Hoping to resume progress after must-have gelding op
13:50 Newbury - Never Back Down
Good Friday at Lingfield was obviously a disaster for Never Back Down. We'd identified an issue with him some weeks before in that he was a rig with one very high testicle, but we successfully got him through to his race by training him with muscle relaxants and painkillers, and he arrived at Lingfield in great nick, and with the issue ostensibly solved. Unfortunately, at racing pace something was clearly hurting him a great deal, to the extent that he almost ran off the track, and we had him gelded at the first opportunity thereafter.
Gelding can be normally performed standing, but with him being a rig (having an undescended testicle), it was more complicated and needed a general anaesthetic, and this is his first run back from there.
I'm pleased to say there hasn't been a recurrence of his problem, and any associated signs of temperament, and that issue is now behind us, while we've also found that he's much more focused since working in blinkers, and hopefully that will ensure that he keeps straight even if there is a temptation of a repeat of Lingfield.
We believe he goes to Newbury pretty straight, and with the issues of the past behind him, but even so, he will need to improve markedly on anything he's done in order to trouble the principals in this race, which is one of the more valuable events of its type, and hotly contested as a result. I hope he can at least resume his progress after his disappointment at Lingfield, and provide us with more answers than questions as we plan the rest of his campaign.
Career-best needed but hopefully cheekpieces will help
15:00 Newbury - Dukhan
Dukhan is a victim of his own consistency, running well but creeping up the handicap without winning. We put a ring bit on at the Guineas Meeting, and he travelled very sweetly for Frankie, who came back and said he thought he might have won but for dropping his whip, which was very honest of him.
I toyed with the idea of putting cheekpieces on him at Newmarket, but decided against it as we were already doing something different with the bit, but I'm putting them on now, as I think it will aid his concentration at the finish, and I'm sure Frankie will be keen to keep hold of his stick to help in that regard too!
He needs to pull out another career best to score, but this race has been his target for some time as his owners sponsor the card, and it would be nice to give them a winner to mark the day.
Conditions set to suit but should come on for the run
15:15 Newmarket - Encrypted
Encrypted was gelded after his final start last season, and then had a chip removed from his knee around Christmas time, and this is his first run back. He's ready to go now, although I'd still expect him to come on for the run.
There's no doubt that his best form last season came around a turn, but his work in a straight line has always been good, and perhaps being gelded will make him a bit braver about racing on a straight track, and we'll see here. Like most Showcasings, he seems to go very well on fast ground, and conditions ought to suit, but these 0-105 handicaps at Newmarket take some winning.
Debutant pleases me and has a great attitude
16:15 Newbury - Almufti
Almufti is a smashing colt, who is bred to get a bit further than six furlongs, and I dream that he'll be a decent miler for next year. He's a big, powerful colt, who looks more like a three-year-old, and he has pleased me in everything he's done since walking into the yard. He's got a positive attitude, and a will to please, and that's very much what he does.
I'd be very hopeful he could run a good race, and while he's a newcomer taking on previous winners, I do like my horse, and they've got to give him weight, so fingers crossed he can go well.
Winning first time isn't the be-all and end-all, of course, and it should be remembered that Shalaa was fancied for this contest on his racecourse bow a few years ago and finished stone last before going on to win a couple of Group 1 races later in the season.
Bold-showing expected if seeing out the trip
17:40 Thirsk - Temur Khan
There aren't a lot of options for horses like him at middle-distances, and I'd ideally have preferred to have run him over 10 furlongs again, but I'm fairly confident he'll stay this longer trip. Pat Cosgrave liked him very much when he rode him at Chelmsford and keeps the partnership intact.
He's an immature horse, but improving with everything he does, and he will certainly do better again on this third outing, so as long as he stays the mile and a half, I would expect him to give a very good account of himself.