Morny win fuels Simcock's dream of Guineas glory
Trainer moves into major league after first Group One victory vindicates decision to aim high with star colt
Even Lindbergh needed someone to build him a plane. Spare a thought, then, for David Simcock, whose landmark success at Deauville on Sunday was overshadowed by the young jockey who steered his flying machine, Dream Ahead, in the Prix Morny. Only the previous day William Buick had won the Arlington Million in Chicago, and now he had completed a transatlantic Group One double within 16 hours. Here, unmistakably, was a momentous breakthrough in the one of the British Turf's most promising careers. And it was a pretty big day for Buick, as well.
Neither, as it happens, would be the type for ostentatious celebration. "The only thing we worried about was that William might have had too much champagne on the plane," Simcock joked yesterday. "But no, that is most definitely not his style."
Simcock, in turn, returned to Newmarket, had some beans on toast and went to bed. He shared the flight home with Luca Cumani, his former employer. Cumani, full of congratulations, confessed that he had thought his protégé too hasty in fast-tracking Dream Ahead straight from a maiden to Group One level. Simcock himself had become nervously inclined to the same view as the race approached. "As the week went on, so the doubts grew, whether we were doing the right thing," he said. "So when it was all over I just felt relief, not elation."
Now 37, Simcock has been quietly drawing attention to his talents since starting out with just 10 horses six years ago. Last season, for instance, he nurtured Darley Sun from an initial rating of 69 to winning the Cesarewitch by five lengths off 94. What he needed next was an elite horse, and that would not be easy in the middle tier of the bloodstock market. But that was just where Dream Ahead himself emerged, entering Simcock's care with a £36,000 tag from the Doncaster Breeze-Ups.
Last month he won a Nottingham maiden by nine lengths on his debut. It was a jaw-dropping performance, but Simcock none the less put his judgement boldly on the line in going for the Morny. Any young trainer can win a weak maiden and get a rush of blood. Only one with a mature grasp of the equine ability spectrum would be vindicated in this way.
"That's for others to say," Simcock shrugged. "But, of course, there was huge satisfaction. If he had finished fourth or fifth it would possibly have looked slightly dumb. The plan had been the Acomb at York, but Khalifa Dasmal [the owner] was in Deauville, and told us it was raining out there. He's extremely sporting, and if the horse hadn't fired, I know he would have taken it very well. But we did think the world of this horse. His final piece of work was exceptional. He went with two very good handicappers, rated 95 and 100, and looked different class."
That Simcock knows what he is doing was perhaps even more transparent in the success of his very first runner as a licensed trainer, in the Will You Marry Me Stakes at Lingfield on Valentine's Day 2004. He produced a ring and proposed to Jennie on the spot. His professional consummation has taken only a little longer, with 70 horses now stabled at Trillium Place.
Dream Ahead will next run on his own doorstep, on the Rowley Mile, in either the Middle Park or Dewhurst Stakes. The latter would involve a seventh furlong, but Simcock's priority is suitable ground. "He does have quite a pronounced knee action," he said. "But it wasn't a soft-ground time on Sunday, and the jockeys said it rode no softer than good. Yes, fast ground would be a massive concern, and that will probably influence our choice. The dam was quick, but the whole family has stayed at least a mile. Seven furlongs should be well within his compass and, while a mile will probably prove his maximum, the fact that he is so laid-back is going to help."
Dream Ahead is now among the market leaders for the 2,000 Guineas, a gratifying turn of events for the son of a Herefordshire farmer who stumbled into his vocation when getting to know the Balding family "at a time I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life". There followed stints with Dick Hern, William Muir and Cumani. "I'd like to think I've taken something from my time with them all," he said. "But this is what we've been missing in broadening our profile – the really serious horse. It gives everyone in the yard a buzz. Hopefully, it will make people sit up and say: 'Yes, he can do the job'."
Chris McGrath's Nap
Violent Velocity (3.50 Thirsk) Promised to take advantage soon when exposed to an excessive pace at York last time, out of petrol late on.
Avertor (5.40 Newmarket) Lightly raced sprinter, clearly on a feasible mark judged on strong finish after missing the break over 5f last time.
One to watch
Edinburgh Knight (P W D'Arcy) Looked back on the upgrade when cruising through the field at Kempton in midweek, just not getting home.
Where the money's going
Pires is 25-1 from 33-1 with the sponsors after their first day of trading on the Totesport Cambridgeshire.
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