A Novice Median Auction Stakes over 5f 6y on standard going. Quite a restricted race type for two-year-olds whose sire of yearlings in 2015 feature a sales median price of not more than £19,000.
Ten juveniles takes part: four colts & six fillies. A handful have raced. Mark Johnston has been imperious this early two-year-old season - as he was last - and without a doubt the bookies are running scared. There is little doubt that his youngster could well be under priced and prove little value as a whole - but they can't stop winning! Rusumaat is a son of Arcano out of an unraced mare, in the silks of Hamdan Al Maktoum. He was purchased at Doncatser Premier Yearling Sales 2015 for £45,000. I must admit I couldn't bet on a debutante at short odds. I don't think with the success of the stable that their two-year-olds can represent value but it would be a brave man to take them on. I will be taking a watching brief.
Richard Hannon was eclipsed by Johnston's exceptional start last season and they must be left with the feeling someone has stolen their thunder. Stormy Clouds had to play second fiddle to Chupalla (I wonder who trained that horse!). This daughter of Sir Prancealot was beaten six lengths but she trounced the third by over three lengths herself, and time may tell that was a fair race. It was over half a second faster than the earlier division which equates to about six lengths, which would have been enough for Stormy Clouds to have gone very close to winning. This Irish bred bay filly was fancied in the betting that day and perhaps a touch keen but a compact type, with plenty of early dash, and simply beaten by a bigger, stronger, talented filly. Experience counts for a lot and a low draw will mean this youngster blazes a trail. Once again, the odds are pretty restrictive but this February foal must have most of these toiling in her wake without much fuss.
Of the other form horses Madam Prancealot and Hot And Sassy ran in the same race, behind Mark Johnston's Boater, who ran a significantly slower time than Chupalla (with reference to Stormy Clouds). The former, trained by David Evans, is a small filly who was unfancied in the betting at Kempton and comprehensively outpaced by the speedy leaders but ran on at the finish. Hot And Sassy wasn't best away from a wide draw and a much bigger type than Evans' two-year-old. She was a cheap 4,000eur yearling purchase. Stan Moore's juveniles often improve for the debut and will progress with racing. Both were left standing on their racecourse bow and it would seem unlikely they have the ability to challenge the favorites.
Gay Kelleway is a trainer to respect and it is probably a sign of confidence that King Of Castilla made her debut in France, racing over 4.5f at Saint Cloud. This son of Sayif was joined by two other British raiders, with this bay colt the best of them in seventh. A relatively cheap yearling purchase at 9,000gns, he wasn't disgraced on debut. That was a maiden with win prize money just short of £10,000. It is worth noting that he was also earmarked for the Brocklesby Stakes so I would suspect connections fancy they can win a race or two and this limited race type is clearly considered easier than some.
Interesting to see how Richard Hughes goes with his two-year-olds this formative season. Until I have some data to assess the merit of him as a trainer and the quality of horse he fields, it is difficult to hold strong views.Jumping Jack is a son of the prolific Sir Prancealot by the talented mare She's A Character. The mare won on debut, raced at Group class as a two-year-old and had a highest official rating of 97. This bay colt cost £35,000 at the yearling sales (53,000eur at foal). The betting suggests others are more fancied but if substantially backed could hold some hope.
Decedent Times looks a biggish price (12/1) after being put in his place by the physical specimen and talent Sutter County [pictured]. This son of Art Connoisseur was relatively fancied in the betting at Wolverhampton, in a race with good prize money. Mark Johnston's winner may suggest this colt is not the fastest by any measure but he was very professional that day, showing plenty of pace, looking well in his coat, and tried to win the race against a superior horse which could well make Tom Dascombe's charge look worse than his finishing position. These early races are difficult to assess and form lines take time to build but the second Stringybark Creek (a big price on debut) won on Saturday. To be honest, he took advantage of his experience and others fluffing their lines but it gives so aspect of ability. A wide draw isn't ideal but I can see Kingscote making a bold bid and could well touch shorter odds in running. I would have fears he isn't as good as a couple in here but may sneak a place.
Snoozy Sioux, Masquerade Bling and Angie Baby are best watched.
Conclusion: The Mark Johnston bandwagon is hurtling along at a hellish speed and although I wouldn't be tempted to bet on a debutante at short odds his successes mean I respect the market. Rusumaat may well be another winner. Stormy Clouds looks a professional, compact filly who could well take some catching from stall one. If Johnston's debutante is slow from the stalls it will need to be very good. The form of her debut looks solid on times although you have to be careful assessing form at this time of year. The horse to beat in my opinion. Of the others, King Of Castilla could be something of a dark horse. I can't imagine Kelleway going to Saint Cloud without fair hope of winning and the Brocklesby entry is a sign of confidence. Wouldn't surprise me to see this horse hit the frame. Decedent Times probably deserves a little bit more respect than that debut suggests. He was flattened by a very good horse and if this turns into a crawl or he gains an easy lead he could have each way claims. I would be hopeful this two-year-old would touch shorter odds in running.