You can no sooner hurry a racehorse than a reluctant daffodil, and Marcus Tregoning yesterday cautioned against assumptions that the leading British candidate will bloom in time for the first classic of the new Flat season. Sir Percy is as short as 6-1 to see off the Irish in the Stan James 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on 6 May, but yesterday his trainer revealed the unbeaten colt to be walking something of a highwire.
"We do need everything to go smoothly," Tregoning said. "He was held up over New Year, when he pulled a shoe off quite badly and made a nasty mess of his foot. We had to wait a while for that to clear up, and we could not afford another stop of any kind now. I wouldn't think the cold snap has done any trainers much good. At least we have had some rain, which means we can get him on the grass and ask him to do a bit more over the next week or so. In fairness, Martin Dwyer has ridden him in his last three bits of work and he is being very positive. We've a bit of time to go - but any stops would make things difficult."
Tregoning is now pondering whether to give the colt an unscheduled trial in the Dubai Duty Free Greenham Stakes at Newbury on 22 April. Over the next couple of weeks he must decide whether the colt is so backward that only a race will get him to the classic, or conversely whether it might knock him off course. Either way, the public will be given a chance to make their own judgement at that meeting.
"I suppose it's more likely that we will give him a piece of work there," he said.
"But he wouldn't have a penalty in the Greenham, and he's the sort of colt you wouldn't want to risk being too fresh for the Guineas. He gets a bit keyed up out at exercise and, in a way, that's a help, because an active horse is easier to get fit. He was on edge before the Dewhurst, and that didn't seem to affect his performance at all, but he would have to get through a parade before the Guineas. Having said that, the last thing you would want to do is risk flattening him in a trial." His experience with Nayef five years ago will certainly discourage Tregoning from pushing Sir Percy too hard. Though he ultimately proved top-class, Nayef was slow to come to hand and was narrowly beaten in the Craven Stakes before disappointing in the Guineas. During his days with Dick Hern, equally, Tregoning witnessed at first hand the type of work Nashwan put in prior to winning the classic first time out.
"Unless one is jumping out at you, you're guessing wildly," he said. "There's a lot of focus on this colt because of his exploits last year. But if he's not there, he's not there."
Tregoning will certainly be doing his utmost to get the Mark Of Esteem colt to the Guineas. Sir Percy is by no means certain to stay the extra half-mile in the Vodafone Derby, and his owners turned down big money offers during the winter.
While Tregoning frets over Sir Percy, there seems to be growing conviction that another unbeaten British colt has wintered particularly well.
Nakheel, impressive winner of a listed race at Pontefract last autumn, has been well backed for the Guineas over the past couple of weeks and Coral yesterday cut his odds again, to 11-1 from 14-1. Mark Johnston intends to send the Sadler's Wells colt straight to Newmarket.
For the time being, of course, the jumpers have yet to hand over the baton and the extra week between the two meetings this year will enable many of the leading players at Cheltenham to run at Aintree next week. But Paul Nicholls said yesterday that Kauto Star, an early faller when favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, will not be among them.
"He was quite bruised and sore after the fall and is not going to be ready," Nicholls said. "If he runs anywhere, he will go for the Betfred Celebration Chase at Sandown on 29 April."
(Wincanton 2.45)Reuse content