Future targets for Cubanita will depend largely on ground conditions after the mare got her season off to the best possible start at Newbury on Saturday.
The five-year-old lifted the John Porter Stakes at the Berkshire track to back up her success in the St Simon Stakes over the same course and distance on her final start of 2013.
She currently holds entries as varied as the Yorkshire Cup over a mile and three-quarters at York on May 16 and the mile and a quarter Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh nine days later.
“She’s fine this morning, no problems,” said trainer Ralph Beckett.
“We haven’t decided where we go next with her, but it will be ground dependent. She’ll have a few entries and we’ll see what the ground does.”
Beckett has also pencilled in first runs of the season for Talent and Secret Gesture, who gave the Kimpton trainer a Classic one-two in the Investec Oaks at Epsom last summer.
He said: “They are both in good shape. Secret Gesture might turn up in the Middleton Stakes at York next month and Talent might wait for the Coronation Cup (at Epsom) in early June.”
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Karl Burke believes there is further improvement in Rivellino ahead of the bookmakers.co.uk All-Weather Sprint Championships Conditions Stakes at Lingfield on Good Friday.
The four-year-old has registered two victories on the all-weather this winter and was last seen going down by a head to Tarooq in the Cleves Stakes in February.
He is likely to be among the leading contenders for his �150,000 target and Burke is keen on his chances.
He said: “We think we were slightly unlucky (last time). If you watch a re-run of the race, he really quickened halfway around the bend when Danny (Tudhope) asked him to and took off. I think he surprised Danny with his turn of foot, which pushed them a bit wide, and the winner came up the gap we left on the rail.
“Possibly, if he had held on for another 20 yards and got around the bend, then the result might have been different. It was just a little bit unfortunate, but Tarooq is a very good horse.
“We think Rivellino can improve a little bit on that run. He is maturing all the time and I am hoping he can transfer this winter’s form through the summer as well.
“If he puts in a run like either of his last two runs (the other was a win at Lingfield Park on February 8), then he is going to be in the shake-up on Good Friday.
“He is progressive and a horse we have always thought a lot of, but he was immature and had a few niggly little training problems along the way. He has started to fulfil our expectations on the racetrack.”
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It was only his trial race but such was the immaculate return of Kingman at Newbury that bookmakers were forced into a complete overhaul of the betting for the Qipco 2000 Guineas.
Australia had been a strong market leader for the first colts’ Classic until he was usurped by John Gosden’s unbeaten representative, who swiftly dispatched his opponents by an electric four and a half lengths in the Aon Greenham Stakes.
There was still a warning from the trainer about the possibility of quick ground jeopardising Kingman’s participation at Newmarket in exactly three weeks, as Gosden has been careful with him since his previous start at Sandown in late August.
The son of Invincible Spirit had been under the microscope ever since his striking debut on Newmarket’s July course, some of which could be related to him carrying the colours of Khalid Abdullah, whose Frankel emerged from hibernation in the 2011 Greenham.
Kingman had been James Doyle’s first pressurised assignment after signing as the owner’s retained jockey in the Solario Stakes, and there were echoes of Abdullah’s modern-day great as he streaked clear of Night Of Thunder in the final furlong. He is 7-4 favourite for the Guineas with Ladbrokes.
Gosden said: “We came here for a trial and he has passed his trial well. I was really happy with how he settled, and we were thrilled with how he picked up. Without doubt he has the highest cruising speed of any horse I’ve trained over this trip – seven furlongs and a mile.”
Looking ahead, the trainer said. “It’s well documented that he got a chip in an ankle last year and to that extent, and so early in his three-year-old career, the last thing you want to do with a young horse would be to run on fast ground, but hopefully it will be good ground (at Newmarket) and we will be there.
“He’s a proper horse. There’s the Guineas and hopefully there’s other races down the road. I think we’ll be staying at a mile.”
Doyle added: “It’s great to have a horse like him to look forward to. People forget that at Sandown it was a small field and they didn’t go very fast but he picked up really well. I’ve ridden him at home and that wasn’t a surprise to me.”
Richard Hannon said of Night Of Thunder: “You can’t not go for a Guineas on the back of one horse, but the ground might suit him better in France.”
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Peter Bowen is dreaming of Aintree glory next spring with Al Co after the nine-year-old landed a shock 40-1 triumph in the Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr.
Jamie Moore, fresh from his win on Sire De Grugy in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham, steered the outsider to a famous victory – but had a scare on the run-in when his mount spooked and jinked to his right.
However, the partnership was soon back intact to record a length and a half verdict over last year’s winner Godsmejudge, with Trustan Times just a neck back in third and Merry King fourth.
Pembrokeshire-based Bowen said: “He’ll be aimed at the Crabbie’s Grand National next season. That’s the long-term plan. I didn’t see what happened on the run-in. I’d got four horses to watch and it was a job to keep an eye on them all.
“This race has always been the plan and he runs well fresh. He saw plenty of daylight today and that’s how he enjoys it. He got the front too soon, but there was nothing he could do about it and I have a lot of faith in Jamie.
“He was in the best form we’ve ever had him. Luckily we’ve got Ffos Las up the road and he had a racecourse gallop there and he was absolutely spot-on for today. It will take us 10 hours to get back home tonight. We’ll get home at 5am and we’ll probably leave at 7am for Stratford.”
Moore added: “I won the Scottish Champion Hurdle in 2004 (on Copeland), so it’s been a while since I had another winner here.
“I hit the front soon enough, but you know Peter’s horses are going to run to the line. Peter told me he had him spot-on, but twice up the run-in he spooked at boards or something. I honestly nearly fell off twice and thank goodness I didn’t. He’d have gone again if they’d come to us properly.”
Of his highly successful spring, Moore went on: “Peter puts me up a lot and it’s nice to do it for people you ride for.”
Alan King said of Godsmejudge: “I’m very proud of him. We said all the way through it’s been a very difficult preparation. He’s only just coming back and that was a mighty run. He’ll have a summer out and regroup for next year. That was awesome.”
The veteran Tidal Bay finished seventh after his early exit from the Grand National a week earlier, and Paul Nicholls revealed there were no plans to retire the 13-year-old just yet.
He said: “There had been talk of Tidal Bay retiring, but he will definitely stay in training next season, as long as he is fit and well,” he said.
“He has run a good race, the ground was probably just against him a bit Sam (Twiston-Davies) said, but he has come back safe and sound. We will give him a nice break and bring him back next season, possibly starting over hurdles at Wetherby.”
The stewards inquired into the behaviour of Battle Group at the start and referred the matter to the British Horseracing Authority as the horse had refused to race in the Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree as well as at Newbury on March 30.
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Brian Meehan’s well-backed J Wonder foiled the late-finishing 11-4 favourite Al Thakhira by a head in the Dubai Duty Free Stakes at Newbury.
Valonia jumped out of the stalls well and was allowed an easy lead for much of the way in this prominent 1000 Guineas trial, best known as the Fred Darling.
American-owned J Wonder, sent off a 4-1 chance but with a question or two to answer after disappointing on her final juvenile start in the Lowther Stakes, was better placed than Al Thakhira and Joyeuse, who both closed from the rear of the field, and she showed a smart turn of foot when asked by Jimmy Fortune.
Connections of the first three are keeping Classic options open, and Meehan said: “I’m really pleased as she has proved to be the filly we thought she was. It’s not a shock, not by any means. We came here thinking she had to be in the first three on what we knew of her from last season.
“She was brave as she had to come through horses and Jimmy got off and said he felt she won very easily, she just pricked her ears when she hit the front and just needed one slap to keep her mind on the job. We thought she was special last year and she looked good today.
“She’s in the French and English Guineas and I’ll have to speak to the owner and Jimmy. We’ll have a proper conversation, put it all together and decide.”
Marco Botti said of the runner-up: “She has proved she retains her ability. I think seven furlongs might be her trip, but the French Guineas might give her a better chance at a mile. Ground is the key.”
Lady Cecil said of Frankel’s half-sister Joyeuse: “She will definitely come on for the run and she’s in the French and English Guineas. We’ll see.”
Ralph Beckett’s late decision to start Cubanita off in the Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes was rewarded in style.
Kept in training at five by owner Kirsten Rausing, and a winner of another course and distance Group Three last year, the 7-1 shot picked up encouragingly for Jim Crowley and battled a neck past Frankel’s brother Noble Mission.
“She worked well last week so we decided to put her in on Monday. I was worried about running with a penalty but she has improved,” said the trainer. “Miss Rausing is keen to try the Tattersalls Gold Cup in Ireland if the ground is soft, otherwise there’s the Yorkshire Cup. It all depends on the ground.”
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