Racing: Princess joins the Classic set

Trainer's first Group success books a tilt at the élite while Walsh misses out on history
Click to follow
The Independent Online

If there were any Classic clues from the two Group Three trials here yesterday, they came mostly by default. The colt Indesatchel, winner of the Greenham Stakes, is not entered in the 2,000 Guineas, but his regular workmate at home in Co Tipperary is the 1,000 Guineas favourite Damson. The filly Penkenna Princess, who took the Fred Darling Stakes, will take her chance among the élite on the Rowley Mile two weeks today, but it was the close-up presence of the third-placed Echelon that was the eye-catcher. She is regarded as inferior to Shanghai Lily in the pecking order in the Sir Michael Stoute stable.

If there were any Classic clues from the two Group Three trials here yesterday, they came mostly by default. The colt Indesatchel, winner of the Greenham Stakes, is not entered in the 2,000 Guineas, but his regular workmate at home in Co Tipperary is the 1,000 Guineas favourite Damson. The filly Penkenna Princess, who took the Fred Darling Stakes, will take her chance among the élite on the Rowley Mile two weeks today, but it was the close-up presence of the third-placed Echelon that was the eye-catcher. She is regarded as inferior to Shanghai Lily in the pecking order in the Sir Michael Stoute stable.

Indesatchel, backed to 11-10 favouritism, made short work of his eight rivals in the seven-furlong contest, leading a furlong out and holding staying-on Johnny Jumpup by a length to become the second Irish-trained winner of a Guineas prep in three days, after Democratic Deficit in Thursday's Craven Stakes.

A mile has always been considered too far for a colt of his speed, and the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot is his target. Trainer David Wachman had elected not to travel from Ireland but jockey Jamie Spencer was full of praise for the colt. "The ground is tacky out there," he said, "and it blunted his speed. He is much pacier than he showed today but I never had to use the stick and he had a bit left at the end. He's very good at this trip."

The colts' trial was nearly a second quicker than the fillies' race, in which Penkenna Princess, making her seasonal debut, held outsider Royal Alchemist by a head, with Echelon, who met traffic problems, a neck third. "I'm sure she'll be just as good on faster ground," said winning trainer Ralph Beckett, "and she's sure to improve for the run."

The Group Three contest has an excellent recent record in spotlighting future talent, with four 1,000 Guineas winners in its field in the nine previous runnings: Bosra Sham and Wince, who both won here, and Sleepytime and Lahan, who were fourth and Newmarket will be Penkenna Princess's next stop.

"She is very, very tough and I thought at the two-furlong marker that I was going to win very easily," said rider Seb Sanders. "First time out on that sticky ground it has just found her out a bit, and I think the winning distance has flattered the other horses. She did everything really comfortably and when I got to the front I though I would have just quickened away for a comfortable victory. But she just took a blow and will strip a lot fitter in two weeks' time."

Penkenna Princess was Beckett's first Group winner in five years with a licence, and came to his Lambourn yard only after second thoughts. "I was underbidder for her at auction at 16,500 guineas a as a yearling," he said. "Then, when she was re-offered as a two-year-old, I still liked her, and bought her, but had to pay 60,000 guineas for her that time."

The market for the 2,000 Guineas, headed by Dubawi, remained unmoved. Damson hardened at the top of the fillies' lists, cut from 7-2 to 3-1, withPenkenna Princess at 20-1 from 33-1. Echelon, too, was cut, from 20-1 to around 16-1, but is not yet certain to be in the field. "It was only her third race, and she's still learning, and she might be one to leave for later," said Chris Richardson, representing her owners, Cheveley Park Stud. "Shanghai Lily would be our Guineas first choice."

Results at at Ayr hammered home the fact that Paul Nicholls is not so much banging his head against a brick wall as being actively attacked by a cliff in his efforts to prevent arch-rival Martin Pipe winning his 15th trainers' championship and himself from being runner-up for the seventh successive year.

Firstly, his charge My Will was thwarted by less than a length by Pipe-trained Locksmith, who had run, and won, the day before and had been pulled out again in an all-hands-to-the-pumps exercise. The grey was overtaken by My Will before the last fence, but under maximum urging from Timmy Murphy regained the initiative and secured an essential £23,000 towards the title coffers in the process.

And then, in the day's main feature, the Scottish National, Cornish Rebel, the 9-2 second favourite, simply threw away the first prize in the closing strides of the four mile, one furlong marathon. Best Mate's younger, quirkier brother tackled 20-1 shot Joes Edge half-way up the run-in and took a half-length lead, but despite Ruby Walsh's best efforts was beaten a short-head as Joes Edge answered Keith Mercer's calls with enthusiasm. It was an agonising miss for Walsh, who was bidding to become the first jockey ever to complete a "Grand Slam" of Nationals in one season, having won the Welsh and Irish races as well as the Grand National.

It will have been of limited comfort to Nicholls that none of the Pipe quartet in the race was in the money. Pipe finished the day £38,371 ahead, and with Perth and Sandown to come this week the game is still on.

Comments