Tuesday 14 April 2015


An EBF Conditions Stakes over 5f on good going. A decent prize. Seven two year olds take part: six colts and solitary filly. Mark Johnston fields Ravenhoe who won the Brocklesby Stakes by a short head. 

Last year, this race was won impressively by debutante Mind Of Madness, trained by David Brown, racing in the lime-green silks of John Fretwell. This Irish bred son of Azamour was subsequently sold to Qatar Racing Ltd  [pictured]. This two year old was kept busy with nine starts: finishing a superb second at Royal Ascot Norfolk Stakes (Group 2). Later noted efforts included winning the Julia Graves Roses Stakes (Listed) at York. A talent these juveniles will do well to emulate.

Ravenhoe hails from Mark Johnston's Kingsley House Stable, which has proven a power this early season with winning debutantes from an increased string of almost 130 two year olds. This chestnut son of Bahamian Bounty, owned by David Able, was well backed for the Brocklesby Stakes, stealing the glory in a tight finish. The second [First Bombardment] wasn't disgraced in the Scottish Brocklesby. The form of that race looks fair. Experience counts against a field of debutantes and even with a 5lb penalty this juvenile sets the standard. 

While winning experience gives good reason why this colt should take all the beating, it should be noted that horses entered or competing at stakes class are worthy of respect. It is often the case a trainer will pinpoint such a race type because they have ability. This race type shouldn't be viewed the same as a maiden - they can spring a surprise. 

What are we to make of the debutantes? On first sight two or three horses hail from trainers who are class acts

Karl Burke is a talented trainer. He has fielded a couple of two year olds this season but both have been weak in the betting - they are limited or needed the run. It could well be a significant pointer to see Haughmond making his debut at this class. Burke is a good judge and most stakes-entered juveniles achieve a win. This son of Kheleyf is out of an unraced mare. He was withdrawn from the Doncaster Premier Yearling Sale. However, this January foal was owned by Mrs M Burke (10th April), now racing in the silks of  T & P Hockenhull. It is intriguing that this bay was bred by Mrs Ruth Hockenhull. The betting is the best indicator and if priced 13/2 & less has fair win and place claims. 

Gifted Master has just turned two years old and trained by Hugo Palmer. Kremlin Cottage Stables had a fair mix of juveniles last season including Aktabantay who won the Solario Stakes (Group 3) at Sandown & New Providence, a consistent filly, who won the Dick Poole Fillies' Stakes (Group 3). Gifted Master is a bay son of Kodiac out of an unraced mare and cost 75,000GNS at the yearling sales. He races in the familiar silks of Dr Ali Ridha who is an established owner with a number of leading trainers. His best horse was the exceptional Dubai Surprise, trained by David Loder, placed at Group 1 level before being sold to Godolphin where it achieved further success. The stable done well last year with noted performers, which is an accolade for a relatively new trainer [started 2011]. In general, their two year olds progress with racing. Any talent can defy the stats. If priced 13/2 & less it would bring hope although I would take a watching brief. 

City Of Stars is trained by Michael Appleby, who has done well with his horses over the last year and Appleberry a lovely filly far from disgraced when finishing fourth at Listed class. This Irish bred bay colt is from first season sire Lilbourne Lad out of a winning mare costing 33,000GNS at the yearling sales now in the ownership of L C Bacon [noted horse - Donny Rover]. On balance, the stable have limited/fair juveniles but this colt is best watched. 

Nick Littmoden has a small string of horses but a respected trainer who knows a decent horse. Poplar is a bay colt sired by Hellvelyn out of a poor French mare. He was purchased by the trainer at the yearling sales at £24,000. The Franconson Partners & Nick Littmoden had similar lofty hopes last year with Tongue Twista who was tried at Group level although, perhaps, always slightly out of her depth. With connections starting Poplar here it would suggest they hold similar ambitions. 

The only filly in this field - taking on the boys. Swirral Edge is a bay daughter of Hellvelyn out of a poor, sprinting mare. She was purchased by for £10,500 at the yearling sales and still in the ownership of Brown. This factor could be a slight negative. The stable have fair win and place claims when priced 13/2 & less. Considering Tribesman beat First Bombardment in the Scottish Brocklesby [who lost narrowly to Ravenhoe on debut] connections could have a line to what it takes to beat the favourite. The booking of Atzeni is questionable as he has ridden very few times for this yard. However, he may have been ideal to make the 8-4 weight. There could be a few negatives regarding this horse. They would be dispelled if fancied in the betting. If weak in the market I would not bet.    
Salt Lake Sooty is sired by Arabian Gleam out of a poor mare. This grey colt wasn't sold when sent to the sales as a foal.Trainer Denis Quinn is based at Newmarket with just one two year old to race in the last five years. Noel Garbutt takes off a valuable 5lb. Best watched.   

Conclusion: In many respects this is a one-horse race with Ravenhoe achieving a winning level of ability. Mark Johnston had a few candidates for this race and although the Brocklesby form may not be outstanding he sets the level and will take some beating. A 5lb penalty may be negated by the opposition being debutantes. The betting is the best guide for those making their racecourse bow. If Haughmond, Swirral Edge & Gifted Master are priced 13/2 & less they all have each way claims. Poplar and Salt Lake Sooty are best watched.