Declan Rix

The third part of Declan Rix's mini-series into finding early season juvenile winners sees him cover two-year-olds from the yards of Tom Dascombe, Mick Channon, Richard Spencer, David O’Meara and Eve Johnson Houghton.

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MAKING A FAST START WITH 2020 JUVENILE RUNNERS (PART 3)

One positive out of the Covid-19 epidemic has been the Class of 2020 features run here on attheraces.com. 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 15 British and Irish-based trainers share their thoughts on what they have seen with their juveniles so far. In part one, trainers Michael Bell, Mark Johnston, Martyn Meade, Ralph Beckett and Richard Hannon were covered. Part two saw the yards of Ed Dunlop, Karl Burke, Joseph O’Brien, Aidan O’Brien and Hugo Palmer done.

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 eventually 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.

KODIAC BROWN BEAR (Tom Dascombe - see full 2yo tour here)

Trainer’s quote: “He is a lovely big horse – strong and coping with it all. Being by Kodiac he will probably want five or six furlongs and he is very racy.”

Tom Dascombe’s Class of 2020 tour didn’t go into as much depth as other trainers, the Cheshire-based handler keeping it all pretty concise. We did get 12 horses to mull over however, and plenty of them were giving the signals of being ready to compete once racing gets underway.

It was noteworthy Dascombe had plenty of stock by precocious sires, sons or daughters of Acclamation, Dark Angel, Gutaifan, Mehmas and Kodiac all under the guidance of the Manor House tenant. Indeed, all 12 horses talked about were by different stallions.

What I found most interesting was Dascombe’s comments on horses going weak on him, meaning he had to back off those types and let them mature. So far, Dascombe I think is the only trainer to mention this immaturity problem, but you can be sure it happens and is happening right now with many trainers of juveniles across the world.

For this piece, I avoided those horses mentioned, but I still had a sizable shortlist to cut down given Dascombe’s positive comments about plenty of his inmates. Having gone through the various pedigrees, sales prices etc, I came down on Kodiac Brown Bear just ahead of the filly Scarlet Bear (By Kodi Bear).

The latter’s pedigree evidence maybe suggested she had the stronger package in terms of a precociousness, both dam and sire solid on that front, but the depth of Kodiac Brown Bear’s distaff side of the pedigree, despite his own dam not cutting much ice on the track, was the key decider.

Kodiac Brown Bear’s dam, Olive Branch, only ran once in her career, finishing 11th of 15 as a juvenile in a December maiden. She was Ballymacoll Stud Farm bred and owned but then bought by Tally Ho Stud as part of the dispersal from Ballymacoll Stud in 2017. While Olive Branch disappointed on the track she came from a family full of classy winners, being a half-sister to the likes of Greek Renaissance (two-time Group 3 winner), Sir John Hawkwood (Australian Group 1 winner) and Machinist (eight-time winner, 100-rated) et al.

While racecourse evidence wouldn’t inspire you too much, that is a pretty deep family on the dam’s side and with Kodiac as good a source of juvenile winners around, Kodiac Brown Bear looks to have plenty going for him.

A £65,000 Sackville-Donald purchase from Goffs last year, with his trainer’s positive words on him being forward and having some size, he may be able to pay back the money his owners splashed out sooner rather than later.

CHATTRI (Mick Channon - see full 2yo tour here)

Trainer’s quote: “He is a nice Sepoy colt out of a decent mare I used to train called Sandreamer. He is an early two-year-old who I think will be running the end of May/early June – he’s that type of horse. He shows a bit of speed and is a nice sort of horse. He will be five or six furlong horse.”

We got 11 horses from West Ilsley-based trainer Mick Channon and 11 different stallions, but having gone through the pedigrees and reading between the lines of some quotes, it would seem the handler would be at least content with what he has seen in the juvenile department so far.

Two-year-old winners have been a constant for Team Channon over the years and they have unearthed a few juvenile gems in the past, names like Queen’s Logic, Zafeen, Flashy Wings, Silca’s Sister, Hatta Fort and Nijoom Dubai I am sure known to plenty of you.

Whether a stable star(s) like some of the above names will be unearthed again, it remains to be seen, but Channon knows a good two-year-old, appeared pretty positive throughout – some more than others obviously – and there are some nice pedigrees and sales prices to help add a bit of solidity to his words.

There were plenty of options of what to include from Channon’s yard, and while Aonach Mor (by Twilight Son) was second on the list, I felt there was a clear standout from the stable in Chattri, a son of Sepoy out of Sandreamer.

Sepoy is a stallion maybe not as well known to some in Europe given he stands for Darley in his native Australia, but he is a sire that fits the criteria of this piece extremely well. By Elusive Quality from a classy and Aussie family, he was Champion Juvenile in his own country, winning a pair of Group 1s at two, including the prestigious Golden Slipper.

With regards the distaff side, it’s fitting Chattri was the pick here given his dam Sandreamer was trained by Channon from 2012-13. A daughter of Oasis Dream, she broke her maiden first-time out in mid-May – ticking the precocious box strongly – at Newmarket in a season where she picked up plenty of Black Type, the highlight of which may have been her Listed success in Italy. She was both early and classy in her six-run two-year-old campaign.

With the stallion profiling similar, the case for this Jon and Julia Aisbitt-bred and owned colt for his inclusion here looks rock-solid. Encouragingly, the Sepoy-Oasis Dream nick has had some success in Europe, with one of Sepoy’s best progeny, Unforgettable Filly having a fine career for Hugo Palmer.

WINGS OF A DOVE (Richard Spencer - see full 2yo tour here)

Trainer’s quote: "She is a Dark Angel filly who was bought at Doncaster for £82,000 and she is very sharp and very forward. We will start her off over five furlongs as soon as we can and she will probably be one of her first two-year-old runners.”

Richard Spencer has shown himself to be a capable trainer of a good juvenile when he gets one, as the exploits of Rajasinghe in 2017 and Rumble Inthejungle a year later showed. There was no star two-year-old campaigner last season in comparison to the above names, but 2020 – when it eventually starts for Flat trainers – is a new year and another chance to dream.

We only got six horses from Spencer and a couple of those he said were more likely to be backend types so, the choice for this tour wasn’t as plentiful as others. On the words of his trainer, and his words only, Wings Of A Dove was a standout for the requirements of this piece.

Having looked deeper into this filly’s pedigree, while she didn’t have the classy page of some, she pipped the two colts, Big Nasty and the well-bred Dandy Maestro who is out of Maids Causeway, a Royal Ascot winner at York in the Coronation Stakes. 

A £82,000 purchase from last year’s Goffs Yearling Sale by Bobby O'Ryan and Richard Spencer himself, proven top sire Dark Angel overshadows Wings Of A Dove’s dam, Silk Bow, but what both at least have in common is precociousity.

Dark Angel would debut in mid-April during his 2007 campaign which saw him compete nine times. He would go onto win four of those starts, the highlight coming in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes. A son of Acclamation, he was retired sound at two and has had a brilliant stud career thus far, being a quality source of class, speed and precocious horses. He currently stands at Yeomanstown Stud for €85,000 having started out at €10,000 and even dropping to ~€7,000 for three seasons.

As ever, the majority of dams go unheralded in this game but it takes two to tango and in Silk Bow, we’ve got a mare who came to hand extremely quickly, making her debut for James Given at two in March. In a six-race juvenile career she would win once, but her highlight came in May when second in the Listed Marygate Fillies' Stakes (5f) at York, picking up Black Type.

There is nothing outstanding in her pedigree but as an 81-rated filly at the peak of her race-track powers, Silk Bow was an above average horse. With her visiting a top-class sire in Dark Angel, Wings Of A Dove is clearly the horse to take out of Richard Spencer’s yard with the early season in mind.

UNNAMED (Kodiac x Beautify) (David O’Meara - see full 2yo tour here)

Trainer’s quote: "He is owned by AlMohamediya Racing who bought Fayez off us last year and he is the first two-year-old they have sent us. He is a lovely looking horse and we are delighted to have him. He is obviously from a very precocious family and has plenty of size and scope. He has grown into himself a lot recently and just started doing a bit more work and looks a real nice horse for the middle of the season."

Yorkshire-based trainer David O’Meara’s Class of 2020 feature was an enjoyable read, especially as he took the time to go into a bit more detail of his horses compared to other trainers included in this piece.

We got 10 horses from O’Meara and he gave us good insight on them, not just physically, but mentally where applicable, too. How forward horses were in their work and clues to where they may start off – in terms of what part of the season – were also spoken of, as were pedigrees. Of the 15 trainers done so far, this was certainly one of the better reads of the series.

There were a few horses that O’Meara clearly felt would be better with more time, but there were also plenty mentioned that would strongly tick the precocious box. There was a shortlist of four in the end, which included Brazen Belle (by Brazen Beau), Rapu­­nzle (by Make Believe) and Rishworthian (by Requinto) but in the end it was an unnamed Kodiac colt out of Beautify that got the nod.

What actually stuck out most having assessed the horse were the words of his trainer, namely, “He has grown into himself a lot recently and just started doing a bit more work and looks a real nice horse…..” To me, it sounds like this unnamed colt is going the right way at home and with a fine page backing up what O’Meara and his team are seeing, this could be a juvenile that hits the track relatively early, but carries on improving as the season progresses.

 By Kodiac, a sire who has appeared prominently throughout this mini-series, his merits as a stallion in meeting the MO of this piece are now hopefully known. It’s the horse’s dam that needed more digging into given she competed for Godolphin in America under the eye of trainer Eon Harty.  

Beautify was a horse we only saw three times in a short career. All three efforts came as a juvenile and while you couldn’t say she was a highly precocious sort, she wasn’t a hugely late type either. On her second start in a Maiden Special Weight, she won by a massive 17½ lengths. That would be the highlight in her short career, but this daughter of Lemon Drop Kid was out of Ashado, a Champion US 3yo/older female who was a seven-time Grade 1 winner. Ashado won a Grade 1 at two and came from an excellent US family.

With Kodiac now injecting that precocious quality into the bloodline, this unnamed colt may be capable of having a highly successful juvenile campaign.

ENDURING (Eve Johnson Houghton - see full 2yo tour here)

Trainer’s quote: "He was lot Number 1 at Ascot Yearling Sales so I think he was probably the first yearling bought in Britain last year. He is a really grand sort and he goes well and I would think he would be quite early. We will probably start him over six furlongs and he is a really nice horse. He has done a lot of bunching up but not super-fast work."

This son of first-season stallion Coulsty got the nod from a nine-horse tour of Eve Johnson Houghton’s juvenile string. The sire was a decent, tough sort when trained by Richard Hannon Senior in his juvenile campaign, before Richard Hannon Junior took over the license from his father the following year (2014).

Being a son of Kodiac, it probably came as no surprise to see Coulsty make his winning racecourse debut in late May, in what was a six-race 2yo campaign. That maiden success would be the only victory of his juvenile season, but he did run plenty of good races, eventually being rated 97 come September.

Throughout his first three seasons, Coulsty continued to improve, hitting his career high rating of 111 as a 4yo. That year-on-year progress is not ideal given the MO of this piece, but in Enduring’s dam, Yearbook, we at least have another precocious source given she hit the track in early May.

A daughter of Byron, she was a lowly-rated competitor on the track but the distaff side of her page is chock full of winners, with plenty of them, like Day Of Conquest, Day By Day and Thought Is Free – among others - proving to be well above average sorts. Yearbook’s own dam, Dayville, had 16 foals with nine winning at least one race.

Now a producer of stock in her own right, Enduring is Yearbook’s fifth foal; a £10,000 yearling purchase by Highflyer Bloodstock/Johnson Houghton at last year’s Tattersalls Ireland Ascot sale. Double Gain, a half-brother to Enduring by Major Cadeaux was rated 79 in his two-run, above average juvenile campaign (not see again after), is the best of Yearbook’s stock so far.

With Johnston Houghton looking like having a more precocious sort with Enduring, compared to her aforementioned half-brother above, owner Marc Middleton-Heath may have some fun this season with what his trainer considers to be “a really nice horse”.

Declan Rix
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