Wednesday 21 December 2022

Vertem Futurity Trophy


Inaugurated, as the Timeform Gold Cup, in 1961, the Vertem Futurity Trophy has been known as the Observer Gold Cup, Futurity Stakes and the Racing Post Trophy at various points in its history. However, following the introduction of the European Pattern in 1971, the race was awarded Group 1 status and has maintained that status ever since.


Run over a mile on Town Moor, Doncaster, the Vertem Futurity Trophy is open to two-year-old colts and fillies and its scheduling, in late October, makes it the final Group 1 event in the British Flat racing calendar. In 2019, with Doncaster abandoned due to waterlogging, the Vertem Futurity Trophy was run at Newcastle, thereby becoming the first Group 1 race in Britain to be run on a synthetic surface.


Lester Piggott and Pat Eddery remain the leading jockeys in the history of the Vertem Futurity Trophy with five wins apiece, while Sir Henry Cecil remains far and away the leading trainer with ten wins between 1969 and 1993. The race is considered a trial for the Derby the following season and five winners, namely Reference Point (1986), High Chaparral (2001), Motivator (2004), Authorized (2006) and Camelot (2011) have gone on to win the Epsom Classic. Aside from the subsequent Derby winners, other notable winners of the Vertem Futurity Trophy include Saxon Warrior (2017), Magna Grecia (2018) and Kameko (2019), who all won the 2,000 Guineas the following season.

Wednesday 19 October 2022

Stewards' Cup


Since 1993, the Stewards' Cup has been the betting highlight of the fifth and final day of the Goodwood Festival, a.k.a. 'Glorious Goodwood', staged annually in late July or early August. However, the history of the Stewards' Cup dates back to 1839, when it was conceived by politician and racehorse owner Lord George Bentinck; the inaugural running took place in 1840.


The Stewards' Cup is a Class 2 handicap run over 6 furlongs on the sharp, downhill sprint course at Goodwood and open to horses aged three years and upwards. With total prize money of £250,000, £155,625 of which goes to the winner, the Stewards' Cup is invariably well subscribed. Indeed, with a safety limit of 28, the race often resembles the proverbial 'cavalry charge', at the end of which close finishes and 'shock' results are not uncommon.


A total of five horses have won the Stewards' Cup twice, although the most recent of them was Sky Diver, who did so in 1967 and 1968. Three-time champion jockey Richard Hughes, who retired from race riding in 2015, remains the leading jockey in the history of the Stewards' Cup, with four wins. However, for the leading trainer, we need to look back to the nineteenth century, during which the 'Wizard of the North', John Scott, and James Jewitt both saddled four winners apiece. Down the years, notable winners of the Stewards' Cup have included Soba, Petong, Lochsong, Coastal Bluff and Borderlescott.

Sunday 10 April 2022

Eclipse Stakes


Named after Eclipse, an undefeated champion thoroughbred of the eighteenth century, the Eclipse Stakes has been sponsored by bookmaker Coral since 1976, making it the longest-running Pattern race in Britain. Inaugurated in 1886, the Coral-Eclipse, as the race is popularly known nowadays, is run over an advertised distance of 1 mile 2 furlongs, or 1 mile, 1 furlong and 209 yards to be exact, at Sandown Park in early July each year. The Coral-Eclipse is open to horses aged three years and upwards and, as such, offers the first chance for the so-called 'Classic' generation to race against their elders at the highest, Group 1 level.


Several horses have won the Coral-Eclipse twice, the most recent of them being Halling, trained by Saeed bin Suroor, who recorded back-to-back victories in 1995 and 1996. Lester Piggott remains the leading jockey in the history of the race, with seven wins between 1951 and 1957. Early twentieth century trainer Alec Taylor, Jr. and Sir Michael Stoute are jointly the leading trainers, with six wins apiece.


In recent seasons, the Coral-Eclipse has been won by such luminaries of the sport as Sea The Stars (2009), Golden Horn (2015), Enable (2019) and Ghaiyyath (2020). It is no coincidence that all four of the aforementioned quartet were named Cartier Horse of the Year in their respective years. Indeed, the Coral-Eclipse has always attracted the crème de la crème of middle-distance talent. The roll of honour includes Ballymoss, Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Dancing Brave and Nashwan, to name but a handful.


Friday 18 February 2022

Geoffrey Freer Stakes


Inaugurated, as the Oxfordshire Stakes, in 1949 by Geoffrey Freer, who was Clerk of the Course at Newbury Racecourse at the time, the Geoffrey Freer Stakes was renamed in honour of Freer following his death, in 1969. Run over an advertised distance of 1 mile 5½ furlongs and open to horses aged three years and upwards, the Geoffrey Freer Stakes is staged annually in August.


Nowadays, the Geoffrey Freer Stakes is a Group 3 contest, having been downgraded from Group 2 status in 2006. However, it has typically proved a strong race for the grade, with several recent winners – Mount Athos (2012), Royal Empire (2013) and Seismos (2014) – going on to contest the Melbourne Cup at Flemington, Australia, albeit without distinction, later the same season.


Just one horse, Mubtaker, trained by Marcus Tregoning, has won the Geoffrey Free Stakes three times; he recorded his unprecedented hat-trick in 2002, 2003 and 2004 to become the most successful horse in the history of the race. Other notable winners include Ardross, trained by Henry Cecil, who recorded back-to-back victories under Lester Piggott in 1981 and 1982, Drum Taps, trained by Lord Huntingdon, in 1991 and Silver Patriarch, trained by John Dunlop, in 1999. Lester Piggott, Pat Eddery and Frankie Dettori are jointly the leading jockeys in the history of the Geoffrey Freer Stakes with four wins apiece. Sir Noel Murless remains the leading trainer, with five wins between 1949 and 1973.




Wednesday 16 February 2022

Paul Hanagan


Born on the 8th September 1980 and hailing from Cheshire, Paul Hanagan is a ex champion jockey of great acclaim in the flat racing world.

Having never been in the saddle until the late age of 14 and having had his eyes firmly fixed on a career on the green grass of a football field rather than a racetrack, Paul Hanagan was a graduate of the British Racing School after great encouragement from his father, Geoff Hanagan. Deemed ‘too small’ for professional football, he helped out as a weekend work experience stable hand for trainer Terry Caldwell, based in Warrington, which ultimately led to the pivotal moment when Hanagan realised that racing had gotten under his skin and into his blood.

Captivated by what he saw at Caldwell’s yard, Hanagan would get his first taste of being a jockey, being allowed to ride out at the age of 14 and begin training the British Racing School, graduating in 1997.

Breakthrough

Hanagan got his first taste of senior racing on Stone Beck 4 days shy of his 18th birthday , racing to a creditable 4th place under the stewardship of Malcolm Jefferson, who was better known for his work in National Hunt training. Jefferson knew his onions and he saw a promising flat jockey in Hanagan, guiding the young man to join Richard Fahey as an apprentice flat jockey just a year later.

Over the next four years, the apprentice jockey saw his promise turn into results, improving each season and gaining the title of Champion Apprentice in 2002. He did this by riding a highly impressive 87 winners, the 2nd most since the end of WWII, which included a win on Vintage Premium in the John Smith’s Cup.

Richard Fahey foretold a big future for Paul Hanagan and he wasn’t wrong. Having matured over the next few years, he won his first senior Champion Jockey title in 2010 with a brilliant 191 winners and then backing that up by winning it again in 2011, beating Silvestre De Sousa from Brazil on the very last day of the season.

After this great achievement, Hanagan took a brief sabbatical and stated that he need a break after all his efforts. He did return the next year, but he never again hit the heights of the 2010 and 2011 seasons. To this day, he attributes much of his success to Richard Fahey who he spent 14 years with and he will forever be included in the pantheon of great flat jockeys.