Denis Hogan is excited to see what Make A Challenge can achieve next season after rounding off a fantastic campaign with a fine effort in defeat on Qipco Champions Day at Ascot.
The four-year-old was a 66-rated maiden at the start of 2019, but lined up for the British Champions Sprint with a rating of 111 and serious claims – having won six of his 10 previous starts this term.
The son of Invincible Spirit looked the most likely winner of Saturday’s six-furlong Group One after hitting the front over a furlong out, but weakened in the closing stages to finish an honourable fifth – beaten a shade under three lengths.
“He ran a great race. It would have been better if he’d won, obviously, but he did us proud,” said Hogan.
“He was drawn wide and had no real cover, which didn’t help, but there were no real excuses.
“When he went to the front I thought ‘God, is this going to happen?’, but in these top-class races a lot can change in the last 50 yards.”
The Bohema-based trainer plans to give his stable star a well-earned break before aiming at some of the top sprints in 2020.
He added: “He’s definitely finished for the year now. I think we’ll be looking for five-furlong races for the start of next year and I’d imagine he’ll be entered for Haydock (Temple Stakes) and Newmarket (Palace House Stakes) in the early part of the season.
“He’s taken us all on some journey this year. Some of my family are involved with him, and it’s just been an incredible season with him.
“I suppose that’s what makes this game so special – the unknown. This time last year I thought he was okay, and we’d have a day with him somewhere, but I couldn’t have dreamt he’d do what he’s done.”
It was in mid-summer that Make A Challenge’s upward curve accelerated.
Hogan said: “In the spring it was all about trying to get him to Galway – and he won there twice, which was great.
“Then we aimed at Irish Champions Weekend, then he won the Joe McGrath Handicap, then he won the Listed race and he’s ended up at Ascot – it’s amazing really.
“I’m very excited about him for next year. I’ll be wrapping him up during the winter, that’s for sure.”