An experiment with the stamina of Sizing Europe appeared to backfire yesterday when he was turned over by one of just three rivals at Punchestown. But Henry de Bromhead, his trainer, was not immediately persuaded that the horse had failed to catch China Rock through lack of stamina.
A winner over just two miles at the Cheltenham Festival, Sizing Europe was stepped up to just short of three for his reappearance in a conditions chase. Ridden positively by Ruby Walsh, China Rock asserted from the home turn and won by seven lengths for Mouse Morris. "I thought he ran very well," De Bromhead said. "Ruby and Mouse had their tactics spot on. They were always going to test us for the trip. His jumping was a little rusty, but that will improve as we go on. And I felt he got the trip. He stayed on again after two out. He had a big blow after the fourth last, and he'll improve a lot for that."
De Bromhead will consult the horse's owners, Alan and Ann Potts, but would not be averse to trying the trip again – perhaps even against Kauto Star himself, at Down Royal on 6 November.
That race coincides with the Breeders' Cup, confirming the present phase of the racing calendar as a real revolving door. The Flat season's champion juvenile seems guaranteed to announce himself at Newmarket tomorrow, after the unbeaten trio of Frankel, Dream Ahead and Saamidd were among six colts declared for a vintage Dubai Dewhurst Stakes. The most conspicuous withdrawal was Native Khan, whose trainer, Ed Dunlop, also scratched Snow Fairy from the Emirates Airline Champion Stakes at the 11th hour.
Native Khan, who overcame traffic to win the Solario Stakes at Sandown, will instead wait for the Racing Post Trophy a week tomorrow. "They say never be afraid of one horse, but it seems that there are three to be wary of," Dunlop reasoned. With the weather forecast for Doncaster being favourable, we'll sit tight."
Discretion was also deemed the better part of valour for Snow Fairy, who is being kept fresh for a valuable prize in Japan next month. "It would not be right going to Japan on the back of a hard race," Dunlop said. "We could pick up just short of £1.4m out there, and we want her at her peak."
Two of the Dewhurst six represent the Irish trainers who have shared the last four runnings – Jim Bolger and Aidan O'Brien, saddling Glor Na Mara and Roderic O'Connor respectively – but neither has dominated the juvenile scene on home soil this time round. Perhaps the best young colt in Ireland is instead stabled with Jessica Harrington, but yesterday she regretfully ruled Pathfork out of a crack at the Breeders' Cup Juvenile following a setback.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Willing Foe (5.50 Newmarket) Looks significant that this rapid improver is being kept to handicaps. Readily dispatched a couple of subsequent winners at Doncaster last time, and extra distance likely to suit.
Drop The Hammer (4.20 Redcar) Possibly flattered at Catterick last week, but she may prove one of those fillies that suddenly thrive in the autumn.
One to watch
Rock N Roll Ransom (L M Cumani) Has the trainer, physique and pedigree to keep improving as he matures, and the way he claimed second over 10f at Ascot last weekend already had a flavour of next year's Ebor.
Where the money's going
Saamidd is 7-2 from 9-2 with William Hill to turn over Frankel and Dream Ahead in the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket tomorrow.