When it comes to racing there’s always a fairytale story around most big races and last Saturday’s Cambridgeshire was no exception as Spark Plug claimed victory in the nine furlong contest for long serving trainer Brian Meehan.
The Meehan yard have had a very lacklustre season and the glory days that the stable have experienced in their heyday seems a long distant memory. It was feared that Spark Plug would never race again or even worse not make it home after his crashing fall in the Royal Hunt Cup June 2015 when sent off as one of the more fancied runners. Jimmy Fortune rode the horse that day and was sidelined due to a severe injury as the horse tumbled to the ground. So it was great to see both horse and jockey make it back to racing and over twelve months later we witnessed the duo finally claiming a well deserved and authoritative victory in a big time handicap. Racing has a way of occasionally giving those that need it a helping hand a push in the right direction and for connections and horse alike this was a moment that they desperately needed and duly deserved.
After the race Meehan was quoted as telling reporters: “It has been a tough, tough, year and this old horse means a lot. He has been around the yard for quite some time, and we knew he was up to this. Jimmy rides most of the horses for us and has done for years. This old horse fell in the Hunt Cup last season and put Jimmy out for a long time so it means a lot to everybody, the team at home, everybody." It’s always great to see a well deserved horse pick up a big prize but this Saturday saw a victor that brought more delight to connections than normal in their time of need.
With the impending end of an era dawning upon us as Channel 4’s coverage of horse racing ceases at the end of 2016, many racing fans are looking forward to the sport being given a much needed revamp and hope ITV can give it the much needed shot in the arm that is required. With At The Races’ Matt Chapman was recently announced as the show's betting reporter to add to the already formed team of host Ed Chamberlain and Francesca Cumani. All things seem promising with fresh faces and a fresh look to see racing remain on free-to-air terrestrial television for the foreseeable future. These promising changes however have been tinged with a slightly disappointing note as current Channel 4 presenter Lord Snooty (also known as Nick Luck) will not be given a role despite being hotly tipped to move over. There’s no doubt that the ITV executives will have mapped out their own path and will want to ensure that they put their own unique stamp on the racing world, however a serious talent will now sadly slip through the net. I’m sure his Lordship will not be short of offers but his whit, insight and all round good nature will be sorely missed from our screens.
I was all set to write this weeks piece and have it sent over before the breaking news of an almighty shock to the National Hunt racing world came through on the grapevine that big time jumps owners Gigginstown were set to remove a whopping 60 horses from the yard of Willie Mullins due to a dispute over fees. It’s been alleged that Willie Mullins had raised his training fees for the first time in ten years and due to this Gigginstown have opted to severe all ties with Mullins. In a brief statement from Mullins this was confirmed “I put up my fees for the first time in 10 years and Gigginstown chose not to pay them." This will surely be music to the ears of fellow Irish jumps trainers especially Gordon Elliot who will no doubt take the pick of the 60 horses that are now available. Furthermore Henry De Bromhead recently had horses removed from his yard as the Pott’s family decided to up sticks but could now find ready made replacements if Gigginstown are willing. This may be welcome news to some and it will no doubt make the Irish jumps trainers championship a tad more competitive but this matter could get ugly. Mullins looks set to be painting Gigginstown out to be seen as “cheap skates” which, for such a large ownership operation will undoubtedly rattle connections. Furthermore with Rich Ricci’s runners making the headlines for Mullins success it may be seen that preferential treatment was given to the US owner’s contingent as opposed to their 60 horses instead. This matter hasn’t finished by a long chalk and we can expect more mud to be flung from both directions.
Big Race Preview:
This weekends big race comes from “Flat HQ” and is the Group 1 Sun Chariot Stakes. This one mile contest has been won in recent years by very good horses such as the likes of Richard Hannon’s Sky Lantern and last years French winner Esoterique. French trained horses have a good record in this and as well as last years victory they also claimed success in the 2012 race. The French look to keep their good record in the race and as it stands now, Saturday’s contest currently holds three entries from across The Channel. Volta, Ervedya and Siyoushake are the trio looking to steal the crown away from British and Irish hands with Erveyda who was a disappointing favourite at Royal Ascot on ground softer than ideal, strongest in the betting at 4/1 second favourite. It’s nice to see a horse from outside of Europe set to tackle the race as the South African based Smart Call heads over from the yard of A G Laird. This will be the trainers first ever runner in the UK however this five year old hasn’t lost in her last four outings and comes to the race as the unknown quantity. Martyn Meade who trains Irish Rookie has a fantastic record at Newmarket and as well as a previous course and distance winner this filly picked up third in the race last year. Encouraging efforts in her last two outings read well and her current price of 33/1 could be generous. Arabian Queen’s claim to fame is dethroning the Epsom Derby winner Golden Horn and taking John Gosden’s superstar’s unbeaten record but some pretty moderate efforts this term hasn’t sent her to the same dizzying heights this year. The best of the British charge looks to be John Gosden’s Persuasive who, at the age of three, has plenty more room for improvement. The horse lost her unbeaten record at Ireland last time out but if she can bounce back has to be in with a shot. The Ballydoyle horse that beat Persuasive at Leopardstown reopposes again in the favourite Alice Springs. A previous victory at this venue should also stand her in good stead going in to Saturday’s showpiece however her slightly inconsistent nature could be her undoing.
10 out of 10 winners had won a race that season.
9 of the last 10 winners finished 4th or better in their last race.
9 of the last 10 winners had raced 4 or more times the same season.
8 of the last 10 winners had won a group race.
5 of the last 10 winners were priced at 8/1 or more
The Cleeve team