Race Date: 3.20pm Wednesday 16th September 2016 Meeting: Sandown
Distance: 1m 14yds
Full Race Name: Racehorse Sanctuary Remembers Moorcroft Boy Fortune Stakes (Listed Race) Class One
Although “only” a Listed race we have a contest that may answer a few questions and tell us all the direction the horses will be going in next, be that the winner, or those who finish placed, or even out the back of the field. In September 2013, Kingsclere trainer Andrew Balding introduced an unraced colt, a son of Dubai Sheema Classic winner Phoenix Reach out of a Dashing Blade mare who, unsurprisingly, needed the run as do most of the stables debutants, before finishing third at odds of 7/1. The grin on the faces of connections at the time will live long in our memory as they clearly knew he would improve for the run, and so it proved as he went on to win his next four races, starting with a Newbury maiden where he beat Constable Buckley by three lengths at odds of 9/4. Stepped up through the grades sensibly, testing his abilities race on race, he took a Listed race next at Salisbury, followed by the Group Two Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket (where he saw off Nafaqa by a length), and culminating with the Group One Racing Post Trophy which he took by to and three quarter lengths for the Aiden O’Brien trained Aloft. By now, some of you will have worked out that we are talking about the highly regarded Elm Park, who them went in to winter quarters with very high hopes of classic success in 2015, be that the 2000 Guineas, The Derby, or hopefully both!
Sadly, the best laid plans of mice and men don’t always go according to plan, and despite a massive fan club including us, this season has failed to be as rewarding as expected, all be it with room to turn it around (well, sort of). The original plan was to head straight to Newmarket for the Guineas, but fast ground soon put an end to that plan (though we are not sure why, on breeding it should not be an issue), and he eventually reappeared in mid May at York in the Dante Stakes, a recognised Derby trial and where we felt he ran a big race, quickening up to take the lead before weakening late on and fading in to third behind Golden Horn and Jack Hobbs, and we all know by now that makes it up in to top class form. His next (and turns out to be last) run was at Epsom in the Derby where connections were hopeful of a huge run but it all went wrong with either the Good to Firm going or more likely the mile and a half trip proving way too much for him as he trailed in eleventh of twelve, beaten twenty lengths at the line and basically not running to his true abilities. In hid defence, he was too lit up too early, pulled too hard and was then allowed to go on but his backers all knew their fate pretty early in the race and live to fight another day. He did apparently return a little sore but we doubt that explains his summer absence of over 100 days and it I equally interesting to see him return to the mile this afternoon.
We suspect that a mile and a quarter would be his ideal trip (so why did he miss the Coral Eclipse and then the Juddmonte Stakes we wonder), and that this afternoon is a warm up race ahead of the Champion Stakes at Ascot next month, so can we expect him to win today – or not? On official ratings he is the best horse in the race by eight pounds and if anywhere near fit he wins with his head in his chest, but that is the big question after such a long lay off and with bigger fish to fry, and he may even be worth opposing to small stakes for some today for that very reason, even if we aren’t quite that brave! Gabrial is officially his closest rival on the ratings but Richard Fahey’s six year old is proving hard to win with of late after taking the Lincoln handicap at Doncaster back in March, with a run of ten consecutive losses, though he did run his best race for some while last time out when runner up to Kodi Bear at Goodwood, and if there are any flaws in Elm Park he seems the most likely to take advantage. One other horse worthy of a mention has to be the Roger Varian trained Decorated Knight – after all, the horse is in form and so is the yard. A maiden win at Haydock and a class three handicap here at Sandown hardly suggests he is up to mixing it in this exalted company but he is improving all the time and could well surprise a few of these as they flash past the line.