (2009), Redford (2010) and Our Jonathan (2011) - had made the first four on their previous run, solid recent form seems a decent pointer.

Four-year-olds have the best strike-rate over the past decade, winning on four occasions, courtesy of Advanced, Regal Parade (2008), Our Jonathan and Brando (2016).

Five-year-olds come next in the generational pecking-order, thanks to the victories of Jimmy Styles, Redford and Highland Colori, followed by six-year-olds, successful via Captain Ramius (2012) and Louis The Pious (2014).

Don’t Touch, the remaining Ayr Gold Cup winner within my chosen timeframe, was a three-year-old.

Evidence relating to the draw is intriguing.

No fewer than three winners in the past decade - Captain Ramius, Don’t Touch and Brando - have emerged from stall 8.

Two others - Highland Colori and Louis The Pious - started from 19.

The five remaining successful candidates - Advanced, Regal Parade, Jimmy Styles, Redford, and Our Jonathan - were drawn in 22, 20, 15, 17 and 12 respectively.

Comparing the weight carried by previous scorers would not seem an especially helpful way of reducing the number of contestants worthy of consideration, as successes have been registered with as little as 8st 10lb (Regal Parade) and as much as 9st 10lb (Brando).

Making a detailed study of runners’ official ratings might be productive, however, since seven winners from 2007 onwards - Regal Parade (99), Jimmy Styles (100), Redford (97), Our Jonathan (105), Captain Ramius (100), Highland Colori (104) and Don’t Touch (101) - lined up from a BHA mark within an 8lb band covering 97-105.

Kevin Ryan comfortably heads the trainers’ statistics over the past decade, after lifting the trophy four times, thanks to Advanced, Our Jonathan, Captain Ramius and Brando.

Richard Fahey (responsible for Fonthill Road and Don’t Touch) is the only other current licence-holder to have notched more than one victory in the last ten years.


My figures suggest punters taking a financial interest in Newbury’s Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup, which is run over one mile and three furlongs this Saturday, 23 September, face a dilemma.

The form horse at the weights, according to my maths (see table set out below), is Clive Cox’s My Dream Boat (rated 112). He, though, has not reached his peak on any of his last three starts.

Desert Encounter (109), trained by David Simcock, is next in my rankings for the Newbury Group Three event (formerly the Arc Trial), but he too failed to perform to his best on his latest run.

Dylan Mouth (108) did score on his most recent outing, though that victory came in a handicap, while Fabricate (actually rated 110) will be saddled with a 3lb penalty for a recent success at this level.

All in all, then, this Saturday’s contest looks a trappy affair and, given doubts about the final field and likely ground conditions, my advice to readers is: exercise caution and bet in only small stakes.

Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup entries
(ranked in order of ratings earned by 19/09/17)

Rank Name (age) (gender) Trainer (country) Rating*
1) My Dream Boat (5) (entire) C Cox 112
2) Desert Encounter (5) (gelding) D Simcock 109
3) Dylan Mouth (6) (entire) M Botti 108
4=) Architecture (4) (filly) H Palmer 107
4=) Fabricate (5) (gelding) M Bell 107
4=) Second Step (6) (gelding) R Charlton 107
7=) Across The Stars (4) (gelding) Sir M Stoute 106
7=) Scarlet Dragon (4) (gelding) E Johnson Houghton 106
7=) What About Carlo (6) (gelding) E Johnson Houghton 106
10=) Best Of Days (3) (colt) H Palmer 105
10=) Red Verdon (4) (colt) E Dunlop 105
10=) Secret Number (7) (gelding) S bin Suroor 105
13) Promising Run (4) (filly) S bin Suroor 102
14) Law And Order (3) (colt) J Tate 100
15) Wingingit (3) (filly) A Balding 90

* All figures have been adjusted to include penalties and allowances

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