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Ratings Update: Doncaster, Cheltenham And Aintree

All eyes were on Doncaster on Saturday as Aidan O’Brien broke Bobby Frankel’s long-standing world record by saddling 26 Group/Grade 1 winners in a season when Saxon Warrior (120p from 114p) bravely fought off the challenge of Roaring Lion (120p from 113p) in the Racing Post Trophy.

Ratings Update: Doncaster, Cheltenham And Aintree

All eyes were on Doncaster on Saturday as Aidan O’Brien broke Bobby Frankel’s long-standing world record by saddling 26 Group/Grade 1 winners in a season when Saxon Warrior (120p from 114p) bravely fought off the challenge of Roaring Lion (120p from 113p) in the Racing Post Trophy.

Saxon Warrior winning the Racing Post Trophy Stakes (Group 1) (Str)
Saxon Warrior winning the Racing Post Trophy Stakes (Group 1) (Str) Picture:Pat Healy Photography

It was a cracking renewal, and produced one of the best pieces of two-year-old form in 2017, the race turning out to be a stern examination of character as well as talent given the test of stamina it produced. Saxon Warrior Horseform completed the perfect first season, all the more weighty in his case as he's looked a budding three-year-old at every stage – having a tall frame to fill – and coming through a battle like this puts him on the front foot for his classic campaign.

Roaring Lion, on the other hand, lost his unbeaten record, but he made the biggest and best move of the race, surging past Saxon Warrior in the final furlong (had come from near last) before violently shifting left and succumbing only in the final 100 yards. That same left-handed shift nearly cost him the Royal Lodge, and is a flaw to be ironed out, but his ability shone through above all. The Pentagon (up 5 lb to 114p) finished third and is another to view in a positive light with regards to next year, blessed with a stouter pedigree than the first two, and he's got physical size and scope, so it's not cut-and-dried that he'll be a mere second or third string for Ballydoyle come next season’s Derby.


Earlier on the card, Speak In Colours Horseform (108p from 90p) took the step up in class in his stride when winning the six-furlong listed contest, doing it smoothly by and large, not flat out to complete the job under a hands and heels ride. He held a Mill Reef entry until the final stage, but the decision to go steadier paid off, and there’s plenty of time for him next year to set about group sprints. The Owen Burrows-trained Mutaaqeb also showed much improved form (up 20 lb to 104p), beaten half a length into second. He still looked a little rough around the edges, missing the breaking and taking time to settle in mid-field, but doing well to reduce the deficit by as much as he did in the final furlong. Mutaaqeb is bred to flourish over a mile next season and looks a smart prospect.

Over at Cheltenham it was the second day of their opening meeting, which featured the first qualifier of the long-running Pertemps series. Thomas Campbell Horseform (141p from 138p) built on the conspicuous promise of last season’s handicap runs as he landed a gamble, everything – bar his jumping which was still novicey – coming easy to him and he’s open to further improvement going forward. Milrow (up 5 lb to 127) resumed his progress, outrunning big odds to finish second, looking an improved animal for his first crack at three miles and he should have more to offer at that distance.

On the same card, Foxtail Hill (up 6 lb to 147) proved better than ever to land the valuable two-mile handicap chase under a superb attacking ride, though his jumping and resolution on a track where he's excelled in the past were also key, and he looks sure to be a regular in the big handicaps at Cheltenham throughout the season. The well-backed Le Prezien (151p from 145) shaped most encouragingly in second place, faring much better than he had in the Grand Annual in the spring. He was denied only by a really game rival and, given his effectiveness over further, he seems one very much for consideration for the BetVictor Gold Cup next month.

On Sunday Aintree hosted their first fixture of 2017/18 and there may not be a handicap chase all season that boasts as much quality as there was in this year's Old Roan line up, the weights headed by Grade 1 winners God's Own (down 2 lb to 165) and Tea For Two (remains on 166), with a host of other high-class chasers helping to make up the 12-strong field. Smad Place (up 3 lb to 164) seemed to have lost his edge through last season, but the handicapper had given him a chance, and he came back to his best to win another big prize.

The Ladbrokes Trophy (formerly the Hennessy) is likely his next port of call (won it in 2015) and he'll probably give a good account again for all that a rise in the weights will make him a bit vulnerable. Cloudy Dream Horseform (up 1 lb to 160) enjoyed an excellent novice campaign and he’s still progressing judged on his return run, going like the best horse at the weights and perhaps unlucky not to win. The way that he travels and jumps will continue to stand him in good stead and there's a big handicap prize in him sooner rather than later, another who would be well suited by the BetVictor Gold Cup if connections opt to go that route.

Elsewhere on the card, Bags Groove Horseform (135 from 132) showed the benefit of his reappearance to record his first handicap success, value for extra than the winning margin too as he went very comfortably through the race. The Romford Pele (down 2 lb to 147) also got back to winning ways on his first start since leaving Rebecca Curtis in the veterans chase, and he remains with handicapping scope so should go well again in a similar event, though he was probably fortunate given the fall of the front running Gas Line Boy (remains on 148).
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