Article Date: 21-June-2012
Currahgh maiden winner Gale Force Ten went close to giving Aidan and Joseph O'Brien another Royal Ascot winner when taking second place in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot on Thursday.
The Oasis Dream colt lost out by half a length to the Clive Cox-trained Reckless Abandon, who won despite rather than because of the course he took, veering left-handed towards the stands’ rail through the final furlong.
Cox, based near Hungerford, put the colt’s wayward path down to inexperience. “He is still quite raw and green,” he said, “and we haven’t particularly buzzed him up to be here and I’m sure the quirk is nothing we can’t iron out.
“At home he’s uncomplicated and in an ideal world and with normal spring weather he would have had another run to give him experience. He’s still developing and although he knew enough to get the job done first time out he wouldn’t have been ready for much at this sort of level until now.”
Reckless Abandon, by US sire Exchange Rate, cost £22,000 as a yearling at Doncaster, compared with the £280,000 of runner-up Gale Force Ten. “He caught my eye because he was very athletic,” said Cox. “He’s not the biggest in the world but it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, is it? He’s clearly got an engine and a big heart to match.”
The colt’s target was always going to be the five-furlong Norforlk Stakes rather than the six-furlong Coventry Stakes. “I’m sure he’ll get six in time,” said Cox, “but he’s got so much speed we wanted to stick at five for the moment. We’ll take it a step at a time but so far it’s all working out as we planned.”
Winning jockey Adam Kirby was celebrating a first Royal Ascot success and said: “I knew he would begin to wander around because I could feel it and he did it last time as well. I gave him a click and I had my stick in my left to keep him away from the crowd. However, when I went for him he went to his left straightaway, but he is still a big baby and is very special. He has heaps of ability.
“It’s means a lot to have a winner here and I thought he was coming here with a big chance and now he has won I’m delighted.”
Trainer William Haggas hit the bar twice here on Wednesday and finally got on the scoresheet when Fast Or Free ran out a comfortable winner of the Britannia Handicap.
Ridden by Ryan Moore, the 6/1 favourite shot clear inside the final furling to beat Richard Hannon's Mister Music (50/1) by over a length. Marcus Tregoning's Bronze Angel (20/1) was arguably unlucky in third place, having had to race on his own in the closing stages. Compton (40/1) was fourth, a place ahead of the Ger Lyons-trained Piri Wango.
Fast Or Free carries the colours of Ian and Christine Beard, who live in Cambridge and have been lucky enough to enjoy further victories this year with the good pair Vow and Bonfire.
Haggas said: “I didn’t think he would get in to this race, because he had a mark of 87 and that is not normally enough to get a run, but my other runner, Kahruman, was top-weight with a mark of 98. Usually there’s a horse rated 103 to 105, so perhaps it wasn’t such a good race this year.
“We were lucky to get in, but you need luck in all these races - now I just hope agents from Hong Kong don’t come calling and take him off me!
“I can’t tell you how much it means to all trainers to have a winner at this meeting.”
Marcus Tregoning, trainer of third-placed Bronze Angel, said: “For a moment I thought he was going to win but he was a bit unlucky to be left on his own for a long time.
“We’ve had no luck in this race, I think we’ve been beaten three times including losing out by a short-head on a couple of occasions. I think he’ll stick to a mile and keep going for the good handicaps.”
The Jens Hirschberger-trained Energizer brought a victory for Germany when running out an easy winner of the Tercentenary Stakes under Dutch-born rider Adrie de Vries.
The Monsun colt, who was home-bred by the von Ullmann family’s Gestut Schlenderhan, had finished fourth to Caspar Netscher in the German 2000 Guineas on his previous start.
Today he was chased home by Sir Henry Cecil's Stipulate and the James Toller-trained Rewarded.
“The distance in the German 2,000 Guineas was too short so we looked at the race programme and found this race. Energizer loves the ground - it is perfect for him,” said Hirschberger. “I didn’t know the form of the horses here but when I looked at Caspar Netscher’s form I thought that we might have a chance.
“He might go up to 2,200 metres (11 furlongs) but not a mile and a half. We could travel again or the next likely race for him in Germany would be the Group 1 Dallmayr-Preis in Munich. It is a great feeling to have a Royal Ascot winner.”
Jockey Adrie de Vries, 42, added: “Energizer settled well on his last start, but he wanted to step up in trip so we decided to come here. He settled again today and showed a real good turn of foot.
“I was hopeful beforehand, especially when I saw him relaxed in the paddock. I thought he could run a good race but not win like that. He used to not settle but he is settling a lot better now. He dropped the bit and saved a lot of energy. When he pulled out and quickened I thought it would take a good one to get to him.
“The horses are struggling in the final furlong because of the testing ground but it helped me I think as he likes the soft ground.
“We ran him over a mile last time because he was too keen, but now we have put the hood on him he settled and he gets a mile and a quarter easy now. It’s amazing to have a Royal Ascot winner. It’s only my second ride at this meeting and I’ve only had a few rides in England.
“I have ridden in Dubai and Qatar through the winter but in the summer I am private jockey for Baron von Ullmann.”
Mark Johnston, trainer of Fennell Bay, was more than a little surprised when the Dubawi colt followed up his victory over a mile at Sandown five days earlier with a gutsy neck success in the 12-furlong King George V Handicap.
Joe Fanning's mount overcame a bad draw to beat Saeed bin Suroor's Handsome Man by a neck. Rougemont was a further neck away in third place for Richard Hannon, and the Godolphin-owned Anomaly took fourth.
“I have to be honest,” said Johnston, “and admit that this race was not ever really the plan for this horse. We thought he was better at a mile, and had doubted his ability to truly stay 10 furlongs. But when the handicapper put him up 9lb he gave us very few options over where to run. So thought we may as well bring him here; it is Royal Ascot after all.
“He is very game and is progressive and now we’ll have to go back home and think a bit. Now he’s showed us he stays, he’s opened up a few options.”
The King George V Stakes was a fifth Royal Ascot success for rider Joe Fanning, all of them for Johnston, and his first since Drill Sergeant in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes three years ago. “He was a bit keen early on, but once he got a few in front he settled nicely,” he said. “I think the juice in the ground helped him, and he actually stayed on very well.”
Read Ian Carnaby's Royal Ascot reports in The Irish Field on Saturday. Online from 10.30pm Friday
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