The first two-year-old race of the season. Great to see the Brocklesby opening proceedings. From an original 19 entrants we see a relatively small field of just nine juveniles: colts bar one filly. A mix representative of leading to small stables over 5f on good to soft going.
One name synonymous with the Brocklesby is Bill Turner. This year sees him field Just That Lord, a son of Avonbridge out of Lady Filly, who was similarly owned and trained. The mare ran in the silks of Mrs M S Teversham and a precocious type running six times in her formative season, winning her first three starts, then far from disgraced when visiting Royal Ascot in the Queen Mary Stakes (Group 2). This home bred chestnut colt is an April foal, so officially not quite two. Turner has excelled in this race and it is no understatement to say he usually sends his best two-year-old to compete. In the last seven races he has won this contest three times and runner-up twice. There is little doubt Just That Lord will be primed and ready, from a good family, and with a valuable 5lb claim from Ryan While I would be expecting a big performance.
By all account assessing the ability of debutantes relates to breeding and particularly trainer standards and performance.
Scott Dixon is a charismatic trainer who won this race last year with the talented Cock Of The North who fairly powered home in the hands of Matthew Hopkins (beating Bill Turner's Paddy Again). Cock Of The North proved a class performer competing at Group class including a narrow loss in Solario Stakes (Group 3), while finishing his season in the Racing Post Trophy (Group 1) behind Elm Park. In all honesty it would be a miracle for this year's candidate to reach such dizzy heights. Dixon's hope is Rupert Boy an Irish bred son of first-season sire Frozen Power out of an unraced mare. This chestnut colt was purchased at the yearling sales for 26,000gns by the trainer, running in the ownership of J Radford. Trainers are creatures of habit so it could be a sign of interest and 7lb apprentice David Parkes is a talented pilot.
First Bombardment is trained by David O'Meara in the silks of Northern Hart Racing & Partner. This son of Pastoral Pursuits is out of a twice-winning mare costing £18,000 at the yearling sales. This stable can ready a horse to win on debut although they feature a relatively poor strike rate. Money would give greater hope although a horse I would rather watch.
Brian Ellison doesn't have many debut winners but a shrewd trainer. General Alexander is a son of Zebedee out of a winning Irish mare. This grey colt is quite an early February foal, meaning he is just over two and purchased by the trainer at the yearling sales for £30,000. Mrs J A Martin is a good patron of Spring Cottage Stables (Northgate Lad won on debut as a two-year-old at Beverley). This horse is bred to be an early type and the betting is the best guide.
Mark Johnston had two horses entered to contest this race but Ravenhoe will be the first juvenile runner for Kingsley House. This chestnut son of Bahamian Bounty cost £16,000 at the yearling sales when purchased by the trainer for established owner David Abell. The mare was a prolific sprinter with Kevin Ryan, who won on debut at Doncaster. There is nothing in the breeding of this horse to put you off. Mark Johnston has a fair win rate with his two-year-olds making their racecourse bow although I find him something of an enigma. In general, his better juveniles appear in May and even then it can be very difficult to pick the wheat from the chaff. His horses either win easily or prove disappointing losers. I would have to take a watching brief.
James Given has a brace of runners: one colt and the sole filly of the field. He fielded Magic Florence in this race last year, who won in her two-year-old career although proved a frustrating individual at times.
Sir Dudley runs in the same ownership of The Cool Silk Partnership who know a good horse. This bay, an Irish bred son of Arcano, is the oldest in the field (10th February). He is out of a winning mare and cost £52,000 at the yearling sales and half-brother to Apostle. In general, the stable's juveniles are better on their second start although they can go well if fancied in the betting. If priced 4/1 & less I'd expect a big run but weak in the market a watching brief.
Given's saddle the only filly in the field Silk Bow for The Cool Silk Partnership. This daughter of Elusive City cost £31,000 when purchased by Athony Stroud at the yearling sales (10,000gn foal). The mare raced at three and won over a mile. The betting is the best guide and most probably the second string for Mount House Stables.
Teversham is handled by Chris Dwyer. This bay colt is a son of Kheleyf out of a twice-winning mare trained by D Cosgrove. An 8,000gn foal, purchased by the vendor. This juvenile races in the familiar silks of Strawberry Field Stud, connections of Basil Berry. The stable are a canny outfit but their two-year-old usually progress with racing. Unless seriously backed, best watched.
Last but not least is Tim The Taxi trained by Natalie Lloyd-Beavis, who was granted her trainer's licence in 2012. This bay colt is a son of Compton Place out of a winning mare trained by Rod Millman, similarly bred by The Pocock Family. Originally purchased as a foal for 8,000gns by Oliver St Lawrence Bloodstock, latterly by Tim Suttle as a yearling for 3,000gns. Best watched.
Conclusion: The beginning of the Flat turf season. The Brocklesby has been won by a few talented juveniles including Mind Games, Hearts Of Fire & Cock Of The North. Nineteen horses were entered for this race and those original entrants are worth noting. All Stakes race entrants/runners often prove up to winning maiden contests. With no form we have to use our experience to assess these. Bill Turner is always worth noting in the Brocklesby as he has made it his own. Just That Lord is bred to be precocious and fast. With a relatively small field the only negative may be the price. I wouldn't bet at short odds but if an each-way price must go well. The betting is key for most and money is never a bad sign. Sir Dudley would have sound win and place claims if priced 4/1 & less. Ravenhoe could be anything but Johnston's debutantes are so hit and miss I would watch this horse.
Review: Disappointing to see a small field, no doubt diluted by two other juveniles races on the same day - at least two other horses gave the Brocklesby a miss to compete at Kempton or Chelmsford City. Only four horses made any impact in this race: Ravenhoe, First Bombardment, General Alexander & Just That Lord. All horses entered for or running in this race are worthy of interest on their next starts. Stakes races are often a good source of talent. However, the form of these early two-year-old races can only be assessed with time. Certainly the final furlong was slow. Mark Johnston's Ravenhoe was quite well backed and not best away but ran to the line. The stable fielded all three juvenile winners on the day and they looked - physically - fair horses. This colt just held First Bombardment who touched below 1/10 in-running. David O'Meara's horse was a touch keen and always in a nice position just behind the lead. He lost nothing in defeat and looks a straightforward juvenile who should win. General Alexander had a slow start and then a touch outpaced, switching on the outside before switching back to the rail. Brian Ellison's juvenile wasn't pressed but ran on encouragingly. This colts should improve and not a million miles away from the first two. Just That Lord is a fair-looking colt and showed a professional approach, plenty of pace and looked to hold every chance until the closing stages when he showed his limitations or needed the run. It is difficult to assess horses at this early stage although he was ridden as if fit and ready. He may have go a stride too fast which could have told in the closing stages although on this evidence looked held. All four horses are likely to be short odds for their next start with valuable race experience. Until the form has been tested I would take a watching brief. Mark Johnston's winners at Kempton and Chelmsford City both caught the eye. For a filly, Rah Rah has size and scope with a fluent action. That was a tidy performance against Hannon's odds-on shot (Anwar). At Chelmsford City, Buratino looked very inexperienced, hanging and clueless, but beat the opposition without any fuss and is sure to improve for this first start. All three winners have hope of progressing to a higher level and set the standard for stakes race to come.