Hugo Palmer: Mixed fortunes at the Craven meeting but plenty of positives for the weeks ahead

Gifted Master has plenty of options following his impressive seasonal reappearance
Gifted Master has plenty of options following his impressive seasonal reappearance

Hugo Palmer reflects on last week's Craven Meeting, where Gifted Master made an impressive seasonal reappearance, as well as giving his thoughts on this week's entries and news of some new recruits to the yard...

"But the important thing was that he did it really well over 6f last week and we have options with him trip-wise now, as I thought he was more a miler than a sprinter."

Hugo Palmer on Gifted Master

Galileo Gold delighted us in his racecourse gallop with the 88-rated Strong Steps at Newmarket last week, and he will be left in the 2,000 Guineas at the five-day stage.

We will decide if he goes to Newmarket or to France nearer the time.

At the end of the day we want to win a Classic with the horse and to make him a stallion, so that is our thinking at the moment.

Last week was the first time he has been asked to go on and stride past Strong Steps in a piece of work - you have to be mindful not to break the confidence of the lead horse - but we were thrilled by what we saw. We wanted to see the horse really stretch, and he certainly did that.

They worked over 1m but they probably only galloped properly for 5f, and when Frankie gave him a shake and a squeeze going into the dip, the horse took off. So hopefully not only has Galileo Gold benefited from the gallop, so has Frankie too, as he will now have even greater belief in the horse.

I must acknowledge the work of Toby Atkinson here, as he has ridden Galileo Gold virtually every day since he was a yearling and has done a masterful job. He was on Strong Steps in the gallop and was impressed with what he saw from Galileo Gold up front.

He was also delighted with Strong Steps, who is about a month away from his reappearance. Hopefully, that will be in a handicap at Newbury on Lockinge day, a race which his owners sponsor.

Early change of plan for Mengli Khan

We had contrasting fortunes at Newmarket last week, and the most irritating of all was the performance of Mengli Khan in the Fielden as it posed more questions than it answered.

We had some lofty ambitions for the horse - he is in the Dante and the Derby - but will now lower his sights and go for a 0-95 handicap over 1m2f at the Guineas meeting.

And one last point about his performance. The Racing Post reported that he was hanging, but he wasn't. He was pulling in a slowly-run race and he also lost his balance after having been asked to quicken and play catch-up into the dip on soft ground. There will be other days for him.

Options open for Gifted Master

Gifted Master was given a masterful ride by Pat Smullen when winning the sales race.

The horse isn't easy, and it was even a challenge to get the saddle on him at Newmarket. Basically, he just wants to get it over with as quickly as possible and go home to bed.

But he was impressive, and I may have a little re-think about where we go with him in the summer.

The original plan was the Jersey but, with Shalaa out, we may take a look at the Commonwealth Cup. Looking at the race as it stands right now you would possibly only have Buratino to really fear, though the likes of Acapulco and Washington DC would obviously be very serious rivals if they turned up.

On all known form, though, Shalaa looked potentially hard to beat in the Commonwealth Cup. So, while it is obviously frustrating for his connections that he is out for the first half of the season, then it clearly opens up the race for the other sprinting 2yos.

Gifted Master will be entered in the race today (Tuesday) and I will have a discussion with Bruce Raymond on where we go nearer the time. But the important thing was that he did it really well over 6f last week and we have options with him trip-wise now, as I thought he was more a miler than a sprinter.

His next race could be in the Charles II at Newmarket on May 14 over 7f, or the Carnarvon Stakes at Newbury on the same day over 6f.

Plenty of promise from our first 2yo runners

I thought our first 2yo runner of the season, Copper Knight, was coming to win his race, only to get leg-weary in the ground.

It was disappointing that he got tired but I think that was because his last piece of work had to be on Polytrack, and not grass, because of the weather and that he needed it more than we thought.

That can sometimes be the case with working on Polytrack, where the horses tend to have an easier time of it, but he obviously ran a very promising race and I will look to get him out in the early part of next week, at Windsor on Monday or Bath on Tuesday.

I was staggered that Zumran was backed into favouritism on her 2yo debut. If someone had asked me before the race I would have said that she was a good each-way shot at around 8-1 or 10-1, but no more.

And everything came as a surprise to her, too. She completely missed the break and didn't like the ground. However, she wasn't beaten far and, all things considered, I was delighted by her run. In fact, she missed the break further than she was beaten.

This week's entries

As for our runners this week, Nessita will go to Doncaster on Friday, all being well, with the ground set to dry out.

Over the winter I thought a huge amount of her, as you can probably tell from her Irish Oaks entry.

She has only had two runs and needs experience, so instead of overfacing her first time up, we will start her off at Doncaster in a 0-80 handicap on Friday - she is rated only 77 - and go on a fact-finding mission with her.

It was annoying to see Air Of Astana go up 2lb for his recent second, but that is the price for running horses honestly, I guess.

He is now rated 81, which rules out 0-80 handicaps for the time being, so I think that we will go down the maiden route with him at Wolverhampton on Saturday rather than the 81-95 handicap at Doncaster on the same day, or Haydock. He has left the impression that a step up to 1m4f will suit and hopefully he can be very competitive.

We have Hyperfocus in the 2yo 5f novice at Leicester on Saturday and he is a smashing colt. He has been working away nicely with four or five juveniles at home, which include Copper Knight. And there wouldn't be much between those two.

He has done little wrong at home and he is a gorgeous, jet-black colour. A rich, dark "black black" colt, shiny and stunning to look at. Looking at his action he shouldn't be inconvenienced by a bit of cut.

Home Of The Brave is also in at Leicester and he is ready for a run. In fact, I am desperate to run him. He is zinging at home, and couldn't be more ready for a run.

Hopefully the weather lets him take his chance at the weekend - he was ready to run at the Curragh three weeks ago but the ground there was as soft as I've ever seen it - and if it doesn't then I may ask to give him a racecourse gallop at Wolverhampton on Saturday night, or somewhere else.

It was described as good to yielding when he won the Minstrel Stakes last July, but I'm not sure what the actual going was. Official going descriptions often baffle me. I remember walking the course but it was the day after Covert Love won the Irish Oaks, so my memory is a bit hazy for some reason...

I can't wait to get him out, and he is the Lockinge next month. I think you can mark up his sixth in the Guineas, his only start over a mile to date, as he made the running into a strong headwind. He is a much stronger horse this season, but sometimes that can make them faster. We will see.

I withdrew Zorlu because of the ground at Windsor on Monday night, but he is entered at Ripon and Leicester on Saturday. He is a beautifully-bred horse from the family of Giant's Causeway.

He is a nice, big, horse but he has taken a long time to come to hand. There are races to be won with him and, while I'd be surprised if it was first time out, you never know.

More additions to the yard

I was lucky enough to bring six horses home from last week's Breeze-Ups at Newmarket, three by Kodiac, and the others by Invincible Spirit, Lope De Vega and Dragon Pulse.

The Breeze-Up consignors often tell you that the horses are ready to race, but personally I like to give them a break, even it is just a week or two. It can be a hell of an ordeal for a young horse, a lot of which have been brought over from Ireland too, so I back off them for a bit.

All six look lovely prospects, though, and a couple who were at grass for a week afterwards start back in ridden exercise tomorrow.

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