Written by Graham Dench
Regeneration is a constant theme in racing, with an ever-changing cast list at almost every yard in the country as new horses arrive to replace those who have been retired, gone on to breed, or simply moved on.
Horses who have been making headlines throughout their careers, like 1000 Guineas and Sun Chariot winner Billesdon Brook, QEII winner King of Change and multiple Group winners Anna Nerium and Threat are sadly missing from the work list this year, but as ever they have been replaced by more than 100 youngsters.
Many of them were handpicked at the yearling or breeze-up sales and some are homebreds from familiar families. Some, like Dukebox and Gubbass, have already made their mark, their first-time-out wins marking them down as obvious candidates for Royal Ascot or for Newbury’s Super Sprint.
The focus at this time of year however is on the Classic generation, and there’s much to look forward to here. It didn’t quite happen for the Greenham winner Chindit in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas, but his fifth place, going on well at the end, wasn’t at all a bad effort. Richard still has the highest hopes for him, and understandably so.
He says: “I was very pleased with Chindit and he’ll be heading now for the Irish Guineas or the St James’s Palace. The race happened on the other side of the track to where he was and he was making ground all the way to the line. He looked like he wanted further, but I don’t think that’s the case.
“The track doesn’t suit him and we’ll ride him closer to the pace next time. We’ll also take the cross noseband off him and run him in a normal bridle. He’s already won a Group 3, but I don’t think that’s his limit.”
We’ll never know how impressive Newbury maiden winner Snow Lantern might have fared if she had been given the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of her dam Sky Lantern in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas, but there’s no question she has immense potential and is a filly we will all be hearing much more of before long.
Her Newbury win is already working out well, and plenty of pundits would have fancied her at Newmarket, but Richard would rather look ahead than dwell on the ‘might have beens’.
He says: “The Keswicks want to race Snow Lantern as a four-year-old, and that’s good news for me and hopefully good news for them too. With that in mind she missed Newmarket and has been given a bit more time.
“She’ll probably be going for the Michael Seely Stakes at York, and then we’ll be looking at races like the Irish 1000 Guineas, the Prix De Diane and the Coronation Stakes. She’s in the Oaks too, and that’s not impossible, but she’d need to relax if she’s going to get a mile and a half.
“She’s the absolute image of Sky Lantern, who went on to win the Coronation Stakes after the Guineas and later won the Sun Chariot too - not just in looks but in the way she gallops and the way she behaves.”
The stable’s other star three-year-old at this early stage of the year is Happy Romance, who in a sensational start for new owners the McMurray Family won the Super Sprint and went on to beat Alcohol Free in the Group 3 Dick Poole Stakes.
To Richard’s surprise Happy Romance was a non-stayer in the Fred Darling, which scotched any 1000 Guineas hopes, but she bounced back when returned to six furlongs in Listed company at Chelmsford and is now being aimed at Royal Ascot.
Richard says; “We are going to have a look at the Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock, but her main target now is obviously the Commonwealth Cup.”
Etonian and Fancy Man are others who have been down the Classic Trial route, and Fancy Man ran particularly well when third in the Chester Vase. He has an entry in the King Edward VII Stakes, as well as the Derby, and among the other three-year-olds who have recently been given Royal Ascot entries are Mojo Star, who is also in the King Edward VII, and Aristia, who has a Ribblesdale engagement.
Richard says: “We are excited about Mojo Star, who was second at Newbury on his only start last year. He’ll be out in a maiden very soon and will hopefully go very close.
“Aristia, who won a mile-and-a-quarter maiden at Newbury on her debut, is also very exciting, and she’ll probably go back there now for a Listed race.”
River Alwen, who was a good handicap winner at the Guineas meeting, is another ready for a step up in class and is also penciled in for Royal Ascot.
It’s not all about the three-year-olds and the juveniles though, and there are still some very smart older horses on the team.
Pride of place naturally goes to Oh This Is Us, who is the definition of the stable stalwart and a great personal favourite of Richard’s.
He says: “ I love the horse. He’s never moved great and doesn’t look sound in the paddock, but he’s always been like that and it hasn’t stopped him winning 15 races and well over £650,000 in seven seasons’ racing. He’s been rated 110 or more for much of his career, and after his Listed win at Ascot last month he’s close to that mark again.”
Mum’s Tipple, so exciting at two and back to somewhere near his best this spring, is headed for Haydock’s John Of Gaunt, and there are more good races to be won with Beat Le Bon, Lexington Dash, Nugget, Qaysar and others.
The jockeys roster remains much as it was last year, with Sean Levey, Pat Dobbs and Rossa Ryan all busy riding well, ably assisted by some promising apprentices headed by Thore Hammer Hansen.
There’s a significant change among the stable’s other key personnel, however, with former jump jockey Colin Bolger taking over as head man at Everleigh following the ‘retirement’ of Grand National winner Steve Knight.
Richard says: “Colin had been with David O’Meara and Owen Burrows and was in the right place at the right time when we were looking for a new head man. He’s a nice man and he’s fitted in extremely well.”
One might have expected Steve’s departure to have left a big hole after so many years, but Richard reports that he never really left.
He says: “I don’t think Steve even took a day off. He was back in the following Monday, and he’s riding out one week at Everleigh and the next at Herridge. He regularly rides Oh This Is Us.”
So it seems that while the horses are constantly moving on and being replaced, some of the staff just can’t say goodbye!