Friday 21 August 2015

3:10 York (22nd August) Gimcrack Stakes Group 2

From the first day of the Flat turf season to its conclusion - time tells a story that goes far beyond winning and losing. Equine stars, their names written as if scribed in gold, are considered, admired & praised.

In the 18th century a small, grey colt captured the imagination of thoroughbred horse racing. Ironically sired by a stallion named Cripple, such was the success of Gimcrack that he has been immortalised in a number of paintings by the renowned British artist George Stubbs. 

An example of his work can be seen here: On the Newmarket Heath with trainer, jockey & stable lad, 1765.

Despite his small stature, he won 27 of his 36 races on the Turf for owner Richard Grosvenor, 1st Earl Grosvenor. In 1771 Gimcrack won his last race at the age of eleven, then retired to stud.

Although never racing at York, his legacy heralds a two-year-old race of class.
The Gimcrack Stakes (Group 2) has seen a number of exceptional horses - equine stars which not only hold their place admirably in horse racing history but in the memories of a racing generation.

Only talented juveniles win this black type contest.

Racing over a distance of six furlongs, the Gimcrack is staged on the final day of the four-day Ebor Festival.

Established in 1846 a horse called Ellerdale won its inauguration. Originally open to both genders until 1987 it's now specific to colts & geldings.

Historically, the leading trainer of this race with seven wins is William L'Anson, Jr. The leading jockey with nine wins is John Osborne, Jr: Most of these feats were achieved in the 19th century. However, in the last thirty-five years Richard Hannon Snr has won this contest four times with Sharp 'N' Early (1988), Rock City (1989), River Falls (1991) & Bannister (2000).

The most noted winners include: Turtle Island (1993) who went on to win the Irish 2000 Guineas by fifteen lengths. Rock Of Gibraltar won in 2001. He was named European Horse of the Year 2002. In addition, he set a world record of seven consecutive Grade/Group 1 wins including the English & Irish 2000 Guineas. His second place to Domedriver in the 2002 Breeders' Cup Mile illustrated a horse of exceptional talent.

In 2009, John Gosden's Showcasing recorded the fastest time of 1:09:28 when securing a two-length victory.

Last year saw Charles Hills' Muhaarar win by a nose from Mark Johnston's Jungle Cat. The former went on to win the Commonwealth Cup (Group 1) at Royal Ascot 2015.

What do we make of this year's contest. At the first entry stage we see no less than 75 entrants. The day of this esteemed race will see a field of a dozen or less two-year-olds along with a tight market from leading stables. Just nine two-year-old make the race today. A fascinating contest with win prize money of £124, 762.  

A number of juveniles catch the eye including:

Mark Johnston's *Buratino [pictured]. This chestnut son of Exceed And Excell has raced seven times, winning three, and transformed since stepping up to six furlongs, illustrated by an impressive Woodcote Stakes Listed victory, then a pulsating success in the Coventry Stakes (Group 2) at Royal Ascot. On his last race he contested the Phoenix Stakes (Group 1) at the Curragh, Ireland, where he finished a gallant third. With an official rating of 113 he sets the standard on pure ability. He will be favourite and take all the beating although carrying a 3lb penalty. 

Johnston also fields Ode To Evening who has his work cut out at this higher level and second string.

Interesting to see Finnegan represents Wesley Ward and owners Tabor, Magnier et al. His American handler has a good measure with class two-year-old Acapulco who won with ease in the Queen Mary Stakes (Group 2) at Royal Ascot. This chestnut son of Unbridled's Song is yet to race in the UK, with two starts in the USA at Keeneland and Pimlico respectively. A horse from a very good family and one to be feared although a marked step up in class to defy the war horse, Buratino.   

King Of Rooks, trained by Richard Hannon, Jnr, heads to York after gallant, but slightly disappointing, performances in the Norfolk Stakes (Group 2).

It's interesting to note the lack of entries for Godolphin with only two juveniles for Saeed Bin Suroor. Steady Pace ran well when third in the Windsor Castle Stakes Listed, while Strong Challenge showed promise when winning a Goodwood maiden in style. *It should be noted that Buratino run in the silks of Godolphin for their respective trainers. He has been a consistent horse placed in the both the July Stakes (Group 2) & Richmond Stakes (Group 2) behind the talented Shalaa, trained by John Gosden, who doesn't contest this race. 

Kevin Ryan has a good record in this race with past winners including Amadeus Wolf (2005), Blaine (2012) & Astaire (2013). Hambleton Stables have five entrants including two debutantes earmarked for this lofty target. However, Areen, who suffered a narrow defeat in the Windsor Castle Stakes Listed, is likely to prove the greatest hope. He has since been beaten by Steady Pace in the July Stakes (Group 2) but ran well when third at Maison-Laffitte, France, in the Prix Robert Papin (Group 2). 

William Haggas has been in superb form of late and his two-year-olds especially so. Ajaya has been highly contested and ran a sterling race when a narrow loser, runner-up, in the Robert Papin.   The stable is represented by the unbeaten Raucous who is owned by Highclere  Thoroughbred Racing (Melbourne). This is  marked rise in company.  

Richard Fahey is represented by Ribchester, racing in the familiar red and white silks of David Armstrong. This son of Iffraaj ran well on debut at Doncaster and clearly held in some regard. From a maiden to a Group 2 contest is a challenge.  

In conclusion, from a substantial field of entrants just nine make the day. This race has a reputation for decent winners and a number of these have been tested at this grade. Buratino is a tough, talented horse. A Group 2 winner and placed at Group 1 it will take a good horse to beat him. Definitely a good each way bet if drifting in the betting. 

A fascinating race.