We are on the cusp of arguably the most exciting time of the year. Royal Ascot, Wimbledon and The Open are all just around the corner and The Derby is now just days away.
The Epsom Classic remains the most significant Flat race in Britain. Its importance to the thoroughbred industry is best illustrated by the list of Derby winners that have gone on to become influential stallions.
Since 2000 the list of those that have produced Group 1 winners and Classic performers include Sinndar, High Chapparal, Motivator, New Approach, Sea The Stars and the daddy of them all, Galileo.
So it is little wonder that the most powerful breeding operation in the world, Coolmore, have targeted all they can muster at the great race.
Aidan O’Brien has saddled an incredible 55 horses in the last 15 runnings of the Derby and accounted for 26 per cent of the total number of runners since his Aristotle trailed in 10th behind Sinndar in 2000.
The Ballydoyle Maestro will have three representatives in this year’s renewal, Hans Holbein, Kilimanjaro and Giovanni Canaletto (a close relation to Biddestone Stud's young broodmare Pearlofthequarter) and it is the latter that I believe gives O’Brien his best chance of an incredible fourth successive win in the Derby and sixth in total.
Giovanni Canaletto’s full-brother Ruler of the World stormed home to win in 2013 and it is encouraging that Ryan Moore, who was aboard that day, has picked Giovanni Canaletto ahead of two bona fide Classic Trial winners in Kilimanjaro and Hans Holbein.
If you watch the 2013 running again you may note the strong sustained and sweeping run that Moore conjured up from his mount once out in the clear and with plenty of racing room.
Although this is just my hunch, I felt that Giovanni Canaletto looked like he was cut from the same cloth judged by the way he finished his race when second in the Gallinule Stakes at the Curragh on his reappearance. He sat a little too far back on that occasion but finished his race off well and is almost certain to improve physically and mentally come the big day.
He’ll need to be because Golden Horn sets a high standard based on his Dante win, but must prove his stamina around one of the most demanding mile and a half courses in the world and at the prices I’m going with the leading modern day Derby Trainer, Jockey, Owner combination.
Personally I can’t wait for it all to begin. I will be working for Channel 4 during the two-day meeting and will be in the studio alongside Jim McGrath and Graham Cunningham on both afternoons.
Nick Luck will be fronting the coverage and there will be a big team on the ground with Gina Harding, Emma Spencer, Tanya Stevenson, Brian Gleeson and Mick Fitzgerald, while Simon Holt will be up high for his commentaries.
Hope you enjoy it all and if you can’t make it to Epsom then tune into to Channel 4.
Once the Derby is over I’ll be dashing home to watch the Champions League final and then, if I can hang on, the Belmont Stakes, when I hope American Pharaoh will become a Triple Crown hero.
Okay, I might be doing a little after-timing here, but when I was in Dubai for the World Cup back in March, I remember asking Victor Espinoza, off-camera, if he had a confirmed ride for the Kentucky Derby ahead of interviewing him on-camera before he sat on California Chrome in the world’s richest race.
Espinoza smiled and said ‘Yeah, I have. He’s called American Pharaoh and he might be the best horse I have ever ridden.’
American Pharaoh has matched his rider’s Classic champion of 2014, California Chrome, by winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness so far, but victory on Saturday will take him into the pantheon of, not just racing, but sporting legends.
I really hope he does it.
Spring is here and in the blink of an eye Cheltenham, the Lincoln and the Dubai World Cup are all already over and the first Classic of the season is just over four weeks away.
I was fortunate enough to be working at Meydan on Saturday night and saw some impressive performances from Mubtaahij in the UAE Derby and Solow in the Dubai Turf, with riding honours going to Richard Kingscote on Dubai Gold Cup hero Brown Panther.
The most interesting moment of the evening for me, personally, came after the Godolphin Mile when I grabbed Jeremy Noseda for an interview moments after Sloane Avenue returned to be unsaddled following his excellent second from a tough draw in stall 15.
In a nutshell, Noseda questioned the statistical probability of the winner, Sheikh Hamdan’s Tamarkuz, being awarded the slot in stall one or two in each of his last four races.
The Newmarket trainer’s reaction to Sloane Avenue’s narrow defeat caused something of a stir at the racecourse and inevitably on social network with some in praise of his willingness to challenge the Dubaian authorities and others shocked at his temerity.
Ever since I have been doing this job of post-race interviews in either a winning or losing cause, a number of armchair critics have ridiculed any broadcaster who has dared to utter the question ‘How does it feel?’
In the immediate aftermath of an event, when speaking to any of the main protagonists, surely the most pertinent aspect of the interview is to ascertain what did he or she make of the event that we all just witnessed.
I am sometimes disappointed when people come up to me and say why did you ask so and so ‘How did it feel? How the hell do you think they felt you idiot?’ Surely we aren’t all arrogant enough to know exactly what that person is feeling only because you are presuming they would feel exactly the same as you would had you been in the same position.
The reason why, editorially, it makes sense to do post-race interviews is essentially to obtain an honest reaction to what we have just seen occur from someone at the heart of the action. It is true though that the majority of the time the response is anodyne and instantly forgettable.
However occasionally there is a gem. Think what you will of what Jeremy Noseda said on Saturday night, but his reaction was memorable and genuinely revealed what he felt.
Turn the clock back to Ruby Walsh’s reaction to Vautour’s win in the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and his speechless response to what he thought of the six-year-old’s performance spoke volumes for the regard in which he holds this potential superstar.
Despite what the smart arses might think, for both Noseda and Walsh, it was very much about how they felt.
Anyway enough about what has already happened, time to look ahead and at the end of this week I will be flying off to America for the US Masters at Augusta which means I will miss the Grand National but I am pleased to see my colleague Nick Luck confirmed at the helm for the three-day broadcast on Channel 4.
On the subject of golf, I am very excited about the inaugural Biddestone Golf Day on Wednesday, 29 April at Burhill Golf Club. I’m sure many of you have been in touch with Matt Budden and indicated whether you wish to play. The event is being held in aid of the Injured Jockey’s Fund and we will be making a donation to the charity. The event is also open to non-Biddestone Partners, so please visit the www.biddestoneracing.com website for further information.
I can’t promise great weather or great golf, but I will promise you a tremendous course and fine hospitality from the team at Biddestone and at Burhill, so hope to see you there.
When I first started working in television back in the spring of 2002, Tiger Woods was the best golfer in the world, Brian Lara the leading batsman and Tony McCoy was about to win his seventh Champion Jockey’s title.
Lara has long since retired, many say that Tiger should retire and last Saturday at Newbury the greatest jump jockey of the modern era revealed that at the end of this season he will retire.
When Tiger and Tony finally call it a day, three of the men who, for me, defined sporting greatness for so long will leave us with some magical memories and I was privileged enough to be the man holding the mic for McCoy when he chose to announce his impending retirement, a moment I will never forget.
I am a lover of sport and when AP dropped the bombshell that he wouldn’t ride 200 winners in a season ever again because he was going to retire, my first reaction was that of a fan of horse racing. However swearing on live TV is liable to land you in trouble so there was silence until my producer urged me to ‘keep going’.
At the end of the interview I was choked with emotion, primarily because AP was holding back the tears himself as he revealed his plans.
Many people were praising me for my part in what happened but I genuinely had no idea why, as it could have occurred at any time and any place, but luck meant that I was on hand to interview him as he brought up a double century for the tenth time in his career.
After Channel 4 went off air and things had calmed down a little I went to the weighing room to find AP to congratulate him on all that he had achieved, to thank him for revealing it in the post Game Spirit Chase interview and to ask why he had chosen that moment.
‘Your question gave me the perfect lead in, so I thought why not’ he said. A rare moment of satisfaction.
One small thing occurred to me later that evening though. For a prolonged period both the BBC and Channel 4 were on the receiving end of fierce criticism for post-race interviews with the jockeys still on horse back almost immediately after the race. Luckily both broadcasters held firm and Channel 4’s persistence with it paid off in spades at Newbury last Saturday.
I had been in Dubai early last week and had the pleasure of spending a morning with Mike De Kock. Normally reserved and edgy on race days, the South African was engaging as he revealed exciting plans for some of his stars including Cape Derby winner Ertijaal, who could have the Dubai World Cup in 2016 on his agenda.
De Kock has a big team lining up on Thursday at Meydan and it could be worth backing Almoonqith, who is improving fast and was unlucky on his last run.
A Happy New Year to everyone involved with Biddestone Stud and Racing Partnerships. Hope you all had a great festive period and are looking forward to 2015.
It was a busy time for me with hardly a day off between Christmas day and the New Year, but you’ll get no complaints as I enjoyed every moment of it and I know how lucky I am to be doing this job. Being paid to go racing and be at the heart of the action is a privilege but also a great buzz and its addictive.
With that in mind I imagine it must have been a hard decision for Clare Balding to limit her days on Channel 4 in 2015 to just the Cheltenham Festival and Royal Ascot, but it has lead to speculation as to who will present racing’s biggest terrestrial show, the Grand National.
I am sure many of you will have heard the likes of Jeremy Kyle and Ant & Dec mentioned as possible main presenters for the Aintree extravaganza, but for what its worth I think my colleague Nick Luck should be the front man.
Those showbiz names are all very good at what they do, but they are unproven in holding together a ‘live’ television broadcast of horse racing. Of course I understand that its more than just knowledge of the sport and skills in front of the camera being considered by those in charge of Channel 4 and being known beyond the sport of racing is important in appealing to the ‘casual’ viewer, but I really feel that racing’s big day should be fronted by racing’s best presenter.
When people point to ‘non’ racing presenters hosting the Grand National on the BBC it is worth bearing in mind that was a legacy of the days of ‘Grandstand’ where other sports were included as part of the National show and it was the ‘Grandstand’ anchor, such as David Coleman, Des Lynam or Sue Barker, that held it all together.
Quite simply Nick has the best credentials to host the Grand National for Channel 4, with his extensive experience of live television, his excellent knowledge of the sport and bar Clare, he is the best and best known presenter in racing.
I won’t be at Aintree this year as it clashes with the US Masters at Augusta which is just one of the highlights of the upcoming period for me. In addition to the excellent domestic action which I will be working on for Channel 4, I will also be involved in the broadcasts from the 2015 Dubai World Cup Carnival which gets underway in early January.
I have been out there for a few meetings since the season started back in October and seen how the new ‘dirt’ surface at Meydan has bedded in. It is clear that racing handy is a big advantage. Only two horses have made up significant ground from the back in a winning cause since the first race at the track in November.
One of that duo races on Thursday and is worth looking out for. His name is Faulkner. He’s a five-year-old who is unbeaten in two starts and has an enormous amount of potential. He steps up to seven furlongs for the first time and that looks right up his street.
The feature race on the card is the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 and Satish Seemar’s Surfer is sure to run well. He’s got a bit to find with Outstrip on official ratings but he’s proven he handles the surface and his well being when winning over course and distance just before Christmas.
I’ll be having a bet on both those horses.
Cheltenham's first big meeting of the new season has come and gone but there were a few horses that I won't be forgetting in a hurry.
Naturally when watching National Hunt racing these days, any performance of note immediately leads to thoughts of the Festival in March. Some say it's a bad thing, others feel it's good. I sit firmly in the latter camp simply because those four days give context to all other events during the season yet doesn't detract from the significance of the really major races such as the Hennessy and the King George.
So on the back of what we saw last weekend here are three horses that may be worth following for the rest of the season and could conceivably end up at the Cheltenham Festival.
On Friday the Steel Plate and Sections Novices Chase produced a flimsy jumping test with the removal of six fences because of a low sun, nevertheless some good horses lined up for it and I'm certain that, although only 3rd, Urban Hymn remains a young staying chaser of serious potential.
He was a classy hurdler, finishing 7th in the Albert Bartlett at the Festival and started his chasing career with an excellent 2nd over an inadequate two miles at Carlisle, but given that he was a winner over a mile further during his hurdling career, the step up in trip last Friday should have suited.
However I was a little surprised that his rider, Brian Hughes, didn't make it more of a test and in the end he was beaten by two speedier types in Champagne West and Colour Squadron. Urban Hymn jumped soundly and it was another promising effort and there will be a big day ahead this season.
I felt the winner of Saturday's Paddy Power Gold Cup was not given enough credit in light of some tremendous efforts from the placed horses, notably runner-up John's Spirit. Yes Caid Du Berlais was getting plenty of weight from those closest in behind him but he palpably relishes Cheltenham.
In two other starts there he has been 2nd in the Fred Winter and 3rd in the Martin Pipe. Something like the Byrne Group Plate in March looks right up his street.
Finally on Sunday Vaniteux had to given best to Garde La Victoire in the Greatwood Hurdle, but he moved through the race like a very good horse who will be better on slightly quicker ground.
In addition, having watched his run behind Vautour last March and his win at Aintree afterwards, I think he lengthens and doesn't quicken and the slow pace in the Greatwood wouldn't have suited him. I don't think he has too much to find to be a realistic Champion Hurdle contender and given a strong pace and better ground I think he can run well on the opening day of next year's Festival.
But that's all a long way away, closer to hand is the Betfair Lancashire Chase on Saturday and I will be backing Taquin Du Seuil who will love the ground and is open to more improvement this season.
If you're following me in, good luck!
Its been a good spell for Biddestone team. Simply The West showed a huge amount of promise on his hurdling debut at Carlisle, the yearlings sold well at Tattersalls and Lady Bayside rounded things off sweetly with a win at Bath on Sunday.
It was lovely to spend time with some of the owners (see photo) involved with the Racing Partnerships at Lady Jane Cecil’s Warren Place Stables where we caught a glimpse of the hero of British Champions Day at Ascot, Noble Mission.
That battle between Frankel’s brother and Al Kazeem will live long in the memory and emotions were certainly running high before and after the race.
I was lucky enough to be working for Channel 4 that day and had been given the task of getting a pre-race interview with Lady Jane who notoriously objects to any chat before any of her horses run.
Luckily for me, one of my very best friends is currently in a relationship with Lady Jane’s sister and I thought it would be a smart move for me to utilise his influence to coerce her into speaking to me before the Champion Stakes. However it almost backfired as she seemed even more determined to avoid me and my mic - who wouldn’t, I hear you ask!
But just as I had given up hope, Lady Jane walked over to me and amazingly said she had changed her mind. As we waited for the cue to go ‘live’ I noticed how nervous and emotional she appeared and I tried to help by reassuring her it would all be fine.
It was at this point she looked me directly in the eyes and said ‘I feel bad for doing this because Henry never did and I’m not sure he would want me to.’ I felt terrible. I felt emotional and I felt awkward. But goodness knows what poor Lady Jane was going through at that moment.
It was too late to back out and she carried herself superbly through the interview. My last question to her was ‘What would victory with Frankel’s brother mean to her on this day and in this race?’ She said simply and with charming understatement, ‘It would be a fairy tale.’
That, in a nutshell, is what we got.
Nothing on the same scale is on the horizon over the coming days, but I am looking forward to the final Group 1 in Britain on Saturday, the Racing Post Trophy, primarily because I think Elm Park will take some stopping and I have backed him already.
I was at Salisbury when he won the Stonehenge Stakes and he seemed green despite winning comfortably and I believe it he was still learning when winning the Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket where it was only late on that he stamped his authority on the race.
I am expecting an even better performance at Doncaster and I think it’ll take something very special to stop him.
I'm currently up in Scotland for the 40th Ryder Cup and cannot wait for the action to start though I will, as always, be keeping an eye on the racing from afar, primarily because one of my favourite fillies in training runs at Kempton in the colours of Biddestone Racing.
The horse in question is Pixeleen who won for the team at Windsor in the summer, showing super speed over six furlongs, before two respectable fourth placings at Warwick and Bath. It was on that latter outing that she really endeared herself to me, as after flashing her early pace from the stalls she displayed a genuinely game attitude to fight on once she had been joined in battle late on.
Oisin Murphy, who rode Pixie to her sole victory so far, is back on board and that's clearly a positive, though she has a wide draw which is a significant negative. The other slight question I have and this is a hugely personal point of view, is that I would love to see her blast away over five furlongs and think she may better over the minimum trip.
In any case I wish her and the Biddestone team all the best at the Sunbury-on-Thames venue.
I hope to be able to watch it all unfold on my IPad at the end of work today. It's the final day before the Ryder Cup starts and it'll involve walking the course, making notes of which holes may be talking points during the event, trying to chat to as many of the players as possible and trying to memorise as much information as I can which may or may not be called upon by the end of Sunday.
Team USA have been trying to play the 'low expectations' cards all week but there seems to be a steely determination to exact revenge for being on the receiving end of the Miracle at Medinah two years ago.
However Team Europe possess four of the top five ranked players set to take part in Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose, add stalwarts Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter to the mix and it's a formidable team.
I think they'll be too strong for the visitors and expect them to make it three wins on the bounce for the Europeans.
A strange thing happened last Saturday at Goodwood.
I criticised a top rider - yes, I know people will point out that me criticising anyone is unusual - but beyond that, that rider came forward, answered specific questions about the incident intelligently, with humility and accepted that he was at fault.
The jockey in question was James Doyle, who made an error on Captain Cat, the favourite for the Group 2 Celebration Mile, televised live on Channel 4 and Racing UK.
Doyle, who is celebrating his first anniversary as Prince Khalid Abdullah’s retained rider this very week, is 26 and represents the new generation of potential superstars in the saddle.
Therefore it was refreshing to see a young man with the responsibility and stature that Doyle has already acquired, deal with criticism in such a mature manner.
The contrast between that attitude and the recent comments made by Kieren Fallon in response to criticism by ATR’s Matt Chapman is marked.
Fallon was angered by Chapman’s analysis of his ride on Bwindi at Southwell and said “When you are slagged off by individuals who have no experience of what they are talking about, that really angers me.’
In the past even AP McCoy has been moved to trot out the “How many winners has she ridden?” line in retaliation to an opinion expressed by RUK’s Lydia Hislop.
Personally I feel the sentiments of both champions do not need addressing as I am crediting anyone who reads this blog with the intelligence to know how feeble the “you can’t have an opinion unless you have done it yourself’ argument is.
Fallon will be 50 next year, McCoy turned 40 in May and maybe these two greats of the game simply originated from an era where the right to criticise or have an opinion belonged solely to the man who paid the bills or, at a push, a weighing room colleague.
Doyle’s response to last Saturday’s Captain Cat ride offers hope that perhaps one day that attitude might be a thing of the past.
I for one will be cheering on the man who will be wearing his boss’ green, pink and white silks in the St Leger as Doyle bids to land his first British Classic aboard Snow Sky in just over two weeks time.
With his Great Voltiguer conqueror Postponed rested for the remainder of the season and out of the way, Snow Sky has an excellent chance of winning on Town Moor.
Take the Cumani creature out of the York contest and the son of Nayef has beaten a fair field of 3 year-old colts by a long, long way and as the saying goes, he ran through the line on the Knavesmire, suggesting that the additional two and half furlongs to travel in the Leger will be within reach.
Kingston Hill would be a huge obstacle should he turn up, but there are still options for his next port of call and he could well miss the final Classic of the season, so I have had an ante-post bet on Snow Sky at 6.6/1 on Betfair.
But it's only my opinion.
Hello again. The summer is flying by and since my last blog a lot has happened.
After watching the best tennis players in the world at Wimbledon I had the privilege, actually that's an understatement, I had the childish joy of observing the top golfers in the world warming up on the range each day, at close quarters, during The Open at Royal Liverpool.
It was revealing to watch them all at work sharpening their skills before playing, the intensity with which some treated their time on the range, the simplicity of some practice routines and the occasionally weird and wonderful warm up from the likes of Padraig Harrington (in photo below).
But above all else I was fascinated by getting a brief glimpse into the mind of some of the players before they began play. In many of my pre-round interviews with the likes of Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Graeme McDowell, the phrases, 'looking forward to the challenge' and 'it's going to be fun', kept cropping up despite facing awkward conditions on the course. That attitude is palpably a world away from the negative amateur mindset that so many of us experience and maybe something we can learn from.
I am now up in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games but have been keeping an eye on the racing as much as I can and saw Galactic Heroine's run behind Penhill at Thirsk.
I must admit I was initially disappointed, but Penhill's wide margin win on his next start confirmed that he was miles ahead of the handicapper off a mark of 77 when our filly conceded three pounds to him and I'm sure that setting the pace in a three-runner race would not be the ideal tactics for Galactic Heroine and she remains very exciting.
However, front running in the Biddestone silks wasn't a problem at Windsor recently as Pixeleen won on her third career start. Now I'll admit to only seeing the race once, but what I found most impressive was that, although the winning margin was only half a length, the daughter of Pastoral Pursuits had all her rivals off the bridle and humbled at halfway.
Now I'm not an expert in preparing sprinters, unlike the excellent Malcolm Saunders, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Somerset trainer might consider dropping Pixeleen down to five furlongs. Her dam, Ballyalla, raced at distances up to a mile and a quarter, but her only win was over six furlongs and she frequently displayed plenty of pace when failing to stay longer distances. Her daughter has clearly inherited the same natural speed and is another of the 'Biddestone Babes' to look forward to this season.
I'm not sure what sport I'll be covering come King George day, but I hope I'll get a moment to tune into to Channel 4 to see the what seems to be a terrific renewal. For what it's worth I'll be having an each way bet on Trading Leather. He was second to Novellist in the race last year, ran really well in the Eclipse at Sandown and his two best efforts last year came over a mile and a half and on fast ground.
I hope to see some of you soon as once the Games in Glasgow come to an end I'll be catching up with the team at Biddestone and trying to muscle in on some of the success we've been having.
Welcome to my blog on the Biddestone Racing Partnerships website.
Having done very little ‘blogging’ in my time I have been wondering how best to start, so I thought why not begin telling you about my experience with one of the best - Roger Federer - and my utter admiration for him.
The last couple of weeks have been spent at the All England club interviewing sporting superstars, but, in my humble opinion as they say, none come classier than the seven-time Wimbledon champ.
The demands on a man of his import during any event is incredibly time consuming, for example after he finishes a match and gets showered and changed he must then spend at least 2 hours carrying out media commitments including press conferences in 4 languages and a plethora of television and radio interviews for networks around the world.
Now I know he is also handsomely rewarded for the talent he displays on the tennis court, but there is no official requirement for him to be as charming, polite and generous in the manner in which he conducts himself.
Upon entering the Television interview room at SW19 to conduct his very first one-to-one sit down chat of the tournament Federer extended his hand and said hello to me, turned around and then in turn shook hands with our floor manager, cameraman and sound man and to each he said “hello my friend, nice to see you again.”
Ok, I know in the normal walk of life that we all live in this is just common courtesy, but in the sporting superstar lifestyle it is not always apparent. To see a 17-time Grand Slam champion conducting himself with such genuine courtesy was heart warming.
While at Wimbledon I managed to keep an eye on the racing and watched Galactic Heroine win at Doncaster. She is very exciting and given that superb pedigree, is already a hugely valuable prospect and like all of the Biddestone team I cannot wait to see her again.
I also managed to fit in the Eclipse for Channel 4 last Saturday where I thought Paul Hanagan and Kevin Manning gave their horses good ‘Sandown’ rides which perhaps exaggerated their superiority over the better fancied runners.
The Newmarket July meeting is my next port of call before a trip to Hoylake for The Open and then Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games.
For what its worth I am looking forward to seeing Estidhkaar run should he get the go ahead for Saturday’s Superlative Stakes. He should have scored on debut but was too green and then he broke his maiden with a bit in hand at Newbury. The second won at Sandown next time and the fourth, who was 9 lengths behind bolted up at Windsor subsequently.
I think he’s very very good and saves a little for himself, as his half-brother Toormore did in his unbeaten juvenile campaign last year.
Hopefully the next time I write I’ll know what to start with because it’ll involve Estidhkaar’s impressive win at Newmarket’s July meeting and his connections' courteous response to their success.
Rishi is a sports broadcaster who has covered some of the greatest events across many sports including the last three Olympic Games in Athens, Beijing and London for the BBC. He has also presented or reported on golf, snooker, cricket, eventing plus many more and in the last few years I have covered the Ryder Cup, US Masters, The Open, The Cricket World Cup, Snooker World Championship and Eventing at Badminton and Burleigh.
Biddestone Racehorse Syndicates
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