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 Ascot's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, as well as ratings for the top ten three-year-olds who have raced in Europe during 2017
  • Wednesday 19 July 2017
  • Blog


Nicky Henderson’s horses have been operating at a 33 percent strike-rate since the start of the current jumps season and the Upper Lambourn-based trainer seems set for another winner if Monbeg Legend lines up for Cartmel’s opening two-mile-six-furlong novices’ hurdle on Saturday, 22 July. The son of Midnight Legend has already scored twice this term - at Southwell then Worcester - and appears to be improving. My advice, especially if you have never been, is to go to the Cumbrian venue to back him.


John Gosden’s two-year-olds are just beginning to fulfil my expectations, after a relatively slow start to this term, and Doswell posted an encouraging debut display in the first division of a seven-furlong maiden at Newmarket on 14 July. The son of Giant’s Causeway was not particularly strongly fancied, starting at 20-1, but mounted a potent challenge in the closing stages and lost out by just a head to the hot-favourite, Being There. Related to some useful milers, Doswell is bred to appreciate that distance.

Most of Richard Hannon’s juveniles seem to have needed their initial outing this season, with a large number taking a massive step forward on their second start. Tigre Du Terre defied that trend at Ascot the following afternoon, however, scoring comfortably in a seven-furlong novice race on his first run. Hannon’s charge, by Le Havre from a mare who won over almost two miles on the Flat before taking well to hurdling, has the pedigree of a middle-distance performer and appears certain to collect again.

Trips in excess of one mile seem likely to be on the agenda for Magical in 2018 but, before then, this Aidan O’Brien-trained two-year-old filly can win a maiden at that distance. She made her debut over seven furlongs at the Curragh on 16 July, keeping on well under gentle hands and heels riding to take second, half a length behind odds-on shot Dawn Delivers, and is sure to improve for the run. Being a sister to Rhododendron, beaten by only Enable in this term’s Oaks, Magical is a valuable proposition.


Kareva looks a sure-fire future winner following her third in a six-furlong novice contest at Newbury on 13 July. Charlie Hills’s filly had shown ability first time out - finishing second on tacky ground at Newmarket in late June - but her effort at the Berkshire venue was a marked improvement. She went down by a nose and three-quarters of a length behind Electric Landlady and Autumn Leaves, keeping on gamely despite having to switch to obtain a clear path, and clearly has the talent to break her duck.

Paul Midgley has made an outstanding job of improving the five-year-old Final Venture significantly this season and, according to my figures, he gelded son of Equiano ran to his highest rating yet in the five-furlong Listed John Smith’s City Wall Stakes at York on 15 July. Obliged to shoulder a penalty, for an earlier victory in the same grade, Midgley’s charge was prominent from the start and, although not quite able to catch all-the-way winner Take Cover, never gave up the chase. He will collect again.

Nobody who saw The Pentagon cruise home in the seven-furlong maiden that began the fixture at the Curragh that afternoon can be in much doubt that this Aidan O’Brien-trained colt has a big future. He was not the fastest contestant out of the stalls, but went to the front after a furlong and by halfway had established a clear lead. The rest of the event proved little more than a procession, with The Pentagon scoring by eight and a half lengths, and this son of Galileo is more than likely up to Pattern-race class.

Favourite backers will have been disappointed when Samarmadi failed to land a six-furlong handicap at Wolverhampton on 17 July, but I think they can recoup their losses by sticking with the three-year-old son of Sepoy from Hugo Palmer’s stable. He went down by only a short head, despite a slow start, and was keeping on well in the closing stages. A slightly longer trip should be in his favour next time.


Hugo Palmer’s horses are going well at the moment, following a relatively sluggish beginning to this Flat campaign, and, given their wellbeing, it should pay to watch out for a three-year-old filly named Sea Tide. A daughter of Champs Elysees, she ran only twice at two, latterly filling the runner-up spot at Kempton in November, and her recent home work suggests she is well capable of going one better.

The Roger Varian-trained Sam Gold is another worth noting - if his efforts at exercise in Newmarket are a reliable guide - and he seems set to make his first appearance in the near future. A two-year-old son of Iffraaj, Varian’s colt, a big, powerful individual, goes well on the gallops and, being related to a hatful of winners, some in Pattern company, certainly has the pedigree to succeed on the racecourse.

As I have already mentioned in this edition of Talking Horses, John Gosden’s juveniles are starting to make a mark and I anticipate Timpani getting her name on her trainer’s scoresheet before the summer is over. This 170,000gns yearling purchase moves nicely at exercise and, being a daughter of Raven’s Pass, and from a family that has registered high-class wins all around Europe, she is bred to be useful.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes - Ascot, Saturday 29 July

I plan to publish my ratings for the 2017 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes next week, after the confirmed entries are revealed, but thought it sensible in this edition of Talking Horses to provide a statistical look at the £1.15m contest scheduled for Ascot on Saturday, 29 July.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of the past decade’s results for this mile-and-a-half Group One event has been the preponderance of four-year-old winners, that age group scoring no fewer than eight times, thanks to Dylan Thomas (2007), Duke Of Marmalade (2008), Conduit (2009), Harbinger (2010), Danedream (2012), Novellist (2013), Postponed (2015) and Highland Reel (2016).

Each of the other renewals within my chosen timeframe was won by a three-year-old - Nathaniel (in 2011) and Taghrooda (2014) - with the last five-year-old to collect being Daylami (in 1999) and the most recent six-year-old to come home in front being Swain (1998).

Favourites have a fair, if not exactly inspiring, record over the past ten seasons, taking first prize on four occasions, via Dylan Thomas (5-4), Duke Of Marmalade (4-6), Conduit (13-8) and Highland Reel (13-8). However, as must clear from the starting prices of that quartet, regularly supporting the market-leader has not delivered a vast profit.

Second-favourites have been successful twice in the period under scrutiny - thanks to Harbinger (4-1) and Taghrooda (7-2) - while no winner of this Qipco-sponsored Ascot race has started at longer odds than 9-1, those returned by fifth-favourite Danedream.

That German-trained filly - one of just two of her gender to score within the past decade (Taghrooda was the other) - has been the only King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner since 2007 not to figure in the leading four in the betting.

Five last-time-out winners have collected in that time - Duke Of Marmalade, Harbinger, Nathaniel, Novellist and Taghrooda - with all the remaining winners - Dylan Thomas (second), Conduit (third), Dane dream (fourth), Postponed (third) and Highland Reel (second) - making the first four on the their most recent outing.

Every one of the last ten successful candidates had already registered a victory over the big-race distance and three - Duke Of Marmalade, Harbinger and Nathaniel - boasted an earlier course win.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the status of this event, Britain and Ireland’s most powerful stables have compiled a fine record over the last ten years, with John Gosden (Nathaniel and Taghrooda), Sir Michael Stoute (Conduit and Harbinger) and Aidan O’Brien (Dylan Thomas, Duke Of Marmalade and Highland Reel) lifting the trophy seven times between them.

Luca Cumani (Postponed) is also on the past decade’s score sheet, while the other two winners in that period - the aforementioned Danedream and Novellist - were based in Germany. No horse trained in France has won since Andre Fabre’s Hurricane Run in 2006.


Harry Angel edged into a share of fourth place in my three-year-old rankings for 2017 by landing the six-furlong Group One Darley-sponsored July Cup at Newmarket last week.

The Clive Cox-trained son of Dark Angel earned a rating of 116 on my scale when beating Limato by a length and a quarter on 15 July and may well still have score for improvement.

The disappointment of the July Cup was Aidan O’Brien’s Caravaggio, sent of favourite but unable to finish any closer than fourth, being awarded an HQ-event mark of 111, 6lb below his peak.

In scoring, though, Harry Angel joined Enable (also 116) who, according to my maths, did not need to run up to the form of her Epsom Oaks success in order to take the Irish version that same day.

Top ten three-year-olds raced in Europe during 2017
(ranked in order of ratings achieved by 18 July)

Rank Name (gender) Trainer (country) Rating
1) Lady Aurelia (filly) W Ward (USA) 121
2) Churchill (colt) A O’Brien (Ireland) 118
3) Caravaggio (colt) A O’Brien (Ireland) 117
4=) Enable (filly) J Gosden (GB) 116
4=) Harry Angel (colt) C Cox (GB) 116
6=) Barney Roy (colt) R Hannon (GB) 115
6=) Winter (filly) A O’Brien (Ireland) 115
8=) Brametot (colt) J-C Rouget (France) 114
8=) Le Brivido (colt) A Fabre (France) 114
8=) Wings Of Eagles (colt) A O’Brien (Ireland) 114

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