Wednesday 21 February 2018

Blue Point can outclass O'Brien 'B' team

Appleby colt hard to oppose after flashy Gimcrack win

Kinvara Garner riding Briar Smokey Joe to win The Shetland Pony Grand National at Newmarket. Picture: Getty Images
Kinvara Garner riding Briar Smokey Joe to win The Shetland Pony Grand National at Newmarket. Picture: Getty Images

Charlie Appleby has run nowhere near as many horses this season as last but he has an exciting prospect in Blue Point, which can take the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket today.

Appleby had 151 British winners last season but has managed just 60 this term, his numbers down substantially. He oversaw dramatic improvement from Hawkbill, which got the better of The Gurkha to win the Eclipse. Blue Point may turn out to be even better.

A son of the brilliant Shamardal, he is a close relative of Formosina, which won the Group Two Railway Stakes for Jeremy Noseda. Like his sibling, he has immense natural pace, such that Appleby is far from convinced he will make into a Guineas horse.

His claims are outstanding this afternoon in what is his fifth successive race over six furlongs. After a remarkable 11-length romp at Doncaster, he failed narrowly in the Richmond Stakes against Mehmas, which will retire to stud at the end of the season. That is a key bit of form, since Intelligence Cross was well-held in third and consequently hard enough to fancy today.

Intelligence Cross is one of two Aidan O'Brien-trained runners in the race, with Ryan Moore riding Peace Envoy. The trainer believes that it may well be closer between the mount of Seamus Heffernan and Blue Point than it was at Goodwood.

He said: "We were delighted with Intelligence Cross' win at the Curragh, whereas Peace Envoy ran a great race in France last time. Intelligence Cross will love the ground and I reckon we ran him too quickly after Newmarket when he was third at Goodwood."

Since that Goodwood second, Blue Point stretched to a three-length success in York's Group Two Gimcrack. It is difficult to find fault with his credentials and he does not have Aidan O'Brien's best juveniles, including Caravaggio, to worry about.

The day's other Group One is the Connolly's Red Mills Cheveley Park, a race in which Irish trainers have a poor record.

It is fascinating to see Wesley Ward send over Lady Aurelia, by Caravaggio's sire in the late Scat Daddy.

She runs in a blaze-the-trail fashion typical of Ward runners in England but she may just struggle to last it out and Queen Kindly, perhaps the best horse yet sired by the magnificent Frankel, may be able to outstay her. Queen Kindly produced a classy effort to snare York's Lowther Stakes, when Roly Poly - which reopposes now - was a game second.

The O'Brien-trained Douglas Macarthur bids to bounce back from a somewhat disappointing Leopardstown defeat in the Group Two Royal Lodge.

The Galileo colt looked a shade one-paced then but O'Brien reckons he was rusty after being off since July and he might be worth another chance.

Among the opposition is son Joseph's representative, Arcada, while Godolphin go to war with both Best Of Days and promising all-weather winner Bay Of Poets.

The Betfred Cambridgeshire is a minefield, with no Irish representatives, and Banksea is a tentative pick. The Lawman colt is left on the same mark after finishing second at Doncaster, while he proved that big-field handicaps were no concern when second at York. Three-year-olds have won four of the last ten renewals.

Bravo Zolo will be popular too under Frankie Dettori, while Donegal teen Oisin Orr has been booked by Brian Ellison to steer Stipulate. The seven-year-old has had a colourful career, much of it spent in Australia, and he finished placed in a Premier Handicap at the Galway festival in July.

Channel 4 will broadcast a couple of jumps races from Market Rasen. Red Tornado is bidding to realise six victories on the bounce in the Prelude Handicap Hurdle but preference is for last year's winner, Cloonacool.

The fledgling Rebecca Curtis-Jonathan Moore axis is represented by Vintage Vinnie in the 188Bet Prelude Handicap Chase, while Adrian Heskin teams up with new boss Tom George aboard Cernunnos. Vintage Vinnie is put forward off a low weight.

Watching brief

It has been a stunning year for Skryne trainer Gavin Cromwell, whose successes have seen his yard grow in reputation and, more importantly, numbers.

He has produced results despite spending little money on his stock. Consider Leopardstown maiden winner Pandagreen, now very valuable but bought for less than €10,000 as a yearling, even though she is by the fashionable Casamento and has plenty of scope.

Pandagreen is owned by Eamon Waters' Alymer Stud Limited. It was Waters who provided Cromwell with the chance to buy five yearlings at Tattersalls this week.

Cromwell sourced six yearlings, five for Alymer, including a €34,000 son of Camacho. He also bought a good-looking daughter of Camelot on behalf of the breeder of star jumps mare Jer's Girl, the stable's first Grade One winner.

If you visit the Goffs Sale this week, expect Cromwell to buy a few more on behalf of Alymer. One can only marvel at how far the farrier/trainer has come.

Irish Independent

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