South African superstar Soft Falling Rain will be heading into “unknown territory” today when he makes his British debut in the Betfred Hungerford Stakes at Newbury.
The Mike de Kock-trained colt is unbeaten so far in his career after being crowned champion juvenile in his homeland and being one of the star turns at the Dubai Carnival earlier in the year. However, he had a very hard race in winning the Godolphin Mile and has been given plenty of time to overcome those exertions. The plan had been to run possibly at Royal Ascot or in the July Cup but he makes his comeback later than originally planned.
“He’s done everything we’ve ever asked of him,” said Angus Gold, racing manager to owner Hamdan Al Maktoum. “However, he’s done none of it in Europe so this is a new venture for him. He was champion two-year-old in South Africa and then went out to Dubai, but he’s had a very long rest and is just starting back on Saturday.
“When he won the Godolphin Mile, he did it in exactly the opposite fashion I had imagined. There were question marks over the trip so I thought he’d be held up and be the last off the bridle, but Paul (Hanagan) was forced four or five wide, was one of the first off the bridle and then had to hang on grimly.He had to work very hard that day and, unsurprisingly, he gave himself a very hard race. Mike has given him plenty of time to recover and this looks the right place to start back. He seems in good form from what I have seen of him and Paul has been a few times to ride him and is happy, so it’s time to get back to work. This will be unknown territory for him, though.”
Caspar Netscher would be a popular winner after his return to action. Now in the care of David Simcock, he ran an absolute stormer on his comeback in the Lennox Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, just being caught by Garswood.
Jockey Shane Kelly rode him when with Alan McCabe and has kept the ride this season. “I was very pleased with his comeback, he acquitted himself very well,” said Kelly. “He’s in good shape and I was very lucky to pick up the ride on him, he’s been good to me and we’ve struck up a good rapport.
“Obviously Soft Falling Rain looks the one to beat and while some horses don’t recreate their Meydan form over here, he was also a champion at home so he’s got plenty of form on turf.
“If the ground turned up soft, I’d give the Godolphin horse (Tawhid) a big chance too, but all his best form is with plenty of cut in the ground. My horse goes on soft but doesn’t really need it, he just copes with it better than some.
“When he won the German Guineas it was like a road and he didn’t really like that either. All he needs is nice, decent ground to show his best.”
Richard Hannon’s Libranno is something of a standing dish and ran his usual solid race behind Garswood and Caspar Netscher in the Lennox. He will be ridden by Kieren Fallon.
On the same Newbury card, Red Cadeaux will try to make a winning farewell to British action for a while in the Betfred TV Geoffrey Freer Stakes.
Ed Dunlop’s globe-trotting seven-year-old will go into quarantine ahead of his trip to Australia for a third crack at the Melbourne Cup. Though he is stepping out of Group 1 for the first time in over a year, Red Cadeaux has a 6lb penalty for his triumph in the Hong Kong Vase in December. He has also been out of the frame in his three latest racecourse efforts.
“He probably wont be overly-fancied for what’s happened recently and also he’s got his penalty,” said Dunlop. “I’m keen to drop him down in class a little. We had him in the Kergorlay (at Deauville on Sunday) but we feel the ground will hopefully be more suitable at Newbury and Gerald Mosse can ride here anyway. He’s in good form. A mile five-and-a-half is going to suit well. It’s just that he’s got a penalty. After this run he will go back into quarantine again.”
At Ripon, Baccarat bids to forget unlucky run at York when he goes for the William Great St Wilfrid Handicap.
The lightly-raced four-year-old was beaten three-and-a-quarter lengths in sixth place behind Tropics, after being hampered when jockey Amy Ryan was unshipped from her mount Bogart. “He was a bit unfortunate and didn’t get the run of the race last time at York. He was interfered with by the horse [Bogart] whose saddle slipped and whose jockey fell,” said Barry Simpson, racing manager to owner Sir Robert Ogden.
“Paul (Hanagan) was confident he’d have finished in the frame. I’m not suggesting he’d have won, but he’d have finished a lot closer. It’s a competitive race as you’d expect, but he’s in good form and he should run well.”
Baccarat is one of three runners from the Richard Fahey stable, with El Viento and Polski Max also representing him.
David O’Meara has won the sprint for the past two years and goes for the hat-trick with Louis The Pious and Dick Bos.
Veteran trainer Mick Easterby last took the honours with William’s Well in 2000. He is represented this year by the top-weight Hoof It, part-owned by golfer Lee Westwood, and expects the six-year-old to put a disappointing display in the Stewards’ Cup behind him.
Michael Dods has a leading fancy in Spinatrix, whose last two successes have come over the course and distance.