The Good Friday Sprint Final and the Northumberland Plate are just two of the big All-Weather targets David Simcock has set his sights on this year. The Newmarket trainer is enjoying another productive winter campaign and enters the final two months of the fourth annual Championships with a powerful team.
His hopes of a Finals Day winner could hinge on progressive sprinter Jordan Sport, while ex-German performer Hot Beat is being trained with the prestigious Newcastle marathon in mind.
Simcock could also aim highly rated pair Curbyourenthusiasm and Dragon Mall at Good Friday prizes but is dreaming of Classic success with his unbeaten colt Brittanic, who has created such a big impression in back-to-back wins at Newcastle.
Once again it’s been a case of quality over quantity for the master of Trillium Place, who has been operating at a highly respectable strike rate of over 20 per cent. The majority of his winners have come at Wolverhampton, where his record is close to one in three, but the long trips north to Newcastle have also proven fruitful.
Here, Simcock discusses his leading lights with ATR's Simon Mapletoft.
"I love to see a horse improve its rating race by race and that’s exactly what Ascot Day has done this winter. He’s up to a mark of 90 after winning a decent 5f handicap at Lingfield in January but, whilst he gets 6f, I don’t see this year’s 3YO Final being the race for him. Right now, I’d prefer to go down the handicap route with him as I think there’s a nice race in him on turf. Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised to be talking about him as a Sprint Final contender this time next year."
"We’re very excited about this horse, who is unbeaten in two starts – both on the All-Weather at Newcastle. We didn’t ask him any serious questions at home as he was so backward. I think he’d have looked like Bambi on ice if we’d have got him off the bit but he’s progressed so much for racing. He hasn’t come off the bridle yet and couldn’t have won any easier over the straight mile on his latest start in January. Tom Eaves, who has ridden him in both races, insists he’s Pattern class and I agree. He’s just started cantering again after a short break and will now be trained for a Classic trial in the spring, though which one I’m not yet sure."
"All being well, he will run in a 1m4f conditions race at Lingfield later this month. His win at Wolverhampton in January came over the extended 9f but he is bred to stay further so I’m keen to give it a go. The form of his latest win has worked out well, with runner-up Mythical Madness winning since and running well in the Winter Derby Trial. Calling Out is a decent operator on his day, with a rating of over 100, and enjoys the synthetics but probably falls between two stools trip-wise as far as Finals Day is concerned."
"We were delighted with his win at Chelmsford in November, when he beat the useful Watersmeet over 1m6f. After that, he ran another big race when third in the Listed Wild Flower Stakes at Kempton Park over a trip that was really too short for him. We took him out to Dubai but he’s been very disappointing. Some horses simply don’t take to it and others grown an extra leg but he is one of those who hasn’t enjoyed the experience. He’s a very good horse, though, as he proved when finishing second in last year’s Group Two Yorkshire Cup, and would get into the Marathon Final off his current rating, but there are no concrete plans at this stage."
"This gelding doesn’t have many miles on the clock for a six-year-old but ideally wants a 5.5f race. He’s very much in between trips as he finishes his races well over 5f but barely gets six. Chelmsford City seems to bring the best out of him, as he proved when finishing a close second over 5f to Lancelot Du Lac, who will probably go off favourite for the Sprint Final after winning the Listed Cleves Stakes last weekend. He’s certainly capable of winning again off his current mark of 95, probably around Chelmsford."
"Dragon Mall is in Dubai but there is a possibility he could come back for the Mile Final on Good Friday. It all depends how he gets on at Meydan but he is very effective over that trip on synthetics (he won a valuable race over 1m at Chelmsford in 2015) and has a rating of 104 so he ought to get into the race. To be honest, he’s a very frustrating horse. He’s very talented but quirky and usually wears a hood. He’s inconsistent but on his day he’s a serious player."
"I was delighted with his run at Lingfield in a 1m handicap at the end of January, when he finished a close third. Before that, I sent him to Newcastle for a valuable 7f handicap. It was his first race in almost a year but he had no luck at all. There was no pace in the race and it just didn’t suit him. I’m keen to send him back to Newcastle, though, as I think that straight, stiff track will play to his strengths. He’s a horse who remains competitive off his unchanged mark of 89, despite his advancing years, and would be of interest if he lined up in another handicap on the Tapeta on 14th February."
"This gelding came to me from Germany, where he won as a three-year-old. He’s five now and took a big step in the right direction when he won a 1m4f handicap at Wolverhampton in January off a mark of 90. That was only his second start for me as I was keen to give him some time between his runs. I’d like to go to Newcastle with him for a 2m race as I think he could develop into a Northumberland Plate prospect. If he could win again up there he’d probably end up with a rating of about 98, which would be perfect for that big race in June. Then I’d be keen to give him a break to protect his mark for a race that could bring out the best in him."
"This talented four-year-old is bred to go a mile and a quarter but his owner Murt Khan deserves the credit for figuring out that he is, in fact, a sprinter, and a very good one at that. When he first arrived he was very fiery but now we’ve found the key to him he’s developed into a very nice person. He’s shown so much natural speed to win his last two races, including over the 6f Final trip at Lingfield, and will hopefully run in a valuable handicap at Wolverhampton later this month. He has a lot of scope to improve off his mark of 93 but needs to win at least one more race to stand a chance of getting into the Final on Good Friday."
"I was happy with this gelding’s re-appearance over 1m at Newcastle on 7th February – his first run since August. I gave him a break because I was disappointed with his performances on turf, but all his best form has come on the All-Weather and he remains unexposed in that sphere. Tom Eaves, who rode him last time, said he just blew up in the closing stages so wasn’t hard on him. I’ll probably keep him to 1m for now but he has won over 10f."
"This filly has needed time as she was an April foal, by Mastercraftsman. She’s a scopey sort who has been working nicely at home so I expect her to win at the first or second time of asking. There’s a lot speed in her pedigree (her dam won over 6.5f) but she will probably start off in a fillies’ maiden over 1m at Wolverhampton on 13th February."
"This 3yo son of Mastercraftsman is progressing nicely but probably bumped into one at Newcastle last time. He finished a good second to John Gosden’s Garrick, who had a hard race to beat us. That was a considerable improvement on his debut run at Wolverhampton in November and I’m hoping to win a maiden with him before he goes on turf."