Royal Ascot is the next stop for Sceptical, the highest-rated sprinter in Ireland. Not bad for a horse who cost owner James McAuley less than three thousand pounds. Denis Hogan is rapidly proving himself as one of the finest young trainers in Ireland.
His is a dual-purpose yard but it’s the sprinters who are putting him on the map. In just over five months last year, Hogan took the 66-rated Make A Challenge to a mark of 112. He won six times – five handicaps – before beaten less than three lengths in the Qipco Champions Sprint. Sceptical looks set to add to the yards Group 1 sprinting talent.
Bred by Godolphin, injuries prevented Sceptical from ever reaching the track for the ‘boys in blue.’ He turned up at the Goffs sales last August as an unraced four-year-old, a horse few showed interest in. On the sale day that the Cheltenham Festival fifth, The Bosses Oscar, joined Gordon Elliot for £75,000 this unheralded bay gelding went to Denis Hogan for just £2,800.
Third on his debut at Dundalk at the end of October, that has been his only defeat so far. The fitting of a tongue strap saw improvement but it was the drop from six furlongs to five that saw the biggest progression. In his second handicap, already with a mark of 101 to defy, he scored by six and a half lengths.
It was another demolition job on Monday at Listed level. A high cruising speed saw his rivals all off the bridle before he kicked in the turbo to go clear. That showed that he handles turf just as well as Polytrack, opening up a wealth of opportunities for connections.
Royal Ascot is the plan and while he will also get a Diamond Jubilee entry over six furlongs, the King’s Stand will be the main target. Now second favourite for that five furlong contest behind Battaash, the early 7/1 offered after his dominant Naas success has long gone. Generally a 5/1 chance, he looks set for his biggest challenge to date.
Hogan said in the aftermath, “He did a piece of work up Charlie Swan’s last Tuesday. I’ve seen a lot of horses go up that gallop, but I’ve never seen one come up as quickly and as powerful as him.” After just five career starts, the scary thought is that there should be more to come. He adds another fascinating layer to Royal Ascot which starts on the 16th of June.