Friday 28 March 2014


The first two-year-old race of the season. The Brocklesby Conditions Stakes heralds the start of a new crop of juveniles. All those winter dreams will come to fruition for one horse and add to the glory of all those who have won before. 

In 2009 Pat Eddery trained Hearts Of Fire to win this race, progressing with racing to win the Gran Criterium (Group 1) and contesting the 2,000 Guineas at three. 

Another true talent came in 1994 with Mind Games, trained by the red-shirted Jack Berry, a man who transformed 2yo horse racing with an unending string of juveniles the majority bargain buys. Mind Games went on to win the Norfolk Stakes (Group 3) and short-head loser in the Flying Childers (Group 2). His most notable win came in the Temple Stakes (Group 2) at Sandown. He raced nine times at Group 1 level but failed to win, his best performance came in the Nunthorpe Stakes (Group 1) at York, 4th behind Pivotal. 

One old timer, who many punters will have very fond memories, was Indian Spark, winner in 1996. Trained by none other than Brocklesby supremo Bill Turner, this son of Indian Ridge won by four lengths. His major win came at Listed class at Chester. His greatest victory of all was his durability and sound physique. He ran 143 races achieving fourteen wins.        

Even further back we saw Provideo, trained by Bill O'Gorman. In 1984 he set a 20th-century record for a British-trained two-year-old when he won sixteen of his twenty-four races, including two Listed contests.  

From a historical perspective the best horse to win the Brocklesby Stakes was Donovan (1888) who went on to win the Derby and St Leger (1889)  

This year's William Hill Lincoln meeting sees eighteen two-year-olds declared to run over 5f on soft ground. A mix of trainers featuring fourteen colts/geldings and just four fillies. A high draw is often favourable but with the ground on the testing side there is a possibility the field may split into two groups. 

The betting is a very good guide to the chances of most with only one horse winning at odds over 14/1 in the last seventeen years. 

The leading hopes include:

Richard Hannon Jnr takes charge of a new Flat turf season and starts the campaign with Flyball a son of Proclamation. This March foal, is owned by Middleham Park Racing and a cheap yearling purchase by Ross Doyle Bloodstock for £9,000 out of a limited, sprinting mare, trained by Terry Mills. The stable have such a record with their two-year-olds that is it wise to keep on the right side of this bay colt. If weak in the betting I would take a watching brief although if well backed deserves respect. 

It is intriguing to note that Pat Eddery has a representative. Escalating is an early foal sired by Three Valleys out of  a twice-raced French mare, trained by Mme C Head-Maarek. She was a narrow loser on soft going when making her debut at Listed class, which is a notable performance for a juvenile. In general, the stable feature a poor win rate with their debutantes, although early juveniles often prove to have their share of ability. Marvelino was made favourite for this race in 2012, but ran poorly, winning later in the season although a horse of limited ability. It is interesting to see the stable racing with a juvenile from Prince Khalid Abdullah at this early part of the season. If priced 10/1 & less it would bring more confidence. A low draw may be a disadvantage if the stands' side rail proves best. If more rain falls it could prove to be a bold move to race far side, which makes assessment of this race a little tricky with regard to the draw.

Few trainers take the Brocklesby Stakes more seriously than Bill Turner. In fact, he has made a name for sending his best two-year-old to compete in this race year after year. He has won this race five out of the last twelve times. Last year saw Mick's Your Man floor his rivals in convincing fashion. Other winners sent from this stable include: He's So Cool, Sally's Dilemma, Spoof Master and one of the stable's best horses The Lord (2002).  Paddy Again is one of four fillies in the field, which means she will have to be a fair juvenile to beat the colts. This daughter of Moss Vale was a very cheap purchase at just 1,700 euros. The mare was poor horse who showed little ability and raced over a mile. By all accounts this Irish bred filly doesn't inspire on the breeding front. All Turner's winners were fancied in the betting - none greater than 8/1.  Paddy Again is a conflicting horse. On breeding you wouldn't be impressed but the trainer's record is second to none. Turner has routinely sent his best two-year-old to race in this contest. The betting is the best guide. If around the 13/2 price range I would expect a big run but if particularly weak in the market I would take a watching brief. For further information read Bill Turner heads to Brocklesby Stakes at Doncaster more in hope than expectation.

A filly who certainly looks the part on breeding is Magic Florence, trained by James Given. This chestnut daughter of first season sire Zebedee runs in the familiar colours of The Cool Silk Partnership. She cost £56,000 at the yearling sales and half sister to Hamza, a talented Group 1 performer with Kevin Ryan. Given has the odd debut winner but his strike rate is poor and clearly this March foal would need to be a talent to defy such averages. The exception would be if Magic Florence was well supported with a starting price of 13/2 & less. Drawn in stall one is never good news for a debutante as they are prone to run into space, which would make winning a tall order. Again, if the best place to be is on the stands' rail (high draw) it would be a very tough task. Unless seriously fancied in the betting I would take a watching brief.

In 2012 Mick Easterby won this race with My Boy Bill, who was well backed just before the off. This colt proved a real disappointment thereafter. The trainer sends out Hoofithully & Mountain Man. The stable feature a terrible strike rate on debut and unless well supported are best watched. On reflection, Mountain Man is part owned by E Brook, who has won this race with Bill Turner on at least two occasion. May have a chance if backed.    

Toytown is owned by Brian Johnson. This son of Excellent Art cost 23.000 euros at the yearling sales. Derek Shaw's two-year-olds often improve for their first run and best watched.     

Monsieur Jimmy was bought by his trainer, Declan Carroll, for 8,000gns at the yearling sales. This stable are a canny bunch and gambles are worth noting.   

Stan Moore field three juveniles: Cornwallville, Endislie & Well Fleeced - all cheap purchases. This stable do have debut winners but they are infrequent and generally best watched. It is worth noting that this trainer's Brocklesby entrants usually go on to win in their formative season. They are likely to go well on their second start. For horse trainer comments check out Horse Trainer Directory

Johnny Sorrento is a homebred out of a winning mare, both trained by Tim Pitt. Both the dam & sire won on debut. This stable's two-year-olds usually improve for their initial start.   

Alan McCabe is a very talented trainer and knows when he has a horse with a fighting chance. Red Connect was a very cheap foal and sold as a yearling for £10,000. The mare was unraced and his sire more appreciative of a mile. Unless priced 13/2 & less I would watch and learn. If strongly fancied in the betting very good place claims.   

*Northgate Lad cost 26,00 euros when purchased by the trainer at the yearling sales. There are a few decent sorts in the family although a stiffer trip may be more suiting. 

Horsforth, Duques Penguin and Cock Of The North would need to be gambled to figure today. 

Unless seriously backed, Penalty Scorer is best watched. 

Conclusion: It is always a challenge to find the winner of the first two-year-old race of the season. With soft ground it could make for an eventful race if this field split in two, racing up the rails. One trainer stands out in this race and that is Bill Turner. His performance in this race is exceptional and it is a plus he tries to win this race by sending his best early juvenile. On the opposite side of the coin this filly has to take on the colts, cost little money and her breeding looks pretty average. The betting will be key. If priced under 8/1 I expect a bold show but if particularly weak in the betting it would be a negative. Flyball should be respected although a relatively cheap buy. Escalating is an intriguing runner although a low draw may bring problems. Once again, the betting is key for this juvenile and would need to be priced 10/1 & less to figure. Even then I would be careful. Magic Florence is well bred but the stable have a poor strike rate and drawn one is a major concern if awkward from the stalls. Red Connect would have strong win and place claims if priced 13/2 & less. The betting will show the major hopes and the best guide. A watching brief.