Grand Bazaar (Golden Horn x Damaniyat Girl (Elusive Quality), John Gosden/Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, 3yo colt, OR77, Form: 335-)

In recent seasons, it has not been on Frankie Dettori’s agenda to ride juveniles first time out and, outside of the big festivals plus local tracks Newmarket & Chelmsford, you could count on one hand the number of debutant juveniles Dettori has ridden in the last two seasons, all of which have come for John Gosden and include three time Group 1 winner Too Darn Hot (Dubawi x Dar Re Mi (Singspiel)) and the highly-promising 3 year old Palace Pier (Kingman x Beach Frolic (Nayef)). Intriguingly, of those five debutant rides, 3 have come for either Princess Haya Of Jordan or Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum as part of a move in recent years that has seen Dettori quietly take increasingly more rides for Sheikh Mohammed’s immediate family (the combined group of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Princess Haya of Jordan, Sheikha Al Jalila & Sheikh Zayed bin Mohammed), a tally that has increased from 2 domestic rides for the group in 2017 to 23 in 2018 to 49 last year, including amongst them a highly fruitful association in 2019 with dual Group 2 (and Royal Ascot-winning) filly Raffle Prize (Slade Power x Summer Fete (Pivotal)), as well as the aforementioned Classic hope Palace Pier.

It was therefore most eye-catching to see Dettori make the 190 mile trip from Newmarket up to Haydock on a Thursday afternoon last September to take up just 3 rides, one on 11 year old veteran Gordon Lord Byron (Byron x Boa Estrela (Intikhab)) in a 7f conditions race and another for John Gosden in a 3yo maiden on Arabist (Invincible Spirit x Highest (Dynaformer)), who duly capitalized on a well-found opening but was to be sold at auction 3 months later. His only other ride that day was a 2 year old debutant for the trainer/owner combination of John Gosden & Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum in the shape of Grand Bazaar, a son of Golden Horn who had gone through the 2017 foal sale circuit as the 5th most expensive sold from his sire’s first crop at 210,000gns. None of this went unnoticed by the market, which saw Grand Bazaar go to post on debut as a heavily-supported 1.69 BSP favourite at the off. Unfortunately, in the race itself Grand Bazaar looked to struggle in the soft conditions, failing to pick up as hoped when asked for an effort two furlongs from home but nevertheless staying on all the way to the line in the final 200 yards (albeit once the winner had flown & Dettori had eased up a touch) to take 3rd place.

Unbeaten 3yo colt Palace Pier, another who can give John Gosden, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum & Frankie Dettori plenty to look forward to in 2020. Credit: Racing Post

Having hit the line so pleasingly in a soundly-run 1 mile contest on debut, it was a touch surprising to see Grand Bazaar brought back a furlong in distance for his 2nd start on the tapeta at Newcastle, and even more surprising to see him prove so lit up through the first couple of furlongs, especially having seemingly settled well enough through the early stages of his debut race. Asked for an effort from Rab Havlin a full 3 furlongs from home, Grand Bazaar was once again not immediate to respond, instead staying on gradually all the way to the line, once again hitting the line to finish 3rd in the manner of a colt who looked to have run out of ground, a sentiment which is echoed in his stride cadence range, which stayed between 2.16 – 2.24 strides/second for the race’s entirety (according to TPD data), indicative of a horse who should be staying a good deal further than 7 furlongs in time.

Grand Bazaar was duly stepped back up to a mile for his 3rd and final start of 2019 just 14 days later in a novice at Kempton. Once again, Grand Bazaar proved headstrong but, on this occasion, Nicky Mackay chose not to fight his mount, instead allowing Grand Bazaar to bring himself to the lead and bowl along at the head of affairs. Unfortunately, in doing so, Grand Bazaar ended up setting some very honest fractions, was not afforded a breather through the race and, with 2 furlongs to run, was pounced upon by his rivals, being made to look rather one-paced in the process. However, instead of folding under pressure, Grand Bazaar galloped on all the way to the line at the one pace to finish a close-up 5th, proving far from disgraced in defeat. Moreover, thanks in no small part to the honest fractions set by Grand Bazaar, the winning time was the clear relative standout on the Kempton card and, although the winner has since proven disappointing in 4 starts at Meydan this year for Saeed bin Suroor, there was enough promise in the 6 horses directly behind him to suggest that this form can prove useful at the very least; indeed, the 2nd-placed First Receiver (New Approach x Touchline (Exceed And Excel) pulverised 9 rivals earlier today to score in a 1m maiden at Kempton on his seasonal reappearance.

It can be strongly argued that Grand Bazaar has yet to encounter optimum conditions, and yet still he has shown a sufficient level of form on each of his 3 starts to suggest that an opening mark of OR77 is very workable indeed. If he can learn to settle down a touch in his races (which may be helped along by a gelding operation and/or the application of a hood), Grand Bazaar can unlock further improvement when stepped up beyond a mile. Furthermore, both sire Golden Horn (Cape Cross x Fleche D’Or (Dubai Destination)) & dam Damaniyat Girl (Elusive Quality x Dabaweyaa (Shareef Dancer)) not only showed their best form at 3 years old, but also when campaigned on good ground or faster, and there is every chance that all three factors can work in the favour of their son as & when he begins his 3 year old campaign.

Law Of One (Galileo x Strawberry Fledge (Kingmambo), Sir Michael Stoute/Flaxman Stables Ireland Ltd, 3yo colt, Form: 2-)

For a little while before his debut (and ever since), the hounds have been barking about Highest Ground (Frankel x Celestial Lagoon (Sunday Silence)), bred and raced by the Niarchos Family and trained by Sir Michael Stoute, who caught the eye in no uncertain terms when making a winning debut over 7 furlongs at Leicester last September. Breaking from stall 11 under Ryan Moore, Highest Ground missed the break badly, losing 4 lengths at the start but ultimately allowing Ryan Moore to tack all the way across the straight course to the far side of the pack to track the red-hot favourite Law Of Peace (Shamardal x Certify (Elusive Quality)), who had been berthed in stall 1. What was slightly unusual for this race was that it was truly-run from start to finish, thanks largely to the honest fractions set by eventual 3rd Well Prepared (Due Diligence x Amazed (Clantime)) (who incidentally would drop to 6f for his next start).

Despite missing the break by some 4 lengths, Highest Ground’s deficit at the start became largely negligible as the pace held up, allowing him to find his stride a long way from home. Galloping on powerfully all the way to the line, Highest Ground put 2¾ lengths between himself and the runner-up, becoming just the 3rd Stoute-trained juvenile in the last 5 seasons to make a winning debut by 2½ lengths or more (from 241 juvenile debutants & 25 winners in that time period) after Eqtidaar (Invincible Spirit x Madany (Acclamation)) & Queen’s Trust (Dansili x Queen’s Best (King’s Best)), both of whom would go on to win at Group 1 level as 3 year olds. Whilst visually this was a very pleasing effort, Highest Ground did not do anything particularly exciting on the clock, with the fact that he broke Leicester’s juvenile course record for 7 furlongs arguably more of a nod to the lack of neither truly-run maidens/novices nor high-quality juvenile contests at both track and trip.

Highest Ground could easily go on to prove himself Group class but, for the same trainer/owner combination, it could be argued that Law Of One achieved just as much on the clock as Highest Ground on his only start at 2, albeit without winning and consequently causing significantly less fanfare post-race than his stablemate.

A son of Galileo, Law Of One is out of Strawberry Fledge (Kingmambo x Lingerie (Shirley Heights)), who in turn is a full-sister to 2007 Epsom Oaks winner Light Shift (Kingmambo x Lingerie (Shirley Heights)). Having not seen the track at two or three, Strawberry Fledge was covered by Pivotal in the spring of her 4 year old season and sent to the 2009 Tattersalls December Mare Sale, where she sold for 110,000gns to Peter Anastasiou’s Grand Lodge Thoroughbreds. Incidentally, that mating may have been inspired (in part at least) by the mating of Strawberry Fledge’s Listed-winning half-sister Burning Sunset (Caerleon x Lingerie (Shirley Heights)) to Pivotal in 2003, which in turn produced Group 3-placed filly Ikat (Pivotal x Burning Sunset (Caerleon)) who, as of 2009, had just produced her first foal by Aldebaran, namely subsequent 4-time Group 1 winner & Epsom Derby runner-up Main Sequence (Aldebaran x Ikat (Pivotal)).

“Close cousins”: Group 1 winners Cloth Of Stars (blue jacket right of photo) & Ulysses (sheepskin noseband) finishing 2nd & 3rd respectively behind Enable in the 2017 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Credit: ITV

Fast forward to 2014, and Light Shift had seen just one foal make the track from her first four seasons as a broodmare, and it was at some stage in this year that the Niarchos family privately bought/brought full-sister Strawberry Fledge back into the fold. Incidentally, Light Shift’s 5th season had seen her visit Galileo (Sadler’s Wells x Urban Sea (Miswaki)), a tryst that in 2013 had produced a chestnut yearling colt. At the same time, Strawberry Fledge’s mating with Sea The Stars had produced a bay colt in 2013 who would go on to sell for 400,000gns at the 2014 Tattersalls Book 1 Yearling Sale to John Ferguson. Remarkably, these two colts born from full-sisters in 2013, namely Ulysses (Galileo x Light Shift (Kingmambo)) and Cloth Of Stars (Sea The Stars x Strawberry Fledge (Kingmambo)), would both go on to win at Group 1 level and would end their respective 4 year old seasons by filling the placings behind Enable in the 2017 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe prior to embarking on stallion careers.

With both full-sisters back under Niarchos Family ownership, and with Ulysses about to begin a 3 year old campaign that would see him sent off an 8/1 shot for the 2016 Epsom Derby off the back of a maiden win at just his 3rd start, Strawberry Fledge herself was sent for a date with Galileo that same year, a mating that would produce Law Of One. But for an incredibly wet autumn in the UK that saw every single UK turf meeting in the second half of October run on ‘soft’ or ‘heavy’ ground (with the majority on ‘heavy’), Law Of One may well have started his racing career on turf.

Introduced in a 7 furlong novice on Chelmsford’s polytrack surface, Law Of One endured a slow start to his race and, much like stablemate Highest Ground, found himself at the rear of the field after 2 furlongs. However, unlike Highest Ground’s race, the tempo in Law Of One’s contest was not true, producing a relative sprint finish and therefore playing into the hands of those who raced prominently (as borne out to a large degree by the first three from 5f out finishing 1-3-4). Making good ground against the far rail in the home straight, Law Of One suffered brief interference from the ridden-along Soyounique 300 yards from home, recovering shortly thereafter and hitting the line strongly to finish 2nd by a diminishing neck margin. Law Of One’s effort can be upgraded on sectional times, as he ran a last 3 furlongs over 0.3 seconds faster than the winner and over half a second quicker than every other runner in the race, all the more encouraging given the relative lack of pace through the early stages of the race.

In line with his ever-expanding high-class pedigree, expect an awful lot of improvement from Law Of One this year and beyond not only with time and experience, but also with a view to stepping up in distance to 1m2f+; he remains a most exciting prospect indeed.

Peerless Percy (Sir Percy x Victoria Montoya (High Chaparral), Michael Dods/D Neale, 3yo gelding, OR55, Form: 780-)

It would not be overly unfair to pigeonhole Michael Dods as a trainer who has made his name through his achievements with sprinting fillies & mares; indeed, 14 of his 17 Stakes wins have come from fillies/mares at 5 or 6 furlongs, a tally that has every chance of being added to this year through the likes of Que Amoro (Es Que Love x Onomatomania (Mr Greeley)) and recent arrival Good Vibes (Due Diligence x Satsuma (Compton Place)).

However, on the colts & geldings front, Dods has proven equally adept at campaigning a handicap improver in recent years, as highlighted by the likes of Archi’s Affaire (opening mark of OR63 to peak of OR91), Byron’s Choice (OR74 to OR93), Ocean Sheridan (OR70 to OR93), Barwell (OR63 to OR89) and Dakota Gold (OR78 to OR110) to name a few and, whilst his form offer little in the way of encouragement, there are certain aspects of Peerless Percy’s profile that suggests he could be set for good improvement in 2020.

For a stud & consignor that tends to put the emphasis on speed with regards their stock, Peerless Percy was a touch anomalous as part of the Tally-Ho Stud consignment for the 2018 Tattersalls Ireland September Yearling Sale. However, dam Victoria Montoya (High Chaparral x Spurned (Robellino)) had been a 14,000gns purchase by Tally-Ho Stud from the 2016 Tattersalls December Mare Sale, and the Sir Percy (Mark Of Esteem x Percy’s Lass (Blakeney)) cover in utero was the yearling that was presented in their draft two years later, namely Peerless Percy, who was knocked down to Michael Dods’ bid for €22,000; Victoria Montoya was to visit Tally-Ho resident stallion Kodiac (Danehill x Rafha (Kris)) the following year followed by a mating with Galileo Gold (Paco Boy x Galicuix (Galileo)) in 2019, having not been covered in 2018.

Victoria Montoya proved most progressive at ages 3 and 4, starting life in handicaps off a mark of OR70 before progressing to a peak rating of OR97, with her best efforts culminating in a 3rd placing in the 2009 Group 3 Lillie Langtry Stakes at Goodwood plus a further two 2nd placings at Listed level either side of the Goodwood run. Crucially, Victoria Montoya was a thorough stayer throughout her entire career, never taking in a race shorter than 1m4f, and showing her very best form between 1m6f and 2 miles. Furthermore, as a broodmare, she appears to have passed that residual stamina into her progeny, with each of her first 3 foals to hit the track all showing their best form at 1m4f or further, headed by the bright staying prospect Ranch Hand (Dunaden x Victoria Montoya (High Chaparral)), whose strong staying defeat of the highly-promising Trueshan (Planteur x Shao Line (General Holme)) in a £100,000 1m6f handicap at Haydock in September last year saw him go to post off a mark of OR98 in the £500,000 2m2f Cesarewitch Handicap as 6.88 BSP favourite on his final start of 2019; he stays in training with Andrew Balding for 2020.

Peerless Percy’s 4 year old half-brother Ranch Hand (front of picture) giving (the now-rated OR109) Trueshan 3lb and a 2 length beating off a mark of OR94 in a £100,000 1m6f handicap at Haydock last September. Credit: Racing Post

With such stamina coursing through his pedigree, it is not surprising that Peerless Percy was introduced over a mile for his racecourse debut last September at Haydock. In what proved a soundly-run affair, Peerless Percy looked a touch out of his comfort zone trying to lay up with the leaders for most of the race, needing reminders from Paul Mulrennan into the first turn and cajoling along from a full 5 furlongs out. Failing to make inroads on the leaders down Haydock’s straight, Peerless Percy gradually shuffled back through the field up towards the line to finish a well-beaten 7th of 8 runners, looking very much a work in progress on his racecourse bow.

Following a debut performance that was indicative of a horse needing both more time and a greater emphasis on stamina, it was eye-catching to see Peerless Percy turned out again just 20 days later, and this time dropped in distance to 7 furlongs for a maiden at Redcar. In another evenly-run race, Peerless Percy was once again struggling to lay up with his rivals from a full 4 furlongs out, and ultimately never got involved in the race, pushed out to the line by Callum Rodriguez yet once again finishing a long way adrift of the winner.

Given one more start as a 2 year old, Peerless Percy was once again kept to 7 furlongs for a novice auction at Newcastle a little over 3 weeks later. On this occasion however, the pace was not true, putting the emphasis very much on speed and, given he had just one rival behind him at the halfway stage, the clock points to Peerless Percy being poorly positioned throughout. Scrubbed along from 3 furlongs out, Peerless Percy once again failed to make any inroads on his rivals, but can be excused on this occasion given the way the race panned out over a trip that may well prove completely inadequate in time. Total Performance Data recorded stride data for this race and, with Peerless Percy’s stride cadence staying between 2.19 – 2.27 strides/second throughout the race’s entirety, it is little surprise that he not only looked to find this trip inadequate, but he also struggled having raced towards the rear throughout, with his stride pattern very much suggesting he is not only highly likely to stay a good deal further than 7 furlongs, but he is also a one-paced gelding, and more positive tactics should see him in a markedly better light.

Whilst his form in the book so far offers little in the way of encouragement, Peerless Percy still looks highly likely to show good improvement as a 3 year old and beyond. Furthermore, a switch to more positive tactics and an eventual step up to 1m4f+ could see Peerless Percy realise the potential strongly suggested in his pedigree, potential that could see him make a mockery of his opening mark of OR55 in time.

Sablet (Fulbright x Garabelle (Galileo), Eve Johnson Houghton/Raw, Reeve & Wollaston, 3yo filly, Form: 0-)

Sablet made her debut in a 7f fillies maiden on Cambridgeshire day at Newmarket last September for trainer Eve Johnson Houghton as one of her two runners fielded in this race. Stablemate (and fellow debutant) Folie D’Amour (Nathaniel x Rock Follies (Rock Of Gibraltar)) may have finished 4 places ahead of Sablet, but the booking of Charlie Bishop aboard Sablet suggested that she was the stable’s first string (however marginally that may have been).

It was fairly telling that this was a novel experience for Sablet, as she had a good look around in the preliminaries before being one of the first of the 15 runners to be put in her stall. Not overly surprisingly she proved the slowest from the gates, continuing to have a good look around in the early stages as she raced at the rear of the field. Unfortunately for Sablet (from a positional perspective at least), the pace proved false through the first half of this race, which led to nothing being able to make inroads on the lead (to the extent that the first 4 home were in the front 5 positions by the 3f pole). Ultimately, this didn’t make an awful lot of difference to Sablet’s performance as she proved much too green throughout, continuing to have a good look around as she struggled to match strides with the pack through the majority of the race and ultimately was never able to get involved, not helped by stumbling entering the Dip and losing any sort of momentum in the process. Allowed to come home in her own time thereafter, Sablet beat one rival home in a race where little looked to go right for her.

Whilst her single piece of form is not anything to write home about, there is a good deal of encouragement in Sablet’s pedigree as she is a half-sister to 4 year old filly Bella Vita (Aussie Rules x Garabelle (Galileo)), who not only proved to be one of the star improvers of Eve Johnson Houghton’s stable in 2019, but saved her very best form for 1m4f, and there is every chance that major improvement could be forthcoming from Sablet when stepped up in distance this year, especially having started her racing career over a slowly-run 7 furlongs.

There is a sizeable leap of faith to be taken in Sablet if she is to be one to follow for the 2020 season, but in amongst an abundance of inexperience on her Newmarket debut were some very fleeting glimmers of hope in her debut performance, and it is not impossible that a combination of time, distance and further experience can see Sablet leave her opening effort well behind in 2020.

Sure I’m Your Man (Sea The Moon x All Hallows (Dalakhani), Roger Charlton/Paul & Clare Rooney, 3yo gelding, OR65, Form: 959-)

It is not surprising to learn that, in the last 10 years, Roger Charlton has sent more juveniles to his most local racecourse Newbury to make their debut than any other track, just edging out Kempton as an opening venue of choice for his 2 year olds (69 at Newbury vs 66 at Kempton since May 2010), with another local track Salisbury a fair way behind in 3rd on 28. Whilst none of this is overly noteworthy, it is very much the quality that Charlton has produced with his Newbury debutants in recent years that catches the eye, as 3 of Charlton’s last 4 Group 1 winners that began their career at Beckhampton Stables (namely Quadrilateral (Frankel x Nimble Thimble (Mizzen Mast)), Quest For More (Teofilo x No Quest (Rainbow Quest)) & Al Kazeem (Dubawi x Kazeem (Darshaan))) were introduced as juveniles at Newbury, as were Group winners Time Test, Mince & Captain Cat; moreover, 4 of the above 6 were unplaced on respective debuts.

Sure I’m Your Man represents the first runner that Roger Charlton has trained for owners Paul & Clare Rooney and, having graduated from the 2018 Goffs Orby Sale as a €85,000 yearling purchase, he was duly sent to Newbury last October to make his debut on heavy ground in a 1m novice as one of two Charlton runners in the race, alongside fellow debutant Amir Kabir (Mukhadram x Victory Garden (New Approach)). Whilst the booking of jockey Jason Watson on Amir Kabir would suggest that he was riding the stable’s first string, the market had other ideas, with Sure I’m Your Man the subject of late support that saw him start at a BSP of 12.6 (vs Amir Kabir’s BSP of 24.1), having been as big as 37.0 on the exchanges in the morning. Unfortunately, Sure I’m Your Man all but lost his chance at the start of the race by falling out of the stalls, in the process losing some 5-6 lengths at the start. To further compound his woes, the field went a slow pace through the majority of this race, resulting in a relative sprint finish and putting those racing at the rear (Sure I’m Your Man included) at a sizeable disadvantage. It is hard to get a gauge on the how Sure I’m Your Man adapted to the heavy ground, but he can ultimately be excused for his debut effort in light of what happened in the first couple of furlongs.

Switched to all-weather for his 2nd start just 14 days later, Sure I’m Your Man left his debut effort behind and stepped up a touch to finish 5th in a 1m novice at Chelmsford. Once again the very early stages proved eventful, with Sure I’m Your Man having to be taken back off heels in the early scrimmaging by Jason Watson, losing several lengths in the process. Settling in the 2nd half of the field throughout, and chasing what proved to be no more than a modest pace, Sure I’m Your Man ran respectably enough, unsurprisingly tapped for toe when the tempo lifted 2½ furlongs from home but staying on steadily at the one pace to finish 5th (beaten 6 lengths), all under hands-and-heels riding.

Roger Charlton-trained Quest For More (far side): Made his debut at Newbury as a 2 year old over a mile. Unplaced in his first 3 starts and began life in handicaps off a mark of OR68. Pictured here edging out 3-time Group 1 winner Vazirabad in the 2016 Group 1 Prix du Cadran at Chantilly. Credit: Racing Post

Sure I’m Your Man reappeared in a similar Chelmsford contest for his 3rd start just 17 days after, and it is arguably this run that catches the eye the most. Once again, Sure I’m Your Man lost lengths at the start of the race, brought back to the rear of the field by Jason Watson and switched to the inside from his wide draw in stall 10 (of 12). Once again chasing a pace that was on the slow side (in a contest that once again favoured those racing prominently), Sure I’m Your Man took a bit of a hold under Jason Watson, looking eager to go a touch faster than his jockey would have liked through the first half of the race. Sharing last position entering the straight, Sure I’m Your Man was switched first to the inside and then pulled to the outside, in the process suffering some interference at the quarters of rival Lord Chapelfield, causing Watson to sit up for a few strides and essentially ease off thereafter, allowing his mount to complete the last furlong in his own time, which did not stop Sure I’m Your Man from passing a few of his rivals close to the line to finish 9th of the 12 runners.

Based on the bare bones of his form, the handicapper looks to have dealt Sure I’m Your Man a harsh turn in handing him an opening mark of OR65. However, having been promptly gelded and put away for the winter following his 3rd start, Sure I’m Your Man (whose 2nd dam Alleluia (Caerleon x Alruccaba (Crystal Palace)) won the 2m2f Doncaster Cup as a 3 year old and whose useful half-brother Temple Church (Lawman x All Hallows (Dalakhani)) saved his very best form for 1m4f) looks set to leave that form a long way behind this year, looking a good bet to climb high through the staying handicap ranks for his new trainer/owner combination as a 3 year old and beyond.

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