One of the most oft-used phrases at this time of year is that of “a Group horse masquerading in a handicap.” Any handicap winner of more than a handful of lengths is immediately chucked into the bracket, but on Saturday at Ayr it was impossible to be jaded about the prospects of Kevin Ryan’s Brando.
Here was a horse, available at a double figure price that had been all the rage at Royal Ascot in the Wokingham, if memory serves. He bolted up last weekend and thoughts instinctively switched to autumn targets.
Connections are mulling over a tilt at the Abbaye in France in barely a fortnight but I personally would love to see Brando take on the crack sprinters at Ascot on Champions Day. Somewhat inevitably, the antepost lists are lip-lickingly packed with the very best we’ve seen this term: Quiet Reflection, Meccas Angel, Limato and the like.
Should they all turn up, Brando may well be a little out of his depth, but should a couple of them defer, the 16/1 about the Ayr Gold Cup winner won’t last too long!
As regular readers will testify, I am easily confused. Never has this been more evident than when it comes to my grasp of which races are when and where (and sometimes why) during the September/October mish-mash that is our end of season programme.
Ascot’s Champions Day is the big investment, and Newmarket officials will pledge that they are not victims of an Ascot smash and grab. We have had Future Champions Day, we have had a watered down Newmarket Champions Day and we have had Rockfels and Joel Stakes moved to Fridays.
I’ve almost given up trying to stay on top of it, but I do know that we’ve got the glorious cavalry charge that is the factually impossible Cambridgeshire this Saturday. It’s been 46 years since we had repeat winners of the Cambridgeshire but punters (and I) will be hoping that Third Time Lucky can make it second time lucky again off a mark only 5 lbs higher than 12 months ago.
Richard Fahey’s horse has been targeted at it all season. His close-up fifth at York last month was eye catching and I can’t see him being far from the money on Saturday. The horse, of course, is mischievously named by Fahey’s owners who wanted to wish their trainer well following a couple of less than entirely successful marriages. It’s good to see humour in full flow at Musley Bank!
Another filly I’m struggling to contain my excitement about is Lady Aurelia whom, summer readers may recall, left a lasting impression when destroying a sprinting field at Royal Ascot.
Trainer Wesley Ward isn’t bothering to disguise his expectations about this speed ball but the role of Frankie Dettori in prepping the juvenile should not be overlooked. Dettori has, to all intents and purposes, been treading every blade of grass with her in Newmarket of late and is brimming with excitement ahead of her Cheveley Park bid.
Dare we hope for a repeat of her Ascot heroics? Yes, we dare.
I re-introduced jump racing to my blog last week and it’s difficult to avoid the stark reality that summer is dead and buried as I type here in multiple layers of winter clothing.
Five years ago today, we lost a true National Hunt legend in Ginger McCain. The famous handler of Red Rum was never in contention for political correctness awards and tended to call a spade a shovel, but his presence is much missed, not least at his beloved Aintree.
Given the travails his son, Donald, has sadly endured in the past year or so, what would the son have given to have some fatherly advice of late? Donald is a top man, but we all sometimes need a senior voice to blast through the mud. Here’s to Ginger and here’s to a better upcoming season for the hugely likeable Donald.