Matchbook Ambassador Hugo Palmer reflects on a mixed bag in 2019 while setting the agenda for a promising 2020.
Like any sporting endeavour, there have been high points and low points to our season. It’s the same in all walks of sporting life. You have good periods and bad periods. It was like that for us this season, but we come out of the season with lots to look forward to.
Mootasadir epitomised the highs and the lows. He bookended the season with a high and a low. Winning the Magnolia Stakes at Kempton in March was obviously a high, it was a fantastic start, but his injury at Dundalk in the Diamond Stakes on his latest run was less thrilling.
Heavenly Holly winning the Fillies’ And Mares’ Stakes at the All-Weather Championships at Lingfield in April was another high. Then Set Piece ran a big race in the Craven Stakes, and everything was rosy then. We had Guineas dreams. But it didn’t take long for a few things to creep in. We struggled with the horses’ health in May and June. Thank goodness, we were able to clear it and we had a good rest of the season.
Powerful Breeze was obviously huge for us.
She is the real deal.
I have spoken about her lots, but it was a really good day when she won the May Hill Stakes. We have other nice horses, but we are dreaming about them, that they might become Group 1 performers. Powerful Breeze is a Group 1 performer already.
I see no reason why she won’t be bigger and better at three. I went to see her there the other day, and she has already grown. She’ll be coming back to us before the end of November, and I’m hugely excited by what she might become.
As I have said before, she very much arrived on the scene quickly in the yard. She had only had two bits of fast work before she won on debut. I don’t see that she’ll need very much work to get her ready for the Guineas. She doesn’t strike me as the sort of filly who will need a run. That might change, and that’s the beauty of it, we don’t need to decide now. She is a Group 2 winner and she has proved that she’s a Group 1 filly, so we don’t need to run her in a trial, in a Group 3 race before the Guineas if we don’t want to.
She could get 10 furlongs at some stage next year. She looks physically like a 10 furlong horse, but I think that’s Iffraaj for you. You think that there is a little bit of strength and scope to them. Not many Iffraaj’s have stayed further than 10 furlongs, but maybe the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood wouldn’t be out of the question. That’s a long way off though. We don’t need to think about that at present.
It was nice to see the juvenile races spread around this season. Normally you go into the winter, and all the aces tend to be in Ballydoyle. You have to go back eight years to find the last year when Aidan O’Brien did not win at least one of the juvenile Group 1 races in Britain. So it’s actually quite nice, there was a nice spread of juvenile Group 1 winners in Britain this season, and we were only a few inches away from winning one of them. It opens up the options for the Classics.
Emissary is exciting too. His sire Kingman is already turning into the most remarkable young stallion. On the figures he may not be on more remarkable than Frankel, but everyone is beginning to see that he is a fantastic sire.
Emissary is a half-brother to Derby winner Workforce. Their mare, Soviet Moon, has had a patchy breeding record, in that Emissary is only her fifth foal since Workforce. We are very lucky to have him.
He would be exciting whoever he was. The style of his maiden win at Wolverhampton, to pick up and go away from his rivals like he did. He ran to a mark in the 90s, and that is a very high mark for a juvenile who was making his racecourse debut. We thought that he would run well, but I was trying not to get too excited about him before he ran. I think I was probably trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I’d have lived with him being beaten, but if he had been beaten far, I’d have been very disappointed.
I was hopeful that Emissary would run well at Newmarket the previous weekend, he handled the undulations of the watered gallop prior to that, but we took him out of the race because of the soft ground, and sent him to Wolverhampton the following week instead. I dare say though that, if things are going right, he may start next season at Newmarket. We’ll have to see.
I’d be surprised if I put him in the Guineas. If I did, he would probably have to go to the Craven beforehand. He has always struck us as a middle distance horse. His brother is by a miler in Kings Best, and he is by a miler in Kingman. He could start off in the Feilden Satkes.
Obviously, we would love him to be a Derby horse. That’s what Prince Khalid and his family aspire towards, and Prince Khalid’s record is top class in that regard. We will be giving the horse every opportunity to be as good as he can be.
The dream is to have a Derby runner, to have a Derby winner, to make Soviet Moon the 13th broodmare to be the dam of two Derby winners.
I find it difficult not to daydream. I always dream of winning these races and having runners in these races.
We have been lucky enough to win a 2000 Guineas, we’ve won an Irish Oaks and finished second in an Epsom Oaks, we’ve won a St James’s Palace Stakes and a Prix de l’Opera. We’ve never had a runner in the Derby, and that would be a dream. But we don’t want to go there with a 100/1 chance. We want to be there because we deserve to be there, and because we have a chance of winning it.
Imrahor is another Kingman. He ran very well on his only run this season, when he finished second in a novice stakes at Newbury. He just picked up a little niggle in that race. It’s nothing serious thankfully, and he’s had a nice break since then. He’s back trotting again now.
We’ll try to find a way for him to shed his maiden tag ahead of some nice races in the spring. He will run probably in March or April on the all-weather, or he might run in a maiden at Doncaster on the Sunday of the Lincoln meeting.
Golden Pass is a nice filly of Dr Ali’s. She was third to Queen Daenerys on her racecourse debut at Newmarket, and Queen Daenerys was only beaten five or six lengths in the Fillies’ Mile. She had had a run as well.
I like Golden Pass, I have a lot of faith in the future of Golden Horn as a stallion, and it was interesting to see that John Gosden buying plenty of them at the yearling sales!
Paths Of Glory is a lovely horse. Everyone loves a grey! His owners have been unbelievably patient with him, he was backward at two and he had an injury at three, and it wasn’t until June this year that we got him going. But the owners’ patience is being rewarded now.
Apart from when he ran on bottomless ground at Hamilton in June, he hasn’t been out of the first three, and he has won four of his last five. We might run him in a listed race at Kempton on 4th December, with the hope that we can get him up to a high enough rating for him to get into a valuable handicap in Saudi Arabia in February on the Saudi Cup under-card.
It’s a one mile and seven furlongs handicap, and I’m advised that a rating of 103 or 104 should get him in. He’s rated 96 now, so we need to go up a few pounds. It’s a $2.5 million race, and I think that he would be competitive in it, so it’s worth having a go.
There is lots to look forward to, horses like Powerful Breeze, Emissary and Acquitted, who won at Newbury there last week, and Powertrain. He could be a potential Royal Ascot horse next year. And even horses that haven’t won yet, like Narrate, a well-bred Dansili filly of Prince Khalid’s. Things just didn’t work out on her racecourse debut at Kempton, but she’s a nice filly.