Sky Lantern blazes Kempton trail in Breeders' Cup prep
European trainers saddling two-year-olds at the Breeders' Cup next week have welcomed the prohibition of Lasix, in the juvenile races, as a significant levelling of the playing field. In other respects, however, the local racing environment may remain sufficiently alien to drive their inexperienced charges – almost literally – round the bend.
Sure enough, both the Wiltshire youngsters listed as favourite for the division's respective turf races have undertaken a specific schooling gallop round a turn. Roger Charlton took Dundonnell to Wolverhampton last week, and yesterday Richard Hannon sent Sky Lantern for a similar spin round Kempton – where she worked left-handed under Richard Hughes.
The original intention had been to take her up the road to Manton, where Brian Meehan had made available a special gallop that simulates American track configuration. "Unfortunately, it was too soft to take her there, so we went to Kempton instead," Richard Hannon Jnr, assistant to his father, explained. "She worked 'the wrong way' around the bends – and worked very nicely indeed. Hughesie was very pleased with her. We've never had much luck with the draw, but this filly probably represents our best chance yet at the Breeders' Cup. Hopefully, she'll get the fast ground she loves."
The weather that caused Sky Lantern's diversion also accounts for the very fact that Dundonnell is heading out to California. With soft ground historically guaranteed for the Racing Post Trophy, Charlton felt that the American-bred colt might prefer conditions at Santa Anita. His chief concern was that Dundonnell had never raced round a turn. "[So] I took him to Wolverhampton last week and he worked round the bottom bend," the Beckhampton trainer said. "He seemed to come round there very easily. Had he been disappointing, I think we'd have scratched the idea."
Many American professionals are unhappy about the ban on Lasix, an anti-bleeding medication, and small fields will contest the main juvenile events on dirt. The record-breaking Todd Pletcher does have a strong hand in those races, but is also expressing reservations. "One of my concerns about the removal of Lasix in general is it can be a disadvantage to the betting public," he told The Blood Horse. "As an industry, it is something we have to look closely at. It will be a concern not racing them on Lasix for the first time, but hopefully they'll perform up to their standards. I'm hoping that because they're younger horses they have had less stressful campaigns, and are less likely to bleed."
Aidan O'Brien describes the ban as "good for the breed, good for everybody". The Ballydoyle trainer is hoping that Starspangledbanner can earn his passage to the Turf Sprint in a Listed race at Dundalk this evening. Top-class in his prime, he finished last in the Prix de la Forêt this month – his third start since a failed stint at stud. "But he hates soft ground," O'Brien said. "And it's all played a part in getting his body shape back."
John McCririck is among several familiar names missing from the new roster of presenters when Channel 4 takes over exclusive coverage of terrestrial racing next year. A team headed by Clare Balding has now been finalised, with Nick Luck in a key role. The excellent Graham Cunningham will be a welcome addition for all those familiar with his work on the subscription channel, Racing UK.
The Turf Account
Chris McGrath's Nap
English Summer (6.40 Wolverhampton)
Back in the groove for his latest trainer, arguably shaping best in each of his last three starts.
Paramour (5.30 Doncaster)
Quietly running into form since his return to David O'Meara.
One to watch
Well Painted (William Haggas) was making only his fourth start when finishing nicely out of midfield at Ascot last Saturday and can make up for lost time next year.
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