Barron's rapidly rising star to further education at Sandown
For most people, a hiatus of quality in the domestic programme since Epsom has meant that Royal Ascot could not come soon enough.
For perhaps the most talented horse running on British soil before Tuesday, however, the Royal meeting is considered too much, too soon.
It would be fitting if a trainer as respected as David Barron could crown his career by producing a champion sprinter for Yorkshire. His measured approach gives Pearl Secret every chance of seeking some such status at Ascot next year, but in the meantime requires the colt to continue his education in relatively shallow waters.
Pearl Secret has already overcome even the circumspect instincts of his trainer to be candidly described by Barron as "definitely the quickest I've had". Remember that this is the man who saddled Coastal Bluff for a dead-heat in the 1997 Nunthorpe Stakes.
But Barron feels that the chestnut still has a lot of learning to do, and especially that he needs to become more relaxed. As he said after Pearl Secret made it three wins from three starts, at the Dante meeting at York last month: "He's got so much ability, he has no need to get worried."
Once again, he has been found a small field in the Novae Bloodstock Insurance Scurry Stakes at Sandown. Not so small, perhaps, to prevent his draw proving a minor irritation for Richard Hughes, standing in for the suspended Jamie Spencer. But Pearl Secret (3.25) won in heavy ground on his reappearance at Doncaster and should be equal to conditions, as well as the opposition.
The rest of the televised action today looks rather more competitive, though the wretched summer – which continues to prevent any consistency in the going – makes it appear a fairly indigestible appetiser to next week's banquet. But Takeitfromalady (2.20) brings the profile of a tough, thriving horse to the Sandown opener, and will surely go close if able to reproduce the form he showed at Newmarket only last weekend.
That was at least as good a race as this one, and he again seemed ready for a stiffer test. An extra furlong, uphill, and testing ground – in which he is already proven – together look just the ticket.
Fennell Bay (2.50) could offer value against his seniors in what looks a fairly puzzling race, having looked progressive before failing to handle Epsom and then meeting trouble over the last two weekends.
Things look little easier at York, where the lady amateurs will be in fierce rivalry for the Queen Mother's Cup. But this will be only a third handicap start for Eagle Rock (2.05) and he shaped nicely on his reappearance over course and distance, thundering down the straight for third after the winner had seized the race by the scruff of the neck.
Colour Guard (2.35) is bred to be smart and quickly made up for lost time after finally making his debut in February, winning three times inside a month. He ran out of steam, after being kept very busy, but has been given a nice break prior to this turf debut – and it is interesting that the in-form Mark Johnston stable has left him in the Hunt Cup next week.
The most valuable prize of the day is offered for the Bond Tyres Trophy, a dazing handicap contested by 20 young sprinters, many of them still improving. Pea Shooter (3.10) could offer a bit of value, having won his maiden by six lengths here last season and shaped well on his return. He ran rather flat when well backed next time, but that was only seven days later and may have come too soon. As a result the handicapper has indulged him with a couple of pounds, and you can get better than 20-1.
Much the best race of the weekend is in France tomorrow, when Beauty Parlour takes her unbeaten record into the Prix de Diane at Chantilly. Her brilliant miler's pace should be too much at this trip for Kissed, a late scratching from our Oaks on account of the drying ground. Incidentally, the second, third and fourth at Epsom – Shirocco Star, The Fugue and Vow – all had entries confirmed yesterday for the Ribblesdale Stakes at Ascot on Thursday.
Colour Guard (2.35 York) Mark Johnston's four-year-old is making his turf debut after a lay-off.
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