As the evenings draw in and the winter months begin to get ever closer the 2018 turf season comes to a close. It is now time to reflect on another successful season for the team at Hambleton Lodge. Soon the statistics return to zero and every trainer starts over again. This years stars are away on holiday and the hard work continues as the future begin their journeys. For the next couple of months the yearlings take centre stage as they begin their racing careers. It is a learning curve for them as they begin to get lessons that will see them become racehorses. Although starting from scratch, it won’t be long until they are seen on the track and hopefully adding to already powerful string for 2019.
So what did 2018 bring for Kevin and the team?? Brando came close to Group 1 glory again but did pick up his second Abernant (Group 3). There were 3 Group winning juveniles who really look promising horses for next year. We had our first Breeders Cup runner. Then there was a big sales race win, some top handicap performances and some promising horses for the future. It was also the highest earning year in Britain for prize money. Added to that was a $210,000 prize fund from USA and over E130,000 from France, which takes the overall prize money won to over £2 million.
This is always the category that takes top billing, the highest class of racing. It is always important to find Group winners and this year 4 horses managed to take this honour.
BRANDO again entered the year as the stable star, the flag bearer who would ensure that the yard would be on the biggest stages. After last years Group 1 success in France it was clear that he would again be targeting all the top sprint prizes in Europe. Initially Dubai was sounded out as his starting point for the season. Unfortunately he just wasn’t quite ready and it is certainly somewhere you need to be going in 110% condition.
Missing a trip to Dubai meant that he would follow the same path as 2017. The Group 3 Abernant Stakes, which he won last year, was again the first target. This years renewal was a stronger race which was shown by Brando’s price of 9/2. He looked as well as ever, travelling strongly throughout before quickening up and powering up the hill to take the race with a bit in hand. It set up a tilt at the Duke Of York and another crack at Harry’s Angel. Just 5 turned up for that race and although he ran another blinder, beating Sir Dancealot by further, he just had no answer to Harry’s Angel. Kevin decided that Royal Ascot was out of the question so went to Ireland just 10 days later for the Group 2 Greenland’s. It just came too soon, plus the winner Merchant Navy went on to win the Diamond Jubilee.
Freshened up, Brando lined up for the Group 1 July Cup. With the field splitting, Brando was left towards the stands side in a small group of 4. Cruising through the race Tom (Eaves) then had to switch over to the opposite side to lay down his challenge. Cutting through the field it looked as though Brando was coming with a winning run but just found one too strong in the final stages. It was a great run showing his bravery to finish 2nd, an improvement on his 3rd from last year. He went over to France after this to defend his crown in the Gr 1 Prix Maurice De Gheest. Just like his winning performance Brando travelled well throughout, coming down to the 2f marker on the bridle. Unfortunately this year the race didn’t pan out and the race developed away from him on slightly better ground. It was a good effort but just wasn’t to be.
Haydock was next and when the rain came it was clear that the Gr 1 Sprint Cup was going to be a test. Proving that he was as well as ever and as usual being overlooked, somehow going off at 16/1, Brando settled towards the rear. Again travelling with ease he crept into contention passing the 2f marker. When asked he quickened up well to throw down a massive challenge. For the first time ever he looked to have the measure of Harry’s Angel but towards his inner, The Tin Man was also bursting through. The pair would battle the finish out but Brando just came up short, going down by 1/2 length. He would finish his season on Champions Day in the Gr1 sprint. Brando would show his consistency again by finishing fourth in a very muddling and slowly run race, which just didn’t give him the chance to pick up the leaders.
It was a fine season again from Brando who really deserves another Gr1 win to his name. Although not adding that this year he arguable was the most consistent sprinter out there, turning up at most of the big occasions and very often finishing in the frame. Obviously he will be another year older next season but for his age he is still lightly raced and looks as well as ever. Brando will be back again and hopefully can earn that second top level win!!
EAST has only had three runs this year but has really thrown herself into people’s notebooks with some high class performances. She didn’t make her debut until September but quickly established herself as one of the best 2yo fillies in Europe. The daughter of Frankel was breaking records from the day she went through the sales ring, being the most expensive 2yo sold at Goresbridge Breeze Up sales. Kevin gave her time before unleashing the chestnut but she would show her class in all 3 runs.
Starting at Hamilton over 6f, you would be forgiven for not thinking that the Scottish track could be seeing a future star. Settled off the pace early on, East travelled well through the early stages. Shaken up 2f from home, she cut through the field before powering up the hill and making a smart winning debut. It was good form but going from that to Gr3 company would be a big ask. East headed to France for the Prix Thomas Byron. Again ridden patiently, she produced a devastating turn of foot. Flying down the outer, East swept past her rivals with ease under a hands and heels ride.
Dreams were big and a trip to the USA followed to give Kevin a first Breeders Cup runner. Lining up in the Gr1 Juvenile Fillies Turf, East had to overcome a horrible draw and a top class field. Whilst the winner, Newspaperofrecord, would go on to make all and win well, East endured a tough passage. Coming from last she was interrupted initially in her run but once a gap came 1 1/2f from home she showed her tenacity and turn of foot. Flying down the centre she passed all to grab 2nd in the closing strides.
East has thrived this year and her form really puts her in the top bracket of European fillies. She beat the 1000 Guineas favourite and Gr 1 winners so showed that she is very exciting. The winter break will do her great and obviously ideas will now turn to the classics next year.
EMARAATY ANA stood out from day one as an exciting juvenile and duly delivered this year. Having been bred by owner Ahmad Al Shaikh, he went on to secure group success for the owner before changing ownership to Sheikh Obaid Al Maktoum.
Ana made his debut early on in the season when travelling all the way to Windsor. That race revolved around one horse, the favourite Blown By Wind who had been very impressive on debut. Emaraaty Ana was always to the fore with the fav as the pair forged clear. When they headed into the final furlong neck and neck it was Ana who quickened up best and soon pulled clear. Winning by 2 1/2 lengths on his first run put Ana into the early equation for Royal Ascot betting. Opted to wait, feeling that Ana would do better with time to grow, feeling the Royal meeting was just too soon. After a short break he went on to finish 3rd in a Newbury listed event, showing inexperience.
Kevin had always had the Gr2 Gimcrack Stakes, a race he had won 3 time previously, in mind for Ana. The colt showed that he had learnt and grown up a lot since his last run. Jumping well and leading throughout the contest Ana laid it down to his rivals. Under a strong Frankie Dettori he kicked on from the front 1 1/2f from home. Having moved on he then had to battle bravely to repel a late thrust from Legends Of War. Ana repelled all comers to take the historic race by 1/2 length. The Group 1 Middle park was the obvious next step. He ran very well but just couldn’t finish as strongly as the first few, passing the line in fifth.
Anything that Emaraaty Ana did this year was going to be a bonus so to win a Gr2 shows how much potential he has. Ana certainly looks like a horse who will mature through the winter and there is a feeling he will need further. His breeding suggests that he will not be a sprinter so all eyes will be on the classics for him. It’s too early to tell but the Guineas will be a possible target and it will be great to see how he develops through the winter.
HELLO YOUMZAIN went from looking like an earlier type to developing into a powerhouse. That maturity saw the Kodiac Colt grow in stature and thrive with the time given to him. With each passing week his work got better and better so when he turned up at Carlisle to make his debut it looked like a good opportunity. Travelling with ease towards the rear in the early stages, Youmzain moved through the field powerfully at halfway. Still hard on the bridle he moved up to the favourite 1 1/2f from home before sweeping past and kicking clear. A winning margin of 4 lengths confirmed what everyone at home thought.
It would have been understandable to go straight for pattern company but Kevin stuck with the Novice route. Having won so easily but Kevin felt that more experience was needed. Youmzain ran very well but he just went down, by a nose, trying to conceded a 5lb penalty. The winner went on to listed success and looks likely to be a rival coke their 3yo season, so the form was very strong.
Despite the loss Kevin knew just what he had on his hands and opted for the Criterium de Maissons-Laffitte, a group 2 in France. Allowed to bowl along he loved the soft ground and travelled powerfully throughout. Just hitting a slight flat spot about halfway, Kevin Stott soon had Youmzain gathered up and sent for home. Quickening up well over 2 1/2f from home, Hello Youmzain kicked clear with plenty to do. Despite drifting over to the rail he crushed the field, pulling clear and looking very smart. Eased down in the last strides, Hello Youmzain took the Group 2 by 2 1/2 lengths.
Strong and powerful, Youmzain looks like a real sprinter although he does finish his races very strong. It will be interesting to see what lies ahead for him but he has established himself as a very smart horse. If he is to fill his frame and strengthen up then he could really be a sprinter to follow. Races such as the Commonwealth Cup could be on his radar next year.
It was a young team this year as over the past couple of seasons there has been retirements and a lot more younger horses coming through to replace. That being said there were some top performances from the older brigade and it’s funny to say about older horses but there are some real improvers who could go on to better things next year.
Of the sprinters MAJOR JUMBO proved to be the top performer. After winning on his seasonal return everything looked set for a big year. Ultra consistent he was always there on Saturdays in the big handicaps. His form was quality but also so agonising as he was always in the mix. Figures read 342332 showing his amazing consistency. He saved the best for last though and signed off for the year by taking the 6f Coral Sprint Trophy at York. It was the first time he had got a real lead deep into the race and nobody could argue that he wasn’t deserving of a “big one”. Now rated 107 he will look at the big handicaps and possible pattern races for next year. He looks like a proper sprinter where the better races will suit.
COMPANY ASSET was another to save her best till last, taking listed honours on the final day of the season. Having proven to be of that calibration last year, finishing 2nd in France, this season was all about trying to gain that black type win. Starting early in the season the ground just proved to be against her, although she ran very well considering. Patience was what was required and connections waited until the rain would come. After a break she ran very well in a York Handicap before heading to Doncaster for season finale. Testing ground and the time of the played right into her favour and the filly didn’t disappoint. Racing in rear she scythed through the field before quickening clear and striding out to an impressive 2 1/2 lengths winner. She earned the all important black type win and repaid the patience shown by Hambleton Racing.
EVERYTHING FOR YOU & ARMANDIHAN are two horses owned by Mr Rahman who could go on to bigger things over middle distance next year. Everything For You has improved a stone in the handicap and proven to be very consistent. With 3 2nd placed efforts and a dominating win he improved through the ranks to go on to compete in the November Handicap. He ran well for his first try in that grade and looks like that is where he will race next year. Armandihan has been a bit hit and miss but the stamina test looks his fortay. Only one win this season but he had some good efforts in defeat and is only 1lb higher than when he started. With more maturity he can improve again next year.
TOMMY TAYLOR had big expectations this year but failed to deliver. Ground and disappointing efforts were frustrating but at the end of the season there were some positive signs. New tactics look likely to be the key and he is one for the top handicaps next year as he has the ability to take one. NAADIRR won on the opening weekend of the season and looked like he could really be a force this year. Unfortunately he is a law to himself. Very good when he wants but frustrating when he doesn’t. He will come back again next year with a similar agenda and hopefully he can have more good days than bad, although he will decide that. LUALIWA was another to win early in the season. He bolted up at Musselburgh but then had to battle some terrible draws. It also became clear that now he enjoys ease in the ground. He was very unfortunate not to gain another win when he ran great at Chester but ran into a well handicapped rival. Now knowing his ground preference, Lualiwa will be campaigned around this and he will start next year on a favourable mark, hopefully he can get some more luck with draws. Another well handicapped horse could be PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH who was a new recruit. This year Kevin was learning about him and he put up some good runs in defeat. Being a hold up horse he can get unlucky in running, which happened a few times, but once he gets his head in front he could improve from his current mark next year. MOUNT TAHAN made great strides on the AW when stepped up to 1m2f and after a couple of below efforts it was decided that he will he raced there with the AW finals day being the aim.
3 YEAR OLDS
Heading into this season there looked a nice bunch of 3yr olds who could improve through the season and go on to better things. They proved this to be true and they also look likely to continue that progression next year too.
HEY JONESY was the one coming into the year with the form in the book and plans afoot. Having finished his 2yr old season with a fine 4th in the Group 1 Middle Park Jonesy had shown his class. Not built like a sprinter, Kevin wanted to see whether he was or whether he could tackle Classics. Mid division in the European Free Handicap over 7f didn’t really answer any questions but his home work following that run did. He got quicker and looked like his future was definitely in the speed division. All eyes were on Royal Ascot so a good 2nd in a 5f listed race at York set him up for the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup. He ran a huge race to finish 5th, which could have been better with a more favourable draw. Showing himself to be a quality 3yo, Jonesy then went off the boil, just not being his typical self in mid summer. Thankfully he bounced back to form in his final two runs. Finishing 3rd in an Ascot Group 3 set him up for the listed Wentworth Stakes at Doncaster. He had the race won everywhere bar the line, where he was just collared in the last couple of strides. It proved he was back and with a winter on his back he could well come back next year even better. He looks like a horse who appreciates a little ease in the ground. Hey Jonesy is a group horse and will be aiming for those races next year, where he could really make a mark.
We won’t be seeing her next season as she is off to stud but ELNADIM STAR flew through the ranks in just 4 runs. Starting at Wetherby she got up late on to complete the hat-trick of wins, having finished her juvenile season with two on the spin. Stepping up to 6f she ran very well to finish 2nd in a top handicap. Having won 3 times and gone up to 91, Kevin decided to tackle pattern company. Elandim Star took the step up seemlessly, comfortably winning the Land O’Byrne listed race at Ayr. Taking on older horses and out of her own sex group, Elnadim would round off her season in the Beverley Bullet. It was a fine effort to finish third, in a race that would see the winner go close in Gr1 Company. Unfortunately we won’t see her on the track again as owner Mr J Abdullah Will now send her to the breeding sheds but she will surely make a lovely Broodmare.
There’s a couple of sprinters to really look forward too next year but SAVALAS & STORMBRINGER had different profiles this season. SAVALAS started off on the AW to utilise his nice mark of 79. He comfortably won on his comeback at Wolverhampton. Then off 7lb more he did the same next time out at Thirsk. He completed the hat-trick at Hamilton in a conditions event. All those wins came over 5f so when he stepped up to 6f for the first time at York he was doing so with a few question marks plus 19lbs higher than just weeks before. A fine 2nd proved he was equally adept over 6f. Unfortunately his form petered off for a couple of runs but he finished the season with a solid 3rd in a good conditions race. Stormbringer came into the season with a high mark and maintained it throughout. Having shaped like a 7f horse as a juvenile and at in his home work, this wold be the trip for his first 3 runs. It was 3 good, solid performances but as he raced and with time, Stormbringer got stronger and quicker. Trying 6f for the first time, he went agonisingly close in an ultra competitive 3yo Handicap at Newmarket. Soft ground scuppered him when returning there but he got back on track with a fine 2nd to top sprinter Limato in the Garrowby Listed Stakes At York. Now off 103 he will have to look at the top handicaps and possible pattern company from there.
KNIGHTED improved hand over fist. After getting off the mark on his second run, he had a couple of rough races. Thankfully they didn’t affect him and he went on a nice run, making a mockery of his 77 handicap mark. Two wins at Redcar and one at Pontefract showed that he was a very progressive 3yo. He loved to just bowl along so a line can be drawn through his final run where there was a big draw bias due to the ground. With a mark of 91 he will need to continue his progression but with his attitude it would be no surprise to see him make the step up in grade to tackle top 1mile handicaps.
Although he didn’t get the number of wins that may have been expected, AYUTTHAYA looks a lovely prospect. There was a lot of expectation from him when he returned off a mark of 86, which looked well below his potential. Very soft ground didn’t allow him to show his best form but he quickly made amends to win a Novice race next time out at Thirsk. Gelded following that run he went on to finish 2nd over 1m, then again when stepped up to 1m1f. His final 2 runs were huge asks, tackling listed company at Ayr and then taking on elders in a York premier handicap. He will only improve with time and next year could see him thrive. He is still unexposed at the trip and could well be horse for something like the John Smiths Cup.
You will struggle to find a horse tougher than HOW BIZARRE who just goes out and runs as hard as he can every time. With two wins to his name it was a good season but he also managed to only finish outside the first 3 on one occasion. Will improve for the winter break and still on a fair mark so he could be a really fun horse to follow. MONT KINABALU delivered two thrilling wins, cutting through his rivals and landing the race in the dying strides. He looked like a really progressive horse but for some reason his form just tailed off following that brace. He has had a break since his last run and will continue on the AW to try and find the spark again. Back down to 78 and if he recaptures his form then a win will be coming soon enough. QUEENS SARGENT gained a much deserved first win when dominating a Novice race at Musselburgh. Unfortunately for him the summer months provided no relief from quick ground. Once he got back to ease underfoot o his form took a big upturn again. He finished the season with two solid efforts, runner up in both. He will be campaigned with the ground in mind next year and could be dangerous off his mark because he certainly tries very very hard. COMMANDER HAN announced himself with a 7 length destruction at Chelmsford. That was his first win and he returned there with a solid 2nd too. Unfortunately he couldn’t build on that when tried back on turf. His form came back though when he went back to the AW and this could lead Kevin to try and qualify for the finals day on Good Friday. He is a nice horse and it wouldn’t be any surprise to see him improve next year when tried again on turf.
2 YEAR OLDS
Wetherbys Always renowned as one of the best trainers of youngsters, Kevin once again enjoyed a good season. With 3 of his juveniles turning in Group success there was also other smart performances as well as some nice 3yo types who gained vital experience.
The big sales races offer huge prize money so it’s no surprise that they are very competitive. THE GREAT HEIR cut through the field to take the Wetherbys sales race at Doncaster. He was always one of the first juveniles to come to hand and looked a real sharp type for the early season. Making his debut in April his first couple of runs were full of promise. The form of those races turned out to be very strong so it was no surprise to see him off the mark at the third attempt. That was followed up by a strong win in a York nursery when stepped up to 6f. Down the field at Goodwood, he bounced back in the DBS sales race back at York. With a feeling that he could get a little further the Doncaster race over 6 1/2f looked the perfect opportunity. Settled in the rear of the field he travelled supremely well throughout. Picking off rivals one by one he came with a storming run down the far side before powering on and repelling all comers. It was a huge performance which pocketed owner Dave Stone a cool £147,540. The handicapper hasn’t been very harsh following that win and he will kick off next year off 90. With his form that looks fair and it’ll be interesting to see whether he is a sprinter or will get a bit further. The top 3yo handicaps will be first port of call.
A couple of fillie, QUEEN JOJO & GLASS SLIPPERS look smart prospects and hopefully can progress to the top level. Jojo got her win on her 2nd start when comfortably taking a Novice race at Beverley. Knowing she was nice, Kevin stepped her straight up in grade to one of the very best fillies group races, the Group 2 Lowther at York. She ran a massive race to finish 3rd, showing signs of inexperience throughout which proved her class. The first two went on to fill the same spots in the Group 1 Cheveley Park so it was a very good race. Glass Slippers made a promising debut, then was very unlucky in running before shedding her maiden at the 3rd attempt. She followed that by a fine performance at Chester, taking a conditions event. Both fillies finished the year off in the Group 3 Firth Of Clyde Stakes at Ayr. The result of 4th (Jojo) and 6th (Slippers) was better than it suggests. Dead, tacky ground scuppered both fillies. They both look likely to improve as 3yo and possibly get further so a trial may be in order to see if they could be classic bound or back to sprinting.
Another 2yo who is lightly raced and has big plans is SECRET VENTURE. After a debut win at Leicester, where Jamie Spencer rode hands and heels, he was being aimed at some top class races. Unfortunately the summer whether meant he had to be waited with until a bit of juice was around. That wasn’t to come so the DBS sales race at York was his second start. In the big field, which created a very rough race, his lack of experience just cost him at the business end. Dropped in trip to 5f once more he headed to Ayr with ground that he had yearned for all year. The Listed race brought together some very speedy juveniles. Venture cruised through the race and when Danny Tudhope edged out for some room 2f from home he got a surprise. The colt took off and in a matter of strides went clear. It wasn’t the plan but it nearly worked until the testing conditions took their toll in the final 50yards. He ran a great race to finish 3rd and showed that he had learnt. He could well be a very smart sprinter and looks all speed so that’s what the aim will be next year, possible the very best 5f Group races out there.
Hambleton Racing enjoyed winners at the start and end of the year with CELEBRITY DANCER & MAGICAL SPIRIT. Dancer was an impressive debut winner at Pontefract. Strangely he got his first runs the wrong way round and going back to the track he proved to be very green and immature when finishing 3rd in a conditions race. Not to worry though he got back on track next start, winning another Novice race at Ayr. It was time to go for the big prize and the DBS sales race at York. Trying to make all he ran very well finishing 4th. Unfortunately his final start in the Doncaster equivalent didn’t go to plan. He’s a lovely individual and has the scope to go on as a 3yo, possible could get further too. With a mark of 90 he has plenty to aim at. Magical Spirit was a late breeze up purchase so didn’t make his debut until July. All three of his runs were at Beverley and with each one he got better and better, learning all the time. Improving with racing he rounded off by winning at the third attempt. The handicapper hasn’t given him a mark yet so it will be interesting to see what he can do next year. Big and powerful he will certainly do better once he has matured over the winter.
YOUSINI always shaped like a nice individual and thankfully he proved it. Hamilton was where he made his debut and there was plenty of confidence behind him. That dissipated when he found loads of trouble in running but his class shone through as he quickened up and won anyway. That was followed by another win over 5f in a Carlisle Novice race, which worked out very well. Crying out for 6f he got that step up in the Ripon Hornblower. Trying to make all he just didn’t quite handle the track but race well to finish runner up. After not performing on unsuitable ground next time out he went on his holidays and is a nice horse to look forward to. The top 3yo sprint handicaps are an obvious starting point.
For any juvenile to win multiple times is impressive but with a record of 4 wins, 3 seconds and a third from her 8 runs, PRINCESS DES SABLES had a first season to remember. With three runs under her belt it was Hamilton where she dominated. Three nursery wins were rattled off north of the border, seeing her mark rise from an opening 68 to 84 and the filly taking their 2yo series. She needed to step up in grade and she did at Chester. From the worse possible draw she sat in the unfavourable position of dead last before sweeping past her rivals and landing the class 2 nursery, giving her her fourth straight win. Stepping up to conditions class she rounded the season off with a good 2nd at Newcastle. She has been a star this year and with her great attitude she should have no problem off 89 next season, with some nice fillies only races available.
Guy Reed Racing enjoyed four winners this year with THREE CARD TRICK, CONGA, TRIPLE DISTILLED & DAME GLADYS. The latter pair have headed to new ventures having been sold but the former will be back. Trick had a good level of form before getting off the mark. Very soft ground hindered any chance of performing on his final start. Being a full brother to Tiddliwinks it would be no surprise to see him get better with age. Conga is one from one after making an impressive debut. She travelled well and galloped on powerfully towards the end. She always looked a 3yo so Kevin has taken his time with her. She looks nice and could get further than the 6f she won over.
Whislt there were plenty of winning juveniles there are some who haven’t managed it yet but will surely be doing so before long. MO EMMAD ALI, GEORGE MALLORY & SHAQWAR all looked like they would need a trip. They have show promise so far and with time they will surely develop into nice horses. SENSE OF BELONGING has had good form whilst not getting his head in front. RATHBONE was always impressive at home and it is amazing to think that he is still a maiden. Possibly still weak he will certainly be winning soon and could be a smart 3yo. JOEY BOY is still learning and will have a few runs on the AW before making plans for next year and once he matures mentally he will be winning. SWINGING EDDIE is a giant of a juvenile but has blistering speed. Again he might be one that just needs time to fill his frame before being able to show his best.
So with what has run this year it looks like 2019 could be one of the strongest teams ever assembled at Hambleton Lodge. Kevin, along with Steven Hillen, have been busy buying yearlings in recent months. With usual support from loyal owners there are some new faces welcomed to the team too. Sheikh Obaid Al Maktoum has also put his support to the yard which has seen some very well bred yearlings arrive in the yard. It is all about the preparation now and although the season has only just finished, it will soon be back around where everyone is readying themselves for the opening meeting at Doncaster.