The first British two-year-old race of the season. An EBF Conditions Stakes over 5f 2y on standard going. Eleven juveniles take part from twenty-three declared at the first entry stage. Seven colts, one gelding and three fillies. A mix of stables, many early-season specialists. Win prize money not far shy of £10,000 suggest a number of these juveniles are held in some regard. It will be intriguing to see if the winner will have the Brocklesby Stakes in their sights.
The early two-year-old season can be slow to gather pace and unless we have very good reason many of these races with be watching briefs, slowly building form lines, trainer information and appreciating significant statistical data. Basically, using our experience to appreciate the best horses in training.
Mark Johnston was something of a revelation with his two-year-olds last season. A increase in his string and training agenda saw him make a flying start with talents such as Ravenhoe [pictured], Sixth Sense, Buratino (who went on to win the Coventry Stakes Group 2, runner-up in the Middle Park Stakes Group 1) & Rah Rah.
Johnston had two horses entered to run but Sutter County is the sole representative. This February foal is a home bred son of Invincible Spirit out of a twice-raced mare. Juveniles are predominantly priced by stable/owner reputation and with the early success of last year's string this horse is likely to fancied in the betting. A wide draw is never ideal on debut and this turning course will most likely see a few green horses run wide at the first bend.
Tom Dascombe is a talented trainer who can go well with two-year-olds on debut. Last year's early starters proved disappointing and Kachy was the best of the bunch. Decadent Times is an April foal, an Irish bred son of Art Conoisseur out of a once-raced mare. This bay colt was sold cheaply as a foal and yearling, which doesn't enthrall. The tissue price (Sporting Life) has this horse at 9/2. I would certainly wait until the betting settles if you fancy a wager. Interestingly, owners, The Roaring Twenties had a two-year-old run for this stable in Saint Cloud (France) on Sunday 20th March, when finishing second. The stable's two-year-old debutantes can go well when fancied in the betting. A low draw is of benefit.
Richard Fahey is a trainer to note with debutantes because he features very similar statistics for fancied horses on their first and second start. This is very unusual for any trainer and indicates that many are primed to run big races on their racecourse bows. Cullingworth is a son of Kodiac, out of a winning mare who wasn't disgraced at Group class. This bay colt cost 36,000GNS at the yearling sales. Definitely one of the more interesting horses on breeding.
One trainer who never lets the grass grow under his feet is David Evans. His two-year-olds are of interest in the first few months of the year although he is a canny old stick and very difficult to assess, which of his juveniles have ability and primed to go well. Money is often the key so if either of his two debutantes are substantially backed - take note. Let mestopyouthere is drawn in stall one. This Irish son of Sir Prancelot is out of a talented mare who won her first two starts, racing at pattern level. He was purchased by the trainer at the yearling sales for 35,000EUR. Interesting.
Davarde is owned by Wayne Clifford, who is a regular patron with this stable. This chestnut colt is a son of Dragon Pusle out of an unraced mare. The betting will be the best indicator of stable confidence.
Patrouille De Nuit is part owned by trainer Stan Moore. A cheap yearling purchase at just 3,200EUR and the only gelding in the field, which may suggest he has been rather unruly at home. Moore is a capable trainer, especially with relatively inexpensive two-year-olds. He can win on debut although they are few and far between and generally indicate a horse of fair ability. A fair draw but a horse I would watch.
The fortunes of Mick Channon's stable have suffered in recent years and he didn't have much strength or depth of juveniles last season, which is a shame. This February foal runs in the trainer's colours and half-brother to Kyllukey who had an ounce of ability. Stringbark Creek cost just 4,000GNS at the yearling sales. Very few of the stable's debutantes win when priced over 8/1. A wide draw doesn't make much appeal. The betting is the best guide.
Who Told Jo Jo is trained by Bill Turner, who is associated with early-season two-year-olds. This Irish son of Bushranger was a cheap buy at the yearlings for just 4,500GNS (9,000EUR as a foal). Turner usually has his juveniles fit and ready to roll although his debut strike rate is quite poor. This horse seems relatively fancied in the tissue market, but another horses where I would wait for the betting to settle before jumping in. As I have said before, in general, the best of Turner's two-year-olds runs in the Brocklesby. It will be interesting to see if this horse was originally earmarked for that race or goes there on the 2nd April. I would rather watch and learn today.
Khelly's Edge is one of three fillies, a daughter of Kheleyf out of a a talented mare [Edge Of Light] who won on debut, far from disgraced in the Princess Margaret Stakes Group 3. This bay filly hails from Scott Dixon's stable, who knows his two-year-olds. Many readers will remember his Brocklesby winner Cock Of The North (2014) and narrow loser in the Salario Stakes Group 3. Khelly's Edge is owned and bred by ex-trainer Christopher Mason, who was a previous owner with trainer Bryn Palling. It is interesting that this home bred was sent through the sales ring and bought in for £10,000 by Scott Dixon. This approach is used so horse are legible to race in auction maiden stakes, which is an intelligent move. If well backed it would give encouragement.
Phil McEntee doesn't have many juveniles but he's a trainer who knows the time of day and has sprung a surprise debut winner or two over the years including the tough Baytown Kestrel who won well at odds of 50/1, before faltering in the Queen Mary Stakes Group 2. Red Mohican is a daughter of Harbour Watch and cost 12,000GNS when purchased by the trainer at the yearling sales. Eventmaker Racehorse have done well with McEntee, and the 5lb claim puts this youngster on a handy weight. A relatively wide draw isn't ideal but this filly is likely to be a big price.
Merry Banter is a daughter of Bated Breath, a relatively cheap at 8,000GNS (purchased by trainer). Unless very well backed, I'd take a watching brief.
Summary: The first two-year-old race of the season. Unless something really catches the eye these are watching briefs for me - the start of working out the jigsaw puzzle. I would wait for the betting to settle if you fancy a wager. Sutter County should be respected after Johnston's flying start last season. I often find his horses difficult to assess - easy winners or poor losers. I will be watching. The betting is key for Decadent Times and Stringbark Creek. If both are 7/1 & less they have fair win and place claims. The latter may be weak in the market and a wide draw doesn't appeal. I would take a watching brief of Who Told Jo Jo. If this horse has been earmarked for the Brocklesby I would consider it in a different light. Cullingworth, Letmestopyouthere & Khelly's Edge have fair breeding and hail from trainers who often strike on debut. The others are best watched. The betting will be a good indicator but the slightest signs of inexperience on a turning course can really put pay to any chance. Cullingworth hails from a trainer who has his horses primed on debut and that is a positive. This race type suggests that a number of these horses will be winning sooner than later. The prize money pretty much guarantees a few of these are the best early horses in their respective stables. A watching brief but intriguing start to proceedings.