Declan Rix

Using the Class of 2020 features currently running on, Declan Rix nominates those juveniles he feels will be best equipped to win two-year-old contests as soon as racing resumes.

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One positive out of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the Class of 2020 features run here on Getting trainer’s insight into stock that has yet to hit uthe 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 campaign’s end.

So far, we have had ten British and Irish-based trainers share their thoughts on what they have seen with their juveniles. From the opening feature with Michael Bell, to Aidan O’Brien in Ballydoyle and Hugo Palmer in Newmarket, there have been some excellent pieces done.

I thought at this stage, it might be nice to cover a type of “best of” – in two parts - but concentrating on those two-year-olds who may be ready to fire as soon as the stalls open on racing’s resumption.

However, I won’t just take a trainer’s word for it – for all they are undoubtedly in the best position to tell - I’ll dig a little deeper into the pedigrees of those already chosen, looking for precocious sorts on paper.

In part one, trainers Michael Bell, Mark Johnston, Martyn Meade, Ralph Beckett and Richard Hannon have been covered.

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.

INVEIGLE (Michael Bell - see full 2yo tour here)

Trainer’s quote:He is by Dark Angel out of Sand Vixen, who won the Flying Childers as a two-year-old. He is a very strong well-made horse and he is a half-brother to Godolphin's very smart Dream Castle who won the Jebel Hatta. He is owned by Her Majesty The Queen and hopefully he will be a top two-year-old. He has a small injury at the moment but once that settles down we can crack on with him.

Michael Bell’s Class of 2020 kicked off this series and I certainly found it one of the more informative reads. He clearly knew the families of each horse and went into some detail about how horses are made physically and how they move. Concerning Inveigle, as you can see from the quote, he covered some of the work for me.

This colt is by Dark Angel, himself an April foal who made his race-track debut in April, running nine times as a 2yo, winning the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes and the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes. Inveigle’s dam Sand Vixen didn’t make the track until June in her juvenile campaign but come September she won the Group 2 Flying Childers Stakes at Doncaster.

Sand Vixen herself is a daughter of the great sire Dubawi, whose progeny can be precocious but tend to get better with age. Sand Vixen’s second live foal was the high-class Dream Castle. For whatever reason, he didn’t make the track at two, but quickly made up into 112-rated 3yo. He was by Frankel however, who made his juvenile debut in August.

With Dark Angel being a better source of speed and precociousness, we will hopefully see Inveigle sooner. Michael Bell wouldn’t be a known source of first-time out juvenile winners, so maybe Inveigle will be one to note on his second or third start.

If taking after anything like his sire and dam, good ground would be perfect.

EYE OF HEAVEN (Mark Johnston - see full 2yo tour here)

Trainer’s quote:I picked this fellow as he looks like being quite forward. He is a very big strong colt and he did his first bit of work eight days ago. He worked nicely and we have his half-brother Desert Safari who is rated in the 90s and a horse with a lot of speed. This fellow seems quite similar and he is one to look forward too early on. You could see him over five or six furlongs.

Mark Johnston’s Class of 2020 was a good read. Johnston clearly knew the families of his horses and knew where each horse stood with their work. Plenty of juveniles seemed forward in his (big) yard, so it wasn’t easy picking a standout. Decoding (by Dawn Approach) and Shem (by Kodiac) just missed out ahead of Eye Of Heaven, solely based on class of pedigree.

By Exceed And Excel and out of Shamardal daughter Risen Sun, Eye Of Heaven might be both precocious enough but also good enough to climb the juvenile pecking order this season. Exceed and Excel may not have the reputation of a Galileo or Dubawi, but he’s a high-class sire in his own right and highly capable of producing early, quality juvenile stock.

Risen Sun herself made the track at two, although only debuted in late August. At her peak she was a 98-rated filly and from a quality bloodline, her dam Bright Morning from a hugely successful and precocious family that includes the likes of Desert King, Chianti and Stunning View.

Without knowing how this horse moves, I’d guess that nice and potentially fast ground will suit going forward, based on pedigree.

NEVILE CHAMBERLAIN (Martyn Meade - see full 2yo tour here)

Trainer’s quote:He should be an early type and he is ready to run now. He was bought at the Doncaster Premier Sale for £65,000 and he will start over five furlongs when racing gets back under way but he will stay six furlongs. I would have run him at Chester and as soon as we resume he will be out."

The top pick out of the Martyn Meade yard was between two, Neville Chamberlain and another juvenile, Method (by Mehmas). Meade didn’t quite go into too much detail in his section, but granted his words, the money made at the sales and the sire, Shalaa, Neville Chamberlain just pipped his stablemate for this slot.

Shalaa is a horse that should be fresh in our memories, having competed on the track in 2015 and 2016. He had a phenomenal juvenile campaign, winning five of his six starts, including a pair of Group 1s (and another two Group 2s) in the Prix Morny and Middle Park Stakes. The son of Invincible Spirit is having his first-season runners in 2020 so the eyes of the bloodstock world will be on his progeny throughout, in what is an important season for him.

Black Rodded, Neville Chamberlain’s dam, we probably know less about, having only raced five times, winning once on soft ground, achieving a rating of 69. She wasn’t given a chance to improve on that figure, as she was retired. No surprise, given Black Rodded’s own dam was a half-sister to July Cup winner Sakhee's Secret.

With both dam and grand-dam making the track at two and winning, with Shalaa adding further petrol to the precocious fire, Martyn Meade may be able to get this colt winning sooner rather than later.

It will be interesting if he debuts at Newbury, a track Meade seemingly likes to send his better horse to.

TIME SCALE (Ralph Beckett - see full 2yo tour here)

Trainer’s quote: "She is another who is forward. She looks like she is going to be as forward as her half-sister Bletchley who was just touched off in the Albany. She is a strong filly with a good hip to her and she is a ball of muscle. We haven’t done any fast work with her yet but that is not far away. I think she will be ready or close to being ready when racing resumes."

Eminent Victory (by Fullbright) just missed out ahead of Time Scale from the Ralph Beckett yard, based solely on a more quality and better known sire, and Time Scale’s dam, An Ghalanta, making it to the track earlier in their dam’s respective juvenile campaigns.

Jim Bolger had An Ghalanta quick into her stride in her maiden career, getting the daughter of Holy Roman Emperor to the track in April of her 2yo season. An Ghalanta would compete ten times as a juvenile, winning twice (one Listed race), achieving a rating of 97 and picking up valuable Black Type in Listed and Group 3 company.

Charm Spirit, the sire of Time Scale, was a bordering on top-class as a juvenile, although he didn’t make the track until early August of his 2yo career. It is early days in his career still, but he has produced some nice horses like Kick On, Air Force Jet and Charming Kid.

SHANGHAI ROCK (Richard Hannon - see full 2yo tour here)

Trainer’s quote: "We have a few Dark Angel’s and this was one got out of Tattersalls Book 1 for 125,000gns. He looks a nice sort and is another we are looking forward to running. This is the dam’s second foal of racing age but there is plenty of black type in his pedigree and he could do well."

As you can imagine, there were a number of potential candidates from the Richard Hannon yard, a stable that does well historically with their juveniles. Hannon junior maybe doesn’t have his 2yo string as forward as his father used to, especially on their first runs, but I like that more patient and slower approach. If a Hannon junior juvenile wins first-time up nowadays, they are usually above average.

It would be encouraging to see Dark Angel colt Shanghai Rock go and win first time when asked, but if not, second time out might be the time to catch him. Dark Angel has produced so many top-class sprinters in his career and has a good record with juveniles.

Red Lady, the dam of Hannon’s inmate is just starting out in her own career, this her second foal. Her maiden produce hasn’t cut much ice and likely looks destined for a career down the lower echelons of the sport. However, Peter & Ross Doyle Bloodstock have bought many a good horse down through the years and it’s a positive they went to 125,000 Guineas to secure this yearling from the 2019 Tattersalls Book 1 sale.

With Red Lady herself a juvenile winner in the month of May on her second start and from the further family of top-class miler Al Bahathri, Shanghai Rock appears to have plenty going for him on paper, as well as catching his trainer’s eye at home.

Declan Rix
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