Chipotle ‘The One to Beat’ in the 30th Running of Weatherbys Super Sprint

Eve Johnson Houghton believes her impressive Royal Ascot winner Chipotle is ‘the one to beat’ in the thirtieth running of the £200,000 Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury on Saturday, and she is encouraged by the prospect of some warm weather at last.

Chipotle landed the first juvenile race of the season when taking the historic Brocklesby Stakes at Doncaster in March and went on to land the designated Royal Ascot Trial at Ascot next time. However, he was well below form in Sandown’s National Stakes, where jockey Charlie Bishop was adamant that soft ground was to blame, since it blunted Chipotle’s finishing speed.

That change of gear is the Havana Gold colt’s most potent weapon, and it was very much in evidence again at Royal Ascot, where he swept through from the back of the smaller group racing towards the far rail and burst two and a quarter lengths clear in the closing stages.

Johnson Houghton, who has never had a Weatherbys Super Sprint runner with anything like Chipotle’s profile but was fourth in 2016 with rank outsider Diable D’Or, said: “Chipotle will definitely run unless it’s bottomless ground, but it looks as if we might be heading for a bit of a heatwave and that will be ideal for him. He travelled fine at Sandown, but the last furlong was heavy, and he was on the worst of it. He just couldn’t pick his feet up out of it.

“He was very impressive on fast ground at Royal Ascot, and the time was very good too. He’s been great since, but I can’t take any credit as he trains himself and just sleeps, eats and works. Unfortunately, Charlie is banned, but we’ve got a worthy replacement in David Probert.”

Chipotle is not the only member of the field with strong Royal Ascot form to his name, for Vintage Clarets, the sole representative of three-time Weatherbys Super Sprint winner Richard Fahey, was third in the more prestigious Group 2 Coventry Stakes the same afternoon. Johnson Houghton fancies her chances of beating Vintage Clarets, however.

She said: “I think Chipotle has a great chance. Vintage Clarets was only fourth when Chipotle won the Brocklesby, and he has to drop back from six furlongs. I definitely think we are the one to beat, and if he runs well we will look to step him up in class to a Group race.”

Chipotle races for The Woodway 20, a syndicate with three two-year-olds which was created largely in response to the COVID-19 epidemic. All three must be sold at the end of the year, but some first-time owners have already had a magical ride, and Johnson Houghton believes the other two – Bascinet and Greek Philosopher – will also be winners this year.

She said: “I set the syndicate up at the end of last year when I wasn’t sure how many owners would want horses with COVID and all that. I bought three cheap yearlings and put them in one syndicate of 20 people.

“They are a mixed bag. Some are old owners, but a lot have never had a horse before and just wanted a bit of fun without the expense of a whole horse. A lot of them met for the first time when we had a lunch here to celebrate the Royal Ascot win. They are a lovely bunch and they got on well.”

Vintage Clarets, who is in the same ownership as his stable’s 2017 winner Bengali Boys,  might wait for an alternative target at Goodwood, but Fahey is clearly leaning towards Newbury. He said: “He’ll breeze on Tuesday and we’ll make a decision later in the week. It’s a little bit up in the air but I’d say we’ll probably run.

“Vintage Clarets is a very quick horse, who I think will be helped by coming back in trip, and Chipotle has a penalty for the Royal Ascot win. We aren’t mob handed this year for once but you only need one runner if it’s the right one. It’s been a lucky race for me and Vintage Clarets has a lot of natural speed.”

If the Weatherbys Super Sprint has been lucky for Fahey, it has been even luckier for the Richard Hannon stable, which was winning it for a tenth time when Happy Romance – owned by first-timers The McMurray Family and exactly the sort of horse the race was devised for – won 12 months ago before going on to Group 3 success.

Hannon has a typically strong team again this year, but the one Fahey fears most is Gubbass, who looked a smart prospect when making a successful debut at Leicester in April but hasn’t been seen since.

One of the attractions of the Weatherbys Super Sprint is that it is not always won by one of the bigger outfits.  Rod Millman, who won with Lord Kintyre in 1997 and Bettys Hope two years ago, has a likely enough sort again in Amazonian Dream, while Jonny Portman, successful in 2016 with Mrs Danvers, has a live outsider in Sienna Bonnie.

Millman, who has also had a second and two thirds in the race, said: “Amazonian Dream was only just beaten by Berkshire Shadow at Newbury first time out and we feel he’s improved at home since, but he hasn’t shown it on the track for whatever reason.

“He’s got a bit to find with Chipotle on Royal Ascot form, but he boiled over there, which surprised us as he’s usually very quiet. He’ll probably wear a lip chain in the preliminaries to see if that helps, and at the moment I’ve got Oisin Murphy to ride. It’s a race we always try to find one for, and we are always very well looked after.”

Portman said: “Sienna Bonnie hasn’t had quite the same run into the race as Mrs Danvers, who was unbeaten, but it’s a good race for her and it’s been her target all year. She is at the foot of the weights and drying ground will be ideal for her.

“She’s a ‘jump and run’ horse who likes fast ground, and the last three times it’s not been ideal for her. She’s still run very respectably in good company.”

The going at Newbury at the start of the week was officially ‘good to soft’, following 4mm of rain on Sunday night, but it is expected to dry out significantly by Saturday.

Clerk of the course Keith Ottesen said: “From Wednesday it’s due to get very warm, and it looks as if we should get a warm and sunny weekend, which will be timely. We’ve had an exceptionally wet time but it will dry out quickly enough and by Saturday it should be good ground, or on the fast side of good, and so ideal summer ground.”

Russell Ferris CEO of Weatherbys commented: “Weatherbys have been sponsoring the Super Sprint for nearly thirty years and every year there’s a great story to tell as the smaller owners get their chance of a big pay day.

“The confirmations after today’s stage look better than ever with some really strong Royal Ascot form coming to Newbury on Saturday.”

Newbury Racecourse is delighted to welcome the Bahrain Turf Series as the new sponsor of the £60,000 stayers handicap on Weatherbys Super Sprint Day, Saturday 17 July, which has attracted twenty-five entries including the past two winners of the race, recent Royal Ascot winner Reshoun (2020) and Withhold (2019).

The Bahrain Turf Series has recently been introduced in Bahrain and will run from December 2021 through to March 2022, with ten new races specifically targeting international horses rated 85-100. The Bahrain Turf Series will be interlinked and run alongside the best racing in Bahrain, including the prestigious King’s Cup, Crown Prince’s Cup and National Day Grade One.

The race series will have a total of £550,000 prize money fund. £50,000 is allocated per series race with a minimum of £30,000 to the winner. The turf series will also have a bonus point system attached depending on where horses finish. The points will be added and at the end of the series the owner of the horse with the most points in each pot will get £15,000 and the trainer of the horse with most points will get £10,000. This will mean an extra £50,000 in total prize money.