Belardo strikes in Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes
Belardo bounced back to his best to provide Godolphin with successive wins in the £350,000 Group One Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes (3.55pm) on a superb afternoon of racing at Newbury on Saturday, May 14.
The four-year-old, jointly owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s racing operation and Prince A A Faisal, was crowned Europe’s champion juvenile in 2014 following victory in the Group One Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket prior to a frustrating campaign last year.
Sent off an 8/1 chance after finishing a never-nearer fourth in the Group Two 365 Mile at Sandown Park, the Roger Varian-trained colt broke slowly for Andrea Atzeni but travelled well towards the rear of the 12 runners before swooping to take the advantage with about half a furlong left.
He went clear in the closing stages for a length success over 12/1 shot Euro Charline (Marco Botti/Ryan Moore), with a neck back to Irish raider Endless Drama (8/1, Ger Lyons/Colin Keane). The winning time was 1m 38.18s on ground changed before racing to Good, Good to Soft in places.
3/1 favourite Limato (Henry Candy/Harry Bentley) kept on to take fourth with last year’s runner-up Toormore (9/2, Richard Hannon/James Doyle) fading to fifth after leading for a couple of furlongs when the Godolphin pacemaker Barchan dropped out with three furlongs remaining.
It was a record seventh success for Godolphin in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes, with their previous winners having included Cape Cross (1998), Farhh (2013) and last year’s victor Night Of Thunder.
Roger Varian said: “Belardo salvaged his career last year when chasing home Solow at Ascot and that really told us that we ought to keep him in training. To win a race like this is why connections have kept him in training, so I am delighted for Sheikh Mohammed and his Godolphin operation and Prince Faisal. They have kept patience with the trainer and have been rewarded now.
“I have always kept faith in the horse because his work at home was outstanding and he has got masses of talent. We messed him around a bit last year, to be fair. We had him ready for races and then we didn’t run because of the firm ground. We dropped him back to six furlongs at Haydock but he is not a sprinter.
“I probably messed about with him too much but he came back and told us what a good horse he was when chasing Solow at Ascot. The team at home have done a fantastic job and I am delighted for connections and delighted for the horse as well because I thought he deserved another big one.
“His run at Sandown was a race to put a line through. He put up a good performance that day but I kicked myself after for running a pacemaker because we got a bit too strung out on a turning track and it just didn’t work out. Most people who watched the race would feel that the horse put up a solid performance and it might have been a different result under different circumstances. We hadn’t lost faith and certainly felt that he had a chance today.
“I didn’t want to be so far behind early but he wasn’t great coming out of the gates and he is a horse who loves coming through horses. I was happy throughout the race but I was worried a furlong from home when he wasn’t getting light to come between horses.
“When Andrea pulled him out to go round them, I was worried that he might just throw it away going left-handed but he straightened himself out and won well on the line.
“He will certainly be trained for Royal Ascot now and, God willing, we get there in one piece.”
Andrea Atzeni commented: “The last time I sat on Belardo in a race was the Dewhurst – I have galloped him once since – and it was great to be back on him. He is a good horse on his day and I would like to thank His Highness Sheikh Mohammed for letting me ride him. It’s a pleasure to be back on him.
“They went quick and he sort of half fell out of the stalls but that’s him and he travelled well into the race. Once I got a bit of daylight, he picked up well like he can do, so it was great.
“The ground is on the easy side of good and he probably needs a bit of cut to be at his very best. On his day, he is very good.”
Marco Botti commented: “Euro Charline ran a blinder. I was delighted with her good performance.
“In hindsight, I wish she had someone to challenge for just a bit longer as she was in front before the final furlong. She is a mare who likes to challenge late and Ryan (Moore) said he probably got there a little bit too soon but unfortunately they stopped in front and he had no choice.
“However, credit to the winner – he is a good horse and I am thrilled she has run another good race. People don’t give her the credit she deserves because she is so good as she has proved again today against the colts.
“I think we will give Royal Ascot a miss and wait for the G1 Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket in July and then perhaps a summer break before aiming for the Breeders’ Cup late in the year.”
Ger Lyons said: “It was one hell of a run for Endless Drama’s first time back after nearly a year off the track. He was caught a bit flat-footed when they quickened but the positive to take out is that Colin Keane reckons he will get a mile and a quarter easily. That was a question mark which has been answered.
“We will discuss it with the owners but, if the ground is kind, we will go to Royal Ascot and then you would like to think about a mid-season break with a view to running in the Champion Stakes on either side of the Irish Sea.”
Henry Candy reported: “We could not say whether Limato stayed a mile or not from that run.
“If the yard in general improves (in form), that will lead me more to believe it was his condition today that caused him not to quite finish and I might be more bullish about going a mile again.
“It is really no questions answered from today. We will just have to see how he gets on and come to a decision about what to do next.”
Richard Hannon said: “Toormore ran a good race. The pacemaker (Barchan) dropped away a little sooner than we would have liked and we were left in front.
“He pricked his ears and James had to go with him there. I am hopeful he will win a G1 before the end of the year – he deserves one – and will go to Royal Ascot next.”
Astronereus was sent off the 14/1 outsider of five for the £100,000 Group Three Al Rayyan Stakes (2.45pm) over 12 furlongs but the Amanda Perrett-trained five-year-old recorded the biggest success of his career on his Pattern debut with a game victory.
With 4/6 favourite Eagle Top finding little under pressure, Astronereus stayed on between runners to take the advantage passing the furlong pole found plenty in front for Pat Dobbs to comfortably beat Ayrad by a length and a quarter.
Amanda Perrett said: “Astronereus got very jarred up in the Ebor last year at York – the meeting started on soft ground but dried right up. He had a nice break after that and reappeared today.
“The long-term target is the Goodwood Cup but it remains to be seen whether he will stay that distance. We have him entered in a couple of staying racing towards the end of this month including the Henry II Stakes (Sandown Park).
“He has been working nicely. He was relaxed today and obviously enjoyed the good ground as he needs a bit of cut. There are so many varying degrees of ground around the country but you are always safe coming to Newbury. He should progress from this race.”
Winning part-owner John Connolly commented: “It would be wrong to say that I wasn’t a little surprised with the result but I had high expectations. Amanda and her husband were positive but thought that he might need the run – I think secretly Amanda felt he was going to win.
“He is entered in the Gold Cup but we weren’t over-expectant that he would get that far. We were thinking about two miles and maybe the Goodwood Cup.
“My heart is still set on going back out to Melbourne Cup – we had Tungsten Strike run in the race a few years ago – but the ground might be a worry there.
“Having run the way he has run there over a mile and a half, we will have to have a re-think.”
Pat Dobbs said: “Astronereus’ form has been very good but he had his problems at the back end of last year. Amanda and the team have done a good job getting him back. He wants fast ground but is fragile.
“Amanda had him fit, which you need to be on that ground, and they have always thought a lot of him. He has a good pedigree and stays, so there are plenty of options.”
John Gosden, trainer of Eagle Top who finished a well-beaten fourth, reported: “I am perfectly happy with Eagle Top. He came there nicely and quite frankly he blew up with a furlong to run and the jockey was intelligent enough to know that.
“It was important to get a race into prior to Royal Ascot where he is going for the Hardwicke Stakes.”
There were shades of Frankel’s remarkable 2,000 Guineas win in 2011 as 7/1 chance Log Out Island routed his rivals with an emphatic all-the-way success in the £70,000 Listed Toronado Carnarvon Stakes (3.20pm).
Having blitzed out of the gates under James Doyle, the Godolphin colt soon opened up a 10-length advantage and never looked in any danger throughout the six-furlong contest, coming home three and a quarter lengths ahead of Remarkable.
Winning trainer Richard Hannon said: “They don’t very often win when they go that quick but James has probably given Log Out Island one of the greatest rides ever. They went very quick and never came back to them.
“He is a very talented horse on his day but, for some reason, he loses it slightly when he comes to the races. He behaved well today whereas last time he didn’t, so I didn’t expect much.
“I think the hood enabled him to finish his race today. He was a bit more relaxed – he went down to post quite sensibly – but I don’t know whether he can hold it together at Ascot in the Commonwealth Cup.
“He is a horse with immense talent and he showed it there. Sometimes he misses the odd race because of his attitude but, at the moment, we are on top of it.”
James Doyle added: “We tried to hang on to Log Out Island over seven furlongs in the Greenham Stakes at Chelmsford City last time to see where we at with him but he just wanted to fight me, so we popped the hood on and dropped back in trip.
“Richard said in the paddock beforehand that the rest would have to go some to catch him and he was bang right – he was in a race of his own.
“I didn’t feel that I was going as quick, which is usually a good sign. He wasn’t pulling as he usually does but backing off and having a look, so I was saving energy all of the time. I just had to keep him going the last furlong but it was a pretty good performance.
“The hood is definitely a help. Even going to the start, he can be a little bit troublesome but he was more relaxed today. We saved a lot of energy there, so it was a big help.”
We Are Ninety (Hugo Palmer/Jim Crowley) lined up in the £70,000 Haras de Bouquetot Fillies’ Trial (5.05pm) on the back of three All-Weather appearances but the 12/1 shot made an impressive turf debut with a battling neck success over 11/4 favourite Beautiful Morning.
Hugo Palmer said: “She is a really game filly – three runs in 22 days which is not easy for any horse, particularly when they are the second, third and fourth run of their life
“I never see the point of any filly winning more than one handicap so we thought we would have a go in this Listed race.
“Her work with Hawksmoor, third in the Fillies’ Mile, put her right on the premises with the favourite. Hawksmoor runs in the Prix Saint Alary on Monday and hopefully will put on a big show there.
“Jim (Crowley – the winning jockey) said We Are Ninety stayed that 10 furlongs very well and so we will work towards the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot. It is a shame she is not in the Oaks.
“She is a very raw filly and almost the image of Covert Love – she has the same face and the same white socks. We will take it one step at a time and see. She is a stakes winner now. The ground was a bit soft for her today – she changed her legs around the top bend where the worse of the ground is.
“We Are Ninety was the owner’s 90th birthday present from her nephew.”
Al Kazeem (2011) and Time Test (2015) have won the £70,000 Al Zubarah London Gold Cup (4.30pm) for Roger Charlton in recent years and the Beckhampton handler struck again in the day’s feature handicap over 10 furlongs with another improving three-year-old in Imperial Aviator.
The son of Classic-winning sire Paco Boy, sent off the 7/2 favourite after beating recent Newbury winner Ulysses in a Leicester maiden on April 23, made a mockery of his handicap mark of 85 when running on strongly win by four and a half lengths under Oisin Murphy.
Roger Charlton said: “It is a competitive handicap and Imperial Aviator ran three times on the All-Weather. He went up to 83 without running because the form was being boosted and went up to 85 after winning his maiden but we never thought that he was as progressive as that.
“My horses have been slow to come to hand, so it is always a relief when you have a nice winner. He is fashionably bred – he’s by Paco Boy out of a Galileo mare – and he’s won over 10 furlongs.
“I wouldn’t compare him with my previous winners – they are all different. It would be natural for his new part-owner (Qatar Racing) to want to run in the Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot and I wouldn’t put him off.
“He doesn’t want an undulating track but a good, level, flat track and they gallop downhill a little bit at Ascot, so we will see. We don’t need to make a decision right now and I guess that he is going to go up 10-12lb for that, so he is probably out of handicaps now.
Oisin Murphy added: “I would have preferred to get a lead for longer but I rode him quite positively and, as a result, I got there plenty soon enough. He didn’t pull up in front and showed that he has plenty of class.
“When I gave him a squeeze, he almost put daylight between him and the rest of the field a bit quickly. He is obviously a smart horse and it is nice to sit on him.”
Sponsor Al Shaqab Racing enjoyed a perfect start to the day as 3/1 chance Mehmas took the opening six-furlong £50,000 Olympic Glory Conditions Stakes (2.10pm) with an impressive performance that saw the juvenile leap to the head of the betting for the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot next month.
Always travelling well under a confident Frankie Dettori, the Richard Hannon-trained colt took the lead inside the final furlong before quickening clear of 4/6 favourite Global Applause to score by three and a quarter lengths.
Harry Herbert, racing manager to Al Shaqab Racing said: “What a fantastic start to the day – so exciting.
“Mehmas won so impressively and Frankie said the colt is very good. He travelled very well throughout the race and will go to the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot next month.
“He has a great temperament for a horse who was at the breeze-up sales (170,000 guineas) – those horses can be very buzzy – but he is very calm and relaxed. He is a very exciting prospect. The horse who finished fourth to him won a Listed race impressively at York yesterday, so we were hopeful today.
“It is great that Sheikh Joaan is here to see the victory.”
Winning trainer Richard Hannon commented: “Luckily, Sheikh Joaan decided to buy one at the breeze-ups and it was Mehmas. He was very impressive today.
“I thought he was impressive first time out at Chester and he has improved quite a bit for that outing. He has only done a couple of bits of work at home and we will wait for the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot.”
Ed Dunlop, trainer of Global Applause, reported: “Take nothing away from the winner who was very impressive, but Ryan Moore said Global Applause did not feel like the same horse who won at Newmarket. It was quite a quick run back and we will see.”
Andrea Atzeni completed a 152/1 double as the Marco Botti-trained Azraff came out on top in the final thoroughbred race of the day, the mile Planteur Handicap (5.35pm). The victory proved fitting for Botti, who had previously trained Planteur.
Julian Thick, Chief Executive of Newbury Racecourse, commented: “We have had a fantastic Al Shaqab Lockinge Day in glorious weather.
“I think we saw Newbury at its best today – a large crowd having a good time and enjoying top-class racing.
“There was a great winner of the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes in Belardo and I sure other winners from today will go on to prove themselves as horses of the very highest order in the weeks and months ahead.”