Oaks win rewards Beckett's patience
Dozens of horses win maiden races every season with an air of infinite promise; and there are many young trainers, equally, whose early results suggest they might conceivably be the next big thing. But few who happened to go racing at Salisbury last October will have grasped quite what they had witnessed when Look Here beat Doctor Fremantle.
Most will have been tempted to give up on Doctor Fremantle, who had started 1-3 favourite, but will at least have acknowledged Look Here as further testimony to the emerging talent of her trainer, Ralph Beckett. In the meantime, of course, Doctor Fremantle has reiterated his ability to the extent that he is a leading candidate for the Vodafone Derby today; while Look Here's part in his fall and rise had been all but forgotten when she turned up for the fillies' version here yesterday.
Having finished second in the Lingfield trial on her only start since, Look Here was sent off 33-1 for the Juddmonte Oaks. But the Hernando filly – by the same sire as the Derby favourite, Casual Conquest – won decisively under Seb Sanders, and absolutely on merit. In the process she delivered the second heart-warming breakthrough of a week that began with the Prix du Jockey-Club success of Eric Libaud and Ioritz Mendizabal.
There are many parallels between the two partnerships. Like Libaud, Beckett has steadily been making a name for himself as a modest young man with skills worth broadcasting. And, like Mendizabal, Sanders has been the slowest of burners as a champion jockey, finally crowning years of prolific endeavour with a share of the title last season.
This was Sanders's first British Classic, and it says a good deal about him that he was able to ride here only after his employer, Sir Mark Prescott, excused him from duties at Wolverhampton. As it was, he could not tarry to share the celebrations, instead scurrying off to ride at Doncaster, albeit not before a characteristic admission. "I made a hash of things at Lingfield," he said. "But it was a trial and I found out a lot about her because of that mistake. Deep down I thought she would run a massive race."
Beckett was dazed, all the same. "When all is said and done, we could go skint now and it wouldn't matter," he said. "She worked diabolically last week, absolutely shockingly, and I said we would have to work her again because we can't go to Epsom off the back of this."
Look Here settled nicely in midfield and made smooth progress on the outside coming down the hill, so smooth that she hit the front two furlongs out and never looked like being caught. Sanders drove her out to win by just under four lengths from Moonstone, who came from a long way back and duly proved best of the six Ballydoyle fillies – much as had been suggested before her disappointing run at York last month. In contrast Lush Lashes, the easy winner there, did not seem to get the extra distance in fifth.
Katiyra excelled in third, though her inexperience proved costly, much as John Oxx had feared. "She was impeded a little bit coming down the hill," the trainer said. "She got caught in traffic, stumbled and lost her hind legs, but ran on very well in the straight." Clowance never landed a blow in fourth, while John Gosden reckoned that the well-backed Michita "absolutely hated the track" before keeping on for seventh.
Beckett was reluctant to commit the winner to the Irish Oaks, suspecting that she may need more time, though he has unfinished business at the Curragh. Three years ago he saddled Penkenna Princess to be beaten in a photo for the Irish 1,000 Guineas, and he has "not had two days go by" since without feeling the pain anew. "But I've never had a horse that I knew could win a Classic," he said. "I didn't know what it takes. So at no time was I ever confident about this filly. But I thought we'd run a race."
Look Here's owner-breeder, Julian Richmond-Watson, was formerly chairman of the race committee here, and has just five mares on his Northamptonshire stud. "You know you're pitching at windmills when you take on the big battalions," he said. "But you dream."
The best of the big battalions had earlier ensured business as usual in the Juddmonte Coronation Cup, Soldier Of Fortune having the race expertly set up by the combined efforts of two stablemates. As the icing on the cake, Johnny Murtagh was able to keep the struggling French favourite, Getaway, pinned on the rail as he came through – albeit he ended up hampering Macarthur, collared for second by Youmzain.
Aidan O'Brien believes that Soldier Of Fortune has flourished since last year, when his nine-length romp in the Irish Derby towered above anything else he achieved, and it seems safe to assume that the Arc will dominate his agenda.
Jim Bolger trousered the breeder's prize, by the way, and so will not leave British soil empty-handed – regardless of how New Approach gets on today.
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