Wigmore on song for return gig

 

While the very fact that Wigmore Hall is deigning to put in an appearance testifies to the exceptional prize-money at Ascot on Saturday, his campaign hitherto certainly places the finances of the British Turf in sobering perspective. For in contesting huge purses in five different countries since his last appearance on home soil, the globetrotting gelding has earned more than the rest of his stable put together.

And while it is true that he has endured an exasperating drought over recent weeks, Michael Bell remains on course to match all the annual indices that place him among the most accomplished trainers in the land. "We've had a pretty solid year," Bell stressed yesterday. "We've had seven stakes winners in England, including a Group One. But on his travels he has won over $1m [£640,000], which just goes to show – especially as he arguably should have won the Dubai Duty Free, and got second in the Arlington Million. So we've left quite a bit of jam on the table. Having said that, we've got to be positive about this weekend. At least there's some big money on offer this time."

Described as "a savage" in his adolescence, Wigmore Hall has been a reformed character since castration and his robust constitution and love of fast ground have together qualified him for an odyssey through Dubai, the Far East and North America. But the anomaly persists that racing in his homeland can be twice as competitive for half the money. Certainly, he was cleverly placed to win a Grade One in Canada last month, and things will probably be rather tougher in the Qipco Champion Stakes.

"It's going to be a tall order, with a lot of the big guns lining up," Bell admitted. "But although he has had a lot of travelling this year, he had a nice break before Arlington and has come back from Canada in great form. A lot of geldings start to lose their coat around now, but he's got a really healthy skin. Realistically, I don't think we'll be picking up the trophy – but I hope we get a slice of the action. He probably only just got the mile and a half in Canada, and is ideally suited by a truly run mile and a quarter. He might well get that on Saturday, so hopefully he can get a smooth run and can show his true colours."

Bell was taking a brief break in another hectic week of sieving future stars at Tattersalls, just down the road from his Newmarket stables. As ever, this most laid-back of trainers was not allowing the pressure to show, despite the maddening statistic that he has not mustered a single winner in Britain since Margot Did won the Nunthorpe at York in mid-August. "But we could easily have had a few," he said. "We've had quite a few seconds, we've had horses sitting down in stalls, that kind of thing. It's just been one of those frustrating periods a trainer sometimes goes through. Over a season, normally your luck levels out. Yards do go in and out of form, unless they have horses constantly coming on stream."

Margot Did was very disappointing in the Prix de l'Abbaye, but Bell could sense something was amiss even as he rushed in, delayed by traffic, to saddle her. "She's in a field now," he said. "But she stays in training and we'll be aiming her at Dubai. Overall, the older horses seem absolutely fine. The two-year-olds have had a problem, and they're just trotting at the moment. But Wigmore Hall's health checks are good. He won't let us down. He never does."

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Hierarch (5.40 Kempton) Has shaped well in both starts for this yard, hampered at a critical moment last time, and has often promised more than this kind of rating might imply.

Next best

Midsummer Sun (3.15 Nottingham) This half-brother to Midday is surely on the way to much better things after a convincing win in his first handicap last time.

One to watch

Sadeek's Song (Mahmood al Zarooni) has a top pedigree and this late developer must be followed over middle distances after his third at York on Saturday, closing down rivals who were ridden nearer the pace.

Where the money's going

With the race coming too soon for stablemate Await The Dawn, So You Think is 2-1 from 9-4 with Ladbrokes for the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.

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