Declan Rix

The second part of Declan Rix's mini-series into finding early season juvenile winners sees him cover two-year-olds from the yards of Aidan O'Brien, Karl Burke, Joseph O'Brien and more.

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One positive out of the Covid-19 epidemic has been the Class of 2020 features run here on Getting trainer’s insight into stock that has yet to hit the racecourse - and so given us some objective evidence - could prove invaluable for punters when racing in the UK and Ireland starts again. Furthermore, we may get some early clues into how some first-season stallions might perform; for all a much stronger body of work will be seen at the season’s end.

So far, we have had 13 British and Irish-based trainers share their thoughts on what they have seen with their juveniles. In part one, trainers Michael Bell, Mark Johnston, Martyn Meade, Ralph Beckett and Richard Hannon were covered.

Below, are another five two-year-olds who have been showing the right, early signs at home, according to the trainers guiding their careers. Accompanied with precocious pedigrees, and the odd eyecatching price tag here and there, hopefully these names might be quick into their stride when the gates open on the 2020 Flat season.

Please note: Where a horse exists in the ATR database we have linked to its form and tracker profile below, we will update others when they become available. 

UNNAMED (Siyouni x Aristotelicienne) (Ed Dunlop - see full 2yo tour here)

Trainer’s quote: This colt by sire of the moment Siyouni out of Aristotelicienne was purchased at the Doncaster Premier Yearling Sale for £200,000. With a strong back page to him Shadwell liked the look of him at the sale as a fast and precocious sort. Since being at La Grange he has done everything that has been asked of him and is very straightforward. He looks racy and I expect him to be relatively early running over 6 to 7 furlongs.”

Newmarket trainer Ed Dunlop only gave us five of his two-year-olds, but there was plenty of good information regarding horse’s physiques and how they moved. Three out of his quintet of picks remain unnamed, including this Siyouni colt who caught my eye, helped by his £200,000 purchase from the 2019 Goffs yearling sale by Shadwell Stud.

He will don the famous blue and white colours when hitting the racetrack, which sounds like it will be relatively soon, judging by his trainer’s comments. He is maybe taking more after father than mother, with Siyouni making a fast start to his own race-track career, getting a win on debut in early May at two when trained by Alain De Royer-Dupre.

The colt’s dam, Aristotelicienne, would too race as a juvenile but wouldn’t start until mid-August. She would go on to have 13 career runs across two seasons, running four times as a juvenile and nine as a 3yo; clearly sound and tough. She seemed happiest and best on article surfaces although was competitive on grass, too.

Aristotelicienne is by Acclamation, a fine source of precocious, speedy two-year-olds. Her grand-dam Kerrera I raced for Sheikh Mohammed under the tutelage of Sir Michael Stoute and was runner-up in the 1989 1000 Guineas. Seeing class along with speed further down the dam’s side obviously encouraging.

This is Aristotelicienne’s third foal, having produced both Half Dore and Aussie Showstopper, respectively. The latter was a well above average juvenile filly for Richard Hughes last season, before she was fatally injured at Glorious Goodwood in the Group 3 Molecomb Stakes. She manged to win a maiden first-time out on the all-weather at Kempton in late June.

Should Dunlop want to start his own inmate off on the all-weather, there is plenty of encouragement throughout the page suggesting that is a highly feasible option. Dunlop is not known for first-time out juvenile winners so, this colt could take a run or two to click.

BRIGHT APPARITION (Karl Burke- see full 2yo tour here)

Trainer’s quote: "He was bought out of Tattersalls Book 2 at Newmarket and is the first foal of Katie's Diamond that we trained who was a very nice filly. He is a big, strong colt for a first foal and looks as though he can develop. He will be ready for the six-furlong races whenever racing starts."

Karl Burke is a trainer I have a lot of time for, because I feel he does well with the stock he buys. I hope I am right in saying I think many of the horses that come into his yard via the sales he purchases himself, or at least has a strong input into the equation; and recent history has shown him to be a good judge of a horse, as well as a highly capable trainer. So, I was looking forward to reading his Class of 2020 piece, and Burke didn’t disappoint, putting forward 12 juveniles.

He gave informative opinions on plenty, making it quite hard to come down on just one 2yo from his stable. Furthermore, it looks like Burke is ready to start the campaign quickly with plenty of those juveniles housed at Spigot Lodge, whenever racing resumes, making it even tougher given the modus operandi of this piece.

Eventually, I came down on Bright Apparition ahead of the likes of Inhaler (by Elzaam), Jacattack (by Anjaal), Mister B (by Dandy Man), She’s So Nice (by Mehmas) and an unnamed filly by Dark Angel out of Spectrum mare Agnes Stewart.

Bright Apparition just seemed to tick every box where this piece is concerned, mainly the one of precociousness via blood line, and while plenty of his stablemates above cost more at the sales, there is a bit of classy depth to his pedigree, that could potentially see him start the season well, but also climb the class ladder. The 30,000 Guineas spent by Burke at the 2019 Tattersalls Book 2 sale will hopefully look great value as the campaign progresses.

The race-track career of his sire Charm Spirit was briefly discussed in part one, with the inclusion of Ralph Beckett’s Time Scale. The evidence of the stallion’s 2yo campaign sufficed to help Beckett’s inmate make the list, but like Time Scale, the stronger influence of precociousness came from the dam.

Katie's Diamond, who was actually trained by Burke, won her first pair of race-track starts. On May 26th, she broke her maiden at Ripon over 6f and on June 27th, now in the colours of Qatar Racing Ltd, the daughter Turtle Bowl won the Listed Empress Stakes at Newmarket. On the last of her four juvenile starts that season, Katie’s Diamond finished 5th behind Ballydoyle filly Ballydoyle in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac, only beaten 2½ lengths. She was clearly a high-class juvenile.

Katie’s Diamond’s own dam, Aaliyah, came from a family that has produced plenty of winners. Of the five siblings of hers that won, all were well above average.

MAGNANIMOUS (Joseph O’Brien - see full 2yo tour here)

Trainer’s quote: “He’s a nice, mature colt that is showing a nice bit at home. I’d expect him to be ready to start off as soon as racing gets back underway. He shows plenty of pace and while he is most likely to start off at six furlongs, it wouldn’t surprise if he is effective over five furlongs.”

Having read through the ten horses Joseph O’Brien put forward in his stable tour with Kevin Blake, a number of thoughts occurred; one: on paper, O’Brien has a quality juvenile team, two: O’Brien adds great positivity to the squad we can see on paper with what he sees at home, and three: ten different stallions feature among the Piltown trainer’s list, from the great Galileo to the emerging star sires No Nay Never and Siyouni. With a Mehmas colt in there, we also got a first-season sire.

Having whittled down the team to a shortlist of five (!), it was the Mehmas colt Magnanimous that just pipped Comical (by No Nay Never), Louisville (by Charm Spirit), Tar Heel (by Zoffany) and an unnamed colt by Siyouni out of a half-sister to the top-class sprinter Kingsgate Native, Eavesdrop. Louisville was the last to go, for the simple reason that it looks like Magnanimous will hit the track earlier, and thus, meeting the requirements for this blog a little more strongly. 

With both sire and dam making the race-track early in their respective juvenile careers, accompanied with O’Brien’s favourable words, it sounds like Magnanimous will hit the ground running once racing gets underway. As is often the case, the sire will likely be better known and with Mehmas competing as recently as 2016, his exploits will hopefully be fresh in your mind.

Although when trained by Richard Hannon Mehmas couldn’t win a Group 1, there can be little doubt to say he was a top-class juvenile. Not only was he good, but the son of Acclamation was quick, consistent and clearly tough. He broke his maiden on debut at Chester on May 5th and held his form admirably well throughout the season until late September in an eight-race juvenile only career. A 170,000 Guineas Tatts Craven Breeze-up purchase by Peter & Ross Doyle, Mehmas won a pair of Group 2s, the July Stakes and Richmond Stakes, beating Blue Point in the latter.

Magnanimous’s dam Lillebonne debuted in the French provinces in July when trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, winning twice as a juvenile over eight and nine furlongs. She is from the same family as two-time Group 1 winner Linngari and this colt is her fourth foal. The Willie Mullins-trained Micro Manage is the best of her three produce to hit the track so far, currently rated 107 on the flat after just three runs. He also made the track as a juvenile, the Rip Van Winkle colt running twice at two, winning on his second start over nine furlongs in October.

With Mehmas likely to be a much stronger influence on speed and precociousness, late March colt Magnanimous will hopefully be winning much earlier in the season than his half-brother.

 GIORGIO VASARI (Aidan O’Brien - see full 2yo tour here)

Trainer’s quote: “He is a half-brother to a very fast and tough two-year-old in Sioux Nation and this colt looks to be cut from a very similar cloth. He’s fast and sharp at home. He is a real sprinting type. He very much looks like a Royal Ascot horse and will be ready to run as soon as racing restarts.”

A stable tour with Aidan O’Brien is always a joy, but a juvenile stable tour where the vast majority of horses have yet to run, is pretty exciting. All bar one of the 12 horses O’Brien gave Kevin Blake in his Class of 2020 piece remain unraced – as you might expect given the current pandemic.

Again, as you might expect, there are some seriously well-bred horses in his care in Ballydoyle. This year, and hopefully for many years to come, there is even a two-year-old in Ballydoyle out of a mare called…..Ballydoyle.

The great sire Galileo has always been part of the modern Ballydoyle/Coolmore story, but at 22 years-of-age the time for him to pass the torch is getting closer. New stallions for Coolmore are always important, maybe now more than ever given Galileo’s passing years, so I found it interesting that of the 12 horses O’Brien gave, nearly half (five) came from first-season sires; namely Air Force Blue (three) and The Gurkha (two). With those, we got two Galileos, two No Nay Nevers, one American Pharoah, one Uncle Mo and one Fastnet Rock.

It was a tough task to come down on just one horse, especially with O’Brien already mentioning Royal Ascot targets for many. I found this hugely interestingly given we have yet to see 11 of them even run! In the end, it was Giorgio Vasari who got the nod, this son of first-season sire Air Force Blue out of Oasis Dream mare, Dream The Blues. Blue all-round!

Named after an Italian painter, architect, writer, and historian – I believe - Giorgio Vasari has what you could call a strong Ballydoyle name; think George Washington, Mendelssohn, Churchill, Caravaggio and Anthony Van Dyck – to name a few. Of course, while it doesn’t always work out this well, I would take some encouragement in the name bestowed upon him, for all, as ever, track evidence is what we all need to see.

By Air Force Blue, who was an outstanding and precocious juvenile for O’Brien in 2015; on paper, the horse fits what we are looking for in this piece ideally, for all he is still unproven as a stallion. The now sire would finish his 2yo campaign rated 124; a huge figure for a juvenile; racing five times in his maiden season, winning four races, including three Group 1s.

In Air Force Blue’s Phoenix Stakes, National Stakes and Dewhurst Stakes victories, at the time, I thought we were looking at a potential champion horse. A son of War Front, however, for whatever reason Air Force Blue just didn’t go on in his Classic campaign. That said, considering the MO of this piece, his disaster 3yo season is of no relevance.

Giorgio Vasari’s dam, Dream The Blues, is however. By Oasis Dream, she comes from a fast and winning family. She herself didn’t race until she was three and there is nothing outstandingly precocious in her immediate family, but by the sounds of it, Air Force Blue’s influence has already been felt in that regard.

Dream The Blues, to be fair to her, in a quintet of foals foaled, not including Giorgio Vasari, three have made the track and one in particular stands out, the precocious and quality son of Scat Daddy, Sioux Nation.

With an even more precocious-looking and faster stallion in Air Force Blue now steering the paternal ship, Giorgio Vasari may be the first son of his first-season sire to register a win in Europe.

LOCKDOWN (Hugo Palmer - see full 2yo tour here)

Trainer’s quote: "He is out of a very good filly that Chris Wall trained that was very fast. He is a muscular horse and he worked for the first time last Friday. I would say he would be nearly ready and could start off at the end of May if we are racing by then. He would probably start over six furlongs and I like what I have seen so far. He is a good mover and a strong horse."

In our stable tour with Classic-winning trainer Hugo Palmer, we got ten horses from the Newmarket handler. I enjoyed Palmer’s views, talking about physical and mental attributes he had seen at home, as well revealing in what part of the season we’ll likely see each horse run.

Having gone through Palmer’s string after Aidan O’Brien’s tour, it wasn't quite fair on the British-based trainer, but with proven sires like Sea The Stars in the yard, and Charm Spirit progeny, too, if first-season stallions Mehmas and The Gurkha are the real deals, Palmer may have a successful campaign with his up-and-comers.

Having taken in Palmer’s words and looked across the various pedigrees, the appropriately named Lockdown and Noman (by Shalaa) stood out. In the end, it was the former I just plumped for, with his dam Bounty Box catching my eye.

She was precocious enough to make the race-track at two, finishing her three-run juvenile season rated 78 before developing into a 95-rated 3yo. Throughout her career, she was a quick, sound and consistent filly.

Her new vocation as a broodmare has gone pretty well thus far I would say, in the content of her consistently producing winners. Bounty Box has had four horses hit the track, with all winning at least one race; the two-time winner, once 96-rated Fuente (Havana Gold) her best. Paco Boy, Sepoy, Bated Breath and Havana Gold have all visited the mare, but for me, she gets a stallion upgrade here with Charm Spirit.

We have discussed Charm Spirit already in this ‘series’ so we don’t need to go in again, but on paper and with what Hugo Palmer has seen at home, the ironically named Lockdown may be able to get his trainer off to a flyer when racing resumes from lockdown.

Declan Rix
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