Gurkha can put up good fight at Catterick

Keith Dalgleigh saddles Clem Fandango at Catterick. Picture: Lindsay Addison
Keith Dalgleigh saddles Clem Fandango at Catterick. Picture: Lindsay Addison
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Likeable colt Gurkha Friend has to be followed at Catterick.

The four-year-old has always been well regarded by Northumberland trainer Karen McLintock and can illustrate the point in the Handicap.

Gurkha Friend has only won once in an eight-race career, but that victory was particularly noteworthy.

The son of Showcasing won a six-furlong conditions stakes at Leicester by half a length, which was no mean feat as runner-up Growl had previously
finished second in the Mill Reef at Newbury.

It has hardly been a cakewalk to glory since then, but the proverbial green shoots of recovery were evident at Ayr last month. Gurkha Friend finished third on only his second try over seven furlongs, but stamina was not an issue as he only went down by a length. He also had to be switched wide for a run so that should also be taken into account. Even so, the handicapper has fairly kept him on the same mark of 78 for what does not look quite as good a race. Versatile in terms of ground, and with his prowess over seven furlongs now assured, this looks a lovely opportunity for a horse who is still pretty unexposed.

Clem Fandango raised the odd eyebrow on her debut at Beverley and looks the one in the Catterick Badgeholders’ Guest Evening Fillies’ Novice Auction Stakes.

Keith Dalgleish’s young filly was smashed to pieces in the betting before a five-furlong maiden on the Westwood and very nearly delivered. The daughter of Elzaam looked extremely raw, but she improved with every stride and only succumbed by three-quarters of a length to a race-fit Seafront, who looks above average.

Meanwhile, Aidan O’Brien believes the Classic trials over the next two weeks will be crucial to mapping out the next move for 1,000 Guineas winner Minding.

With a handful of rehearsal contests at Chester starting tomorrow, followed by Lingfield’s Oaks and Derby 
trials and the Musidora and Dante at York next week, O’Brien is eager to see who emerges triumphant.

Minding is currently a short-priced favourite for next month’s Investec Oaks and also heads the Derby market with the likes of Ladbrokes and William Hill, who are offering her at odds of 5-2 with a run.

However, O’Brien is reluctant to rule anything in or out with his star filly at present.

He said: “She seems to be fine this morning, she went out for a walk and a pick of grass and seems to be in good form.

“You would imagine she would have no problem getting a mile and a quarter and usually if they’re good over a mile and quarter, they get a mile and a half, ridden to get it. I suppose you would think and hope that should be within her grasp.

“She’s by Galileo and obviously he puts great stamina into his horses and her dam, Lillie Langtry, got a mile very well and might have even got further, but we didn’t ask her to go any further. It’s very much within her range, you would hope.

“The next week or 10 days will tell a lot as there’s a lot of trials, fillies and colts, going to be run so usually what happens is we watch those trials, see what happens and then everybody has a talk about where they’re all going to go next.”