Phil the quality at Chester
Nothing excites like the whiff of an ante-post gamble, and even when the dust has settled and calmness been restored, the subject of the plunge becomes a curiosity until a substantial racecourse performance is witnessed.
A good example is the Michael Stoute-trained filly Phillipina, which takes its chance in today’s Weatherbys Bank Cheshire Oaks on the first day of Chester’s May meeting.
She has been beaten in two Newbury maidens, yet she will near enough be sent off favourite in one of the strongest renewals for several years.
No disrespect to Chester, but only a limited number of fillies make the successful progression to Epsom, though the Henry Cecil-trained Light Shift in 2007 is a prime example of one that did.
This could well prove a vintage year for Cheshire Oaks fillies. For, apart from Phillipina, John Oxx’s stable sends over Roses For The Lady following a solid win at Leopardstown in March, Barry Hills — on fire in the first six weeks of the season — saddles the interesting Simple Solution, while Michael Jarvis sends Hidden Brief in the wake of an eye-catcher at Sandown last month.
But what of this gamble on Phillipina? Stoute said: “With a race such as this, everybody is a little in the dark. But I like Phillipina. She’s been working well, and she should stay the trip. She’s bred to get it.
“She’s going to be a short price because somebody has latched on to her (in ante-post Oaks betting),” he added.
The plunge gathered momentum last Wednesday when the filly impressed in what Stoute described as a “sharp six-furlong work-out” and today will provide proof of whether the move was astute. She is my selection.
Roses For The Lady is by Sadler’s Wells out of a sister to the St Leger winner Millenary, and with Oxx’s horses running so well, it would be wise to show this filly the utmost respect. She looks the danger.
Last year, trainer Ian Williams sprang a 33/1 shock when saddling Bulwark to win the Chester Cup, and he can do it again with Double Banded, fourth last year, which will be a decent price. This five-year-old, bought out of John Dunlop’s yard, goes well fresh and has an inside draw.
Stoute reports that Evasive came out of the 2,000 Guineas in good order, though it has yet to be discussed whether the colt goes next to Ireland or is kept in reserve for the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Away from the glitter of the Classic scene came news yesterday of the retirement of one of jump racing’s most durable and honourable competitors.
Brave Inca has hung up his racing plates after a seven-year career that brought 10 Grade One victories including the 2006 Champion Hurdle.
The 11-year-old, also placed twice in the Cheltenham showpiece, finished down the field in this year’s edition, and was the last of nine runners at Punchestown last week.
“We always said we’d call it a day once he wasn’t up to competing with the best,” said trainer Colm Murphy.
“But it was great to have him around for so long.”