The year 2020 was always going to be one to remember, it would be a year that would go down in the history books and would live long in the memory. Just before the flat season was about to begin the world was turned upside down with the pandemic, locking down the country and in turn shutting down racing. Everything was unknown, nobody knew if or when the season may start but horses were still being trained and looked after. Thankfully the enforced closure of racing was quickly lived through and the racecourse were able to host meetings behind closed doors. Since June, the shortened flat season has produced some memorable days and after the first few months 2020 has been very good with huge results and plenty to look forward. After a year of massive highs and anxious lows it was fantastic to see a positive return and hopefully normality will resume in 2021.
The 2020 season was primed to be an important year for a couple of Group 1 sprinters. HELLO YOUMZAIN & GLASS SLIPPERS were the stars of 2019, racking up a trio of Group 1’s between them and making a bit of history. This season they were no longer up and coming stars but the main protagonists in the division who were expected to make big statements in the top races.
The strapping Kodiac colt earned his first Group 1 success in 2019 as a progressive 3yr old. Having done well in his own age group, Hello Youmzain emphatically took the Haydock Sprint with a powerful, front running performance. Following this performance the colt was snapped up by Haras D’Etreham and Cambridge Stud who invested in Hello Youmzain for a future stallion prospect.
This season Hello Youmzain would be carrying new colours but the plan was the same. With his future in mind it would be very important for the colt to pick up another Group 1. Obviously this is far easier said than done but in 2020 Hello Youmzain would one of the of the leading stars of the sprinting division which would also mean that he would have a target on his back from the up and comers. Plans for the season ahead was fairly straight forward as all the top sprints were the targets following his opening run.
Starting at York in May, Hello Youmzain would tackle the Gr 2 Duke Of York to set him up for the year ahead. Unfortunately that plan was quickly scrapped when the country was put into lockdown and racing was closed. Although everything remained as normal as possible back in the yard, with all horses still working as though racing was going ahead, the return was unknown. Thankfully it became clearer fairly quickly and the BHA announced a restart date which allowed Royal Ascot to go ahead, the first major target for Hello Youmzain.
The Group 1 Diamond Jubilee is one of the sprinting Crown Jewels in British Racing but this year would have a slightly different feel. Behind closed doors and the majority of the field would be heading into the contest with no seasonal run behind them. Hello Youmzain had done fantastic at home and looked in great condition going down to the Royal meeting but there is nothing better than having race fitness in the tank. Having placed himself firmly at the top of the sprinting division the previous year, many were eagerly awaiting the return of the 4yr old Kodiac colt. The line up attracted the usual suspects but the added edge was the fairytale story of Sceptical. This 4yr old gelding had been unraced 8 months previously but had quickly risen through the ranks. Pre lockdown he had dominated on the AW then returned with an impressive listed win just 12 days before Ascot. This led punters making the Irish challenger the 2-1f over Hello Youmzain who would go off 4-1.
Kevin Stott had enjoyed his biggest days on board Hello Youmzain and after losing the ride last season he was back on board for Ascot. Hello Youmzain’s greatest attribute is his powerful, long stride which he had used in devastating style when winning his Gr1 at Haydock. Despite the pressure and big occasion, Kevin oozed confidence from the off, kicking Hello Youmzain out from the gates he took almost a couple of lengths out go the field. Getting the start he wanted, Hello Youmzain headed straight into the lead and took the field along at a brisk pace. Only one rival stayed away to race solo so Youmzain was left to lead the main body of the field down the centre of the track. The Fav closely followed him throughout and through the first couple of furlongs Stott allowed his mount to edge closer and closer to the stands rail. By the halfway stage he had made his way over and held the overall lead. The move had been matched by all bar one and so the group covered down the stands side.
Kevin began working and winding Youmzain up 2 1/2f from home. As they moved into the final 2f he held a very narrow lead but looked susceptible to a few strong travellers. Hello Youmzain was in a real battle and Kevin was hard at work as Sceptical snatched the lead away just over 1f from home. The writing may have looked to be on the wall but after going down by a neck Hello Youmzain rallied. Bravely he dug deep and kept hold of the fav. Now with 100 yards to run he managed to retake the lead and was finishing powerfully. He had the measure of Sceptical but there was a fast finish coming down the outside. Dream Of Dreams was eating the ground up but it was too late. Hello Youmzain battled all the way to the line to take his second career Group 1.
Unfortunately throughout the year Hello Youmzain could not add to this great result but did go close once more. His next race would be the July Cup and the colt looked primed to tackle the young pretender to the sprinting crown Golden Horde. The two Ascot Group 1 winners were the talk of the race, along with Sceptical again. Unfortunately the writing was on the wall over 2f out as Hello Youmzain just failed to handle the dip of Newmarket’s July course. He performed admirably and tried very hard but was unable o really put hi best foot forward.
Haras d’Etreham is situated just an hour away from Deauville racecourse so the Prix Maurice De Gheest, which was his next target, was a big day for the French Stud. Hello Youmzain really bounced back to his best. From the start it looked as though he was primed for a big run when Youmzain jumped away quickly and headed to the front. Leading down the stands side rail he made the best of his way home and repelled every challenge laid down. Into the final furlong Hello Youmzain had kicked on to try and secure the race, rallying as he had done at Ascot. Unfortunately this time there was a blistering finish from Space Blues who quickened up to snatch the win in the final 50 yards. Hello Youmzain had done everything right but was caught late on to go down by 3/4 length.
The last time Hell Youmzain would be seen on the track was one of his most unfortunate races. Rearing slightly just as the stalls opened, he sacrificed any chance of leading and Stott had to sit just off the pace. This nullified his natural asset and Youmzain could never really improve from his fifth position. After weeks of deliberation following that run connections decided to retire the 4yr old after a glittering career.
Hello Youmzain will be sorely missed at Hambleton Lodge but leaves everyone with great memories. He finished his racing career with 5 wins from just 12 starts, 10 of those being in Group company. Youmzain picked up two Group 1 wins at both 3 and 4 yrs old, as well as two Group 2’s. He gained a career high mark of 118 and proved to be one of the best sprinters in his generation. Although everyone is sad to see him go, there is no doubt that he will have a fine home as he begins his stud career. Haras d’Etreham and Cambridge Stud will be splitting the stallion duties as Hello Youmzain will be standing in the North and South Hemispheres. Hopefully he can be as successful in the breeding world as he was in the racing. It was a privilege to have Hello Youmzain throughout his career and to see him win Group 1’s for Mr Jaber Abdullah, Haras d’Etreham and Cambridge Stud.
This year for Glass Slippers was about proving she was at the top of the sprinting division. Her Abbaye win was always going to be questioned unless she could back it up in 2020. Kevin was confident that she could and knew his filly’s program would be geared towards the second half of the season, when Glass Slippers thrives. It didn’t mean she would be sat in her box waiting and the season plan was put into place, starting with the Royal meeting.
Sprinters do not come around more popular and spoken about than Battash. His previous antics along with his star quality have seen the 6yr old make headlines as one of the greatest 5f sprinters of all time. It was him who was beaten fav by Glass Slippers in the 2019 Prix De L’Abbaye and post race there was as much written about his poor run as Slippers win. The pair would clash at Ascot for the seasonal return of Glass Slippers. She showed up well for a long way down the centre of the track, travelling strong to the 1f marker. It was at this stage that Battash took off and put the race to bed. Unfortunately Glass Slippers couldn’t match that and ended up finishing fifth. Although to the outside world it may look disappointing, connections were delighted with the filly and were confident she would come on from this race and the coming months. The certainly was true next time out when Glass Slippers chased home Battash once more but this time finishing runner up at Goodwood. She was starting to really come to herself and a decision was to be made for her next start.
There was two options for Glass Slippers, the Nunthorpe at York or the Flying Five at the Curragh. Although she could take in both races, connections were keen to have her fresh for one of them to have her at her very best. With unsettled weather forecast before and during the Ebor festival it was decided that Ireland should be the call. Battash took his second Nunthorpe but was made to work very hard for it under testing conditions.
Glass Slippers headed to the Flying Five as one of the leading contenders but arguably should have been favourite, as the only Group 1 winner in the field. It was a big British raising party who headed over for the race and they dominated the betting.Que Amoro had gone close in the Nunthorpe with her blistering speed and attempted to do the same here. Glass Slippers was drawn in stall 2 and was smartly, moving forward up the inside. It didn’t take long before she was pushed back by a quartet of British fillies. Que Amoro led and set a frantic pace which saw Glass Slippers edged back into fifth spot. Tom didn’t panic and try to take back his place but rather sat off the pace to take a lead. Travelling well in behind, Glass Slippers got to the halfway stage in contention but just had to get a little bit of urging from Tom to lengthen. Those in from came under pressure also as Tom switched to the inside to lay down his challenge. Passing the 2f marker Glass Slippers moved through smoothly to join in with the leaders. Que Amoro weakened as Glass Slippers challenged alongside Keep Busy and Maid In India. This trio were three abreast entering the final furlong and it was now that Glass Slippers started to hit top gear. Glass Slippers along the rail and Keep Busy began to assert. The pair edged clear but couldn’t be separated with 100 yards to run. It was a ding dong battle but Glass Slippers was just beginning to edge it in the latter stages. She was finishing just the stronger despite a brave challenge from Look Busy and grabbed her second Group 1 by 1/2 length.
It was quite clear what would be next in line and again Glass Slippers would be jumping on the ferry to race. Heading over to Longchamp, she would go in defence of her Prix de L’Abbaye crown. With Heavy ground welcoming the sprinters to France, Battash defected from the race leaving Glass Slippers as the race’s leading contender. The filly would be sent off favourite in a follow up bid and this looked to be in the process for most of the race. Unfortunately having been drawn wide, Tom had needed to use a bit of energy up early on to get a position. This had given the pair the best chance but with the ground more testing than 12 months ago, Glass Slippers just couldn’t find that little bit extra to reel in the winner. It was a very brave defence but Glass Slippers went down by a neck.
Her Group 1 in Ireland had an added bonus attached to it. The win gave Glass Slippers a free invite to the Breeders Cup in Keeneland. This decision was always in the back of the mind and after she came out of France well, connections decided to take on the challenge. Attention turned to the USA and although Slippers had always travelled well, this was something new. The challenge ahead was clear, no European horse had ever won the Turf Sprint at the Breeders Cup and the last sprint division winner from Europe was way back in 1991. Pre race build up was very positive, Glass Slippers had travelled well and settled in nicely. Tom Eaves kept the ride and he joined up with the filly 5 days beforehand, riding her on the track and happily reporting she took the bend well in exercise.
The Breeders Cup is Americas biggest meeting and despite no fans being there, the usual glitz and glamour could still be felt through their extensive coverage. Tom was having his first ride at the meeting and track but from the off he took the bull by the horns. Knowing full well the speed of American sprinters, especially out of the stalls, Tom received a little advice and executed perfectly. As the field blasted off, Tom didn’t rise Slippers and slipped in towards the rear of the field, getting over to the rail ASAP. It was a blistering pace set and 3/4 of the field wanted to go forward. It was a brave call by Tom not to get involved early on as it would leave him plenty of work to do with a wall of horses in front.
By the time they had race down the back straight the race was already moving past halfway. Swinging left haded there was little let up in front and the leader was set to kick off the bend trying to get a break on the field. Glass Slippers had made some nice ground up along the rail and creeped into a challenging position just off the leaders. Tom had execute his plan through to this stage and he now had to get after his filly to get Slippers lengthening and quickening up. The leader got a break down the straight and with 1 1/2f to run Glass Slippers still sat in fifth spot. Changing her lead, suddenly Slippers found top gear and picked up to close the gap. Now she was within range but Tom still had a blocked path to navigate. As the pair inched closer to the heels in front a gap appeared, but it was only big enough for one. There was only one winner and Tom ensured that he was going to get there first. As Slippers put her nose into the gap she quickened through in a heartbeat and suddenly took the lead. Inside the final furlong Glass Slippers held the lead and extended it to a length. All that was left was to repel the late surge of the runner up Wet Your Whistle. Glass Slippers strode out to win by 1/2 length.
Glass Slippers will head away to her owner’s stud to have a break and we will see her again next season. This year has been fantastic for her as not only did she take her Group 1 tally to three but made history in becoming the first European winner of the Breeders Cup Turf sprint. She has been an absolute star and it’s so great to have her as a flag bearer for the yard next year. The plan will likely be the same and the winter will be a lot shorter whilst everyone waits on the safe return of Glass Slippers.
Just as the Group 1 sprinters thrived this year it was also the sprinters who hit the headlines this season and there were some performances that were very much deserved.
Usually we head into Royal Ascot with a few pointers but this year it was only a couple of weeks after racings resumption. Fortunately HEY JONESY finally gained his big win that he has long threatened to do. That Royal win seemed a little less likely just a few days earlier. The very first day of Royal Ascot 2020 saw Jonesy line up in the 7f Buckingham Palace Handicap. Strangely he was beaten after a few strides, never raising a gallop from the start. It was a baffling run for horse who had been working and looking so well beforehand. Kevin decided to make a brave call on go again, this time over 6f in the Wokingham Handicap with the addition of first time blinkers. It was 30 minutes after Kevin Stott’s first Gr1 win and he exuded confidence to use the same relentless tactics. Bouncing out Jonesy flew to the lead, showing a much improved attitude. Having made all he then kicked from 2f out and held on in the dying strides as the result went down to photo finish. It was a fantastic display of front running and Jonesy gained his much deserved “big” race win and gave Kevin his first Royal Ascot winner since 2013. Unfortunately he couldn’t add to that win, Jonesy has been a bit inconsistent in recent years, but he hasn’t had his ideal conditions so hopefully he can add to his tally again next year.
There were a couple of fillies who gained the all important pattern company success this season which will certainly help their breeding prospects in the future. QUEEN JO JO has always been held in high regard and managed to gain a listed success last year to go along with her Gr 2 placing. This season she came back looking like the finished article and had a lovely, straight forward pre season. Heading to Haydock on her seasonal return, Queen Jo Jo ran a great race to finish second in listed company. Travelling over to Ireland followed and Jo Jo put in a bit of a baffling run, never going and barely raising a gallop. It was a real disappointment but thankfully she home fine ands the next stop would be York for the Gr 3 Fillies Summer Stakes. When she jumped out of the stalls and ceded ground immediately to her rivals it seemed as though she may be putting in a similar performance once more. Sat stone last, Queen Jo Jo was under a drive from halfway but was not making an impression and by the time they moved into the final 2f she could not be seen on the TV screen. Sam James was on board and he felt something that couldn’t be seen. Suddenly Queen Jo Jo began to quicken up, shifting through the gears and started to eat up the ground. Whilst the action happened on the far side, Jo Jo was storming home down the stands side and appeared into shot from nowhere. She was flying and nabbed the leader in the dying strides to record her first Group success by a neck. This win was followed up by a fine effort over 7f in the Gr 2 City Of York stakes before having a crack at the very top level. It was great to see Queen Jo Jo gain her group success and she is still lightly raced so can come back next year for another tilt at Group company, attempting to add to her haul.
One filly who is talented but requires a patient approach is LAST EMPIRE. She is talented but is seen to her very best when the ground gets testing. Long been seen as a pattern performer, Last Empire began the season well with two good runs on ground that just didn’t suit. She then finished runner up in the Beverley Bullet, going down to a very smart sprinter over a trip that was just too sharp. It was a similar story next time out when once again she finished runner up in the Listed company, adding more black type but not yet being able to cross the line with her head in front. With the season moving into he latter months the opportunities were drying up, so Kevin turned to France where the ground would be perfect. The 5 1/2f listed Prix de Bonneval at Chantilly would be run on Heavy ground and it was clear for a long way that Last Empire was in her element. Travelling smoothly under Olivier Peslier, Last Empire tracked the pace before easily mange past her rivals. Peslier found himself in the lead 1f from home but felt the race was at their mercy. He barely moved on the filly and gave her one flick when he felt the gap was closing too much for his liking. Last Empire could have won as far as she liked but she gained a richly deserved first Listed win. Unfortunately her last run didn’t quite work out but that was late in the season and Last Empire will be back next year looking to build on this win. The ground will be key so Kevin will be sure to go wherever suits, especially with Last Empire now proven when travelling abroad.
The legend BRANDO didn’t manage a win but was agonisingly close to almost delivering a highlight. Despite being 8yrs old he has been as well as ever but it is clear now that he needs things in his favour. Quick ground in the Abernant was against him but he improved on that when finishing runner up at Newcastle. The July Cup and Haydock sprint were both ok efforts with an experience over 7f sandwiched in between. The big “R” word was hovering above his head so when he finished 3rd at York, in the rearranged Bengough Stakes, he confirmed his participation in the Champions Sprint. Sent off at odds of 80-1, Brando travelled like a dream, the way he does when he is on song. Coming into the business end of the race Brando cut through the field and Tom was yet to move. Suddenly the old boy tanked his way into contention and when Tom asked him to go, Brando picked up well to challenge Glen Shiel. The final 100 yards was a ding dong battle and the pair flashed past the post as one. Replays showed the finish was on the nod. Brando was the winner a stride before the line and a stride after but just wasn’t at the crucial time. It was a huge effort and showed there is plenty of life in him yet. Obviously he is an older performer now and connections will never just have him run for the sake of it so as along as he is happy and performing, Brando can continue with his career.
Kevin has one of the best records in the Ayr Gold Cup but this year MAGICAL SPIRIT added a first Silver one. He had long been threatening to take his form to the next level and become a Saturday horse. It has been a steady rise for the 4yr old but ultimately his form was inconsistent. A little wind op last year had worked a treat and seemed to continuing to do so when Magical Spirit returned to action at Beverley, winning in impressive fashion. When that level of form wasn’t matched on his next two runs it was decided to check his wind once more. Magical Spirit would next hit the track in September and after a 2 month break between runs it was a hugely promising run. Now off a mark of 88, Magical Spirit qualified for the Silver Cup at Ayr and turned the ultra competitive race into a procession. Kevin Stott took the race apart with another big field front running display. Nobody knew where or if there would a draw bias so Kevin went forward and straight. Magical Spirit led down the far side and just poured it on from halfway. Doing it the hard way, Spirit didn’t have any help but just put his rivals to the sword. When he moved into the final furlong the lead was almost unassailable and there was no stopping the chestnut. He strode out to an impressive 3 1/2 length victory. That win saw a deserved 10lb hike in the handicap but he proved well up to that level when he followed up his win with a good effort in the Coral Sprint. Magical Spirit signed off with two very good runs and will certainly be aiming at the big sprint handicaps in 2021.
QUEENS SARGENT gained a couple of wins this season and was extremely consistent during the early part of the season. There were a couple of near misses to start off before a change of tactics saw Queen’s deliver. Swooping late at Beverley to be delivered in the dying strides he earned a nice win which would be backed up next time out. This time at Thirsk but using the same tactics, Queens Sargent travelled like a dream before snatching the win late on. He seemed to be thriving thanks to his new tactics and was very unfortunate not to complete a hat-trick. Chester does not really play to his strengths but once again he travelled powerfully and sliced through the field but unfortunately the bird had flown by the time he got a clear run. It was a fine runner up spot and his run of form does show clear promise for next season. He did tail off a little towards the end of the season but now his tactics are clear and Queens Sargent can add to his winning tally next year.
Although not a younger horse, JUSTANOTHERBOTTLE was a new recruit to the team this year and delivered one of the most exciting wins to watch. Very talented and long been competing in the top handicap sprints, he was a great addition. Whilst knowing plenty about the horse form the outside it is still a learning curve once they are in your care. The first four runs were not to his best and included a stalls mishap as well. Late in October, which was likely to be his last run of the season, Justanotherbottle headed to Catterick for one of their biggest races. Lining up in the “Dash” it seemed as though any winning chance was gone from the start. Rearing up he completely missed the break and left Kevin Stott no option but to be patient. The ground was testing which meant the field would head to the stands side rail and although they were way off the pace, Kevin could track over also. He never once panicked and even though there was a deficit of over 10 lengths he waited until he got the chestnut rolling. Suddenly form the rear of the field, Justanotherbottle scythed through his rivals, swooping late and fast and somehow inching victory form the jaws of defeat. It was hugely impressive and hopefully will be just the first for Kevin now he knows the horses true personality and traits.
There was a win in July for WILD HOPE who utilised hold up tactics to perfection. That was his third career win and he did round off the year with a few consistent efforts so hopefully he can add some more wins next year. RATHBONE didn’t manage a win but there were some promising performances. Having had a wind op the ground went against him at the ned of the season so hopefully he can fulfil his potential next season. MAJOR JUMBO began the season well, finishing placed in two Gr3 before again finishing runner up in his defence of the Queensferry stakes at Chester. It was a shame that he couldn’t get his head in front but will be back again next season. EMARAATY ANA returned to sprinting this year and has shown plenty to suggest he could be a force in the division. Limited to just 3 runs he was placed in Gr3 and listed level. Gelded now, hopefully this can see him return to the top of his game and back into the winners circle.
3 YEAR OLDS
It can be one of the toughest yet most exciting division as the classic generation come out of their juvenile season and continue their journey. There are so many stories that can occur with the 3yr olds, seeing how much a horse has improved or whether the classy juvenile has already reached their full potential or whether there is still more to come.
JUAN ELCANO was the big classic hope for the yard after a 2yr old season that saw him win on debut then placed in two Gr 2’s. It was very interesting to see what trip would suit the Frankel colt best throughout the season. With an impressive pre season Kevin unleashed the chestnut in the 2000 Guineas. Jumping smartly, Juan Elcano raced up with the pace throughout the contest. Having just got outpaced slightly 1 1/2f from home, he stayed on well again to finish 5th, beaten only 4 lengths. It was a big effort and the style he raced suggested that a step up in trip may suit. He headed to Royal Ascot for the 1m2f Hampton Court. Over the longer trip he raced quite keenly early on and led the field. Unfortunately that early exertion cost him in the latter stages as he finished 4th. After a quick turnaround, Juan would have a few weeks before going again in the rearranged Dante Stakes at York. Trying to ensure he settle was important this time around and Kevin Stott did just that. Juan travelled well and did plug on to fill third spot but he was never in real contention to win. His final run was one more experiment with trip as Juan Elcano tried 1m4f. This unfortunately proved too far for him and following that disappointing run he was subsequently gelded. There was a feeling that the short season was against Juan Elcano and the early exertions may well have taken it’s toll. After a big effort in the Guineas he ran again just 11 days later and then again 3 weeks later. Those are three races in quick succession and he Juan put a lot into those runs. He is a classy individual and may well head to Dubai at the start of next year before embarking on his season over here.
One horse who’s plans were scuppered early on was REPARTEE. The son of Invincible Spirit had a good level of form over 6f in his juvenile season but had shaped as though he may get a little further. With a horse like him the Guineas trials are ideal with the intermediate trip of 7f given you great information moving forward. Unfortunately we missed those races this year so Kevin aimed for the 7f Jersey stakes at Royal Ascot. Again the plan fell through when the ground turned very soft, something that Repartee does not want. There were very few options around so Kevin decided to go for 6f in the Listed Carnarvon Stakes at Windsor. Outpaced early on he soon got into a nice position just behind the leaders. Repartee was sent off favourite for the contest and travelled into contention like a fav should. Coming through with ease 1f out, Repartee kicked away and won with plenty in hand. Unfortunately he didn’t perform next time out in Gr 3 company and then didn’t act around Goodwood when trying 1 mile for the first time. He is still lightly raced and a full race program will certainly suit him next year.
The yard’s dark horse for next year could easily be THRONE HALL who has just three runs to his name. Having finished third in his only start as a 2yo, Throne Hall immediately built on that when shedding his maiden tag at Hamilton over 1m1f. He won with ease dan received a mark of 83. Throne Hall stepped up once more to 1m2f when he took on just 3 rivals in a Beverley handicap. Despite the small field it turned out to be a very strong race. Throne Hall was ridden positively to lead throughout the contest. He quickened things up from the 3f pole and began to pull away with Ilaraab. The pair put distance between themselves and the other pair, settling down to fight out the finish. It was a good battle between two unexposed rivals but eventually Throne Hall just got edged out by a neck. He wouldn’t be seen again during the season but the winner, Ilaraab, went on to really frank the form. Two further wins saw his mark soar to 102 which shows the potential that Throne Hall has also. He is bred to improve with time and next year he could be a promising middle distance prospect.
BYLINE hails form a family that is well known to Kevin and he kept up the trend of being rated 95+. His first start of the year saw the 3yo finish 3rd is a very competitive race. Very soft conditions were against him nest time out, the only poor run of the year. Byline gained his win for the season when he made all at Leicester, winning comfortably. That took his mark to 95 and Byline would round his season off with a very good 4th at Doncaster, just finding the 6 1/2f a little too far. He headed to the sales following that run and subsequently made 110,000gns.
MIDNITE BRIDE racked up three runner up spots before getting her first career win. Having raced over 6f and 7f she finally matured mentally, settling in her race and running away with a 7f handicap at Catterick. She won with plenty in hand and proved that when backing that up with a win at Redcar. She rounded the season of in impressive fashion and is a filly on the upward curve. There should be more to come next year when she has had a nice break.
York winners are always nice for the team and BLACK CASPIAN shed his maiden at the track. Having earned his mark during his juvenile season, Caspian entered handicap company this season. Promising on his return, he then went and won on his second start when being ridden positively. It was a fine effort that was backed up with two subsequent fourth placed efforts, both being at York once more. He looks like a horse who should improve with racing as he can mature mentally as well as physically and hopefully he can go on to improve from his current mark.
Another 3yo who progressed before finishing off with a couple of wins was VENTURA RASCAL. He kicked off the year with nice comeback run but then progressed run to run. Two solid performances to see him finish 3rd and then 2nd, suggesting he was a winner waiting to happen. That was true as Rascal gained his first success at Catterick before then making it a brace when following up at Beverley. Those two wins took his mark to 70 and he should have improvement left for next year when he returns.
Hambleton Racing enjoyed a successful season throughout all their team and SOARING STAR & STARS IN THE NIGHT both won their maidens this year. Soaring star has gone on from that and looks like a progressive horse who is getting better with racing. He has always shown ability at home and he is maturing with each run. Some more time to strengthen again will do him good and he could be a nice handicapper for next year. Stars In The Night deserved her maiden win but just failed to build on that in her handicap performances. One run was on the AW and the other on soft ground so conditions may well have been against her and she still looks like a filly who has yet to reach her ceiling.
2 YEAR OLDS
This season was very difficult for the juvenile division with the youngsters having a narrower window due to the shortened time. Those early types had to sit and wait whilst during the early months the races were full and proving either very difficult to get in and even more so to win. Despite this Kevin introduced some nice horses and there is plenty to look forward to heading into their 3yo season.
It wasn’t just the racing that was affected this year and in a domino effect the sales, especially the breeze ups, were rocked. Consignors had to think outside the box and this is where STAR OF EMARAATY arrived into Hambleton Lodge. Robson Aguiar recommended the filly and after Kevin had seen her work it was great to see the syndicate Ontoawinner take on the Pride Of Dubai filly. Royal Ascot was an immediate target for her and she was one of Kevin’s available nominations for the meeting (a rule put in place due to the COVID restrictions). First of all she needed to get a run in and Emaraaty would start at Haydock. It was a very promising debut where she showed good speed, hit a flat spot and then stayed on again. Connections opted for the Queen Mary at Ascot, which meant a drop to 5f but the stiff track should offset that. She ran a similar sort of race and Star Of Emaraaty did her best work late on to run well and finish mid division.
Kevin Stott had been on board both runs and was keen to step the filly up to 7f. His feeling was correct when Emaraaty made all to gain her first win, taking a Novice Auction at Ayr. With a win under her belt it was time to step straight back into pattern company. Heading to Sandown for a listed event, Star Of Emaraaty was an outsider for the 7f fillies race and ran far better than her result. Having settled towards the back she travelled into the contest well but then became unbalanced when coming down the hill and swinging into the straight. It was at a crucial stage and although she did stay on, the race was done and she ran on for fourth.
Despite not winning, connections decided to step her up in grade and Emaraaty headed to Newmarket for the Group 3 Sweet Solera stakes. There were a couple of impressive debut winners in the field, but the favourite was Dubai Fountain, who had finished two places better than Star Of Emaraaty. Although the deficit was 4 lengths, that would certainly have been a lot closer had Emaraaty got going sooner. Her odds of 66-1 did feel inflated and a big run was expected. Again Stott settled the filly towards the rear of the field and she travelled sweetly for him. The lead was in the hands of the favourite and by halfway the pace increased to stretch the field. For a few strides it looked like Star Of Emaraaty was once again becoming unbalanced as they headed into the dip. Experience helped her out and Emaraaty quickly gathered herself, got onto an even keel and began to pick up for Stott. Dubai Fountain had kicked on and had moved away from the field but as they reached the bottom of the dip the uphill finish began to test them. Star Of Emaraaty was hitting top gear entering the final furlong and started to storm home down the centre of the track. She still had ground to make up as the winning post come into view but she was in full flight and with 50 yards to run Emaraaty snatched the lead. Her momentum was so strong that within a few strides she was clear and won by 1 1/4 lengths going away.
That result was huge for Star Of Emaraaty and following that win Mr Teruya Yoshida purchased the filly. Unfortunately she couldn’t quite match that form in her final couple of runs, both over a mile and stepping up to Gr 2 then Gr 1 level. Star Of Emaraaty is far from finished with her improvement and may appreciate coming back to 7f. Next season she will be in the care of John Gosden and we wish them all the luck with the filly who provided a highlight for the team this season.
UNCLE JUMBO was an interesting recruit this year, being a 1/2 brother to the popular Major Jumbo. Racing in the same colours of Mr T A Rahman, Uncle Jumbo immediately showed some of the similar family traits. Starting his career at Doncaster, somehow the grey was sent off the outsider of the 5 runners. He showed a very professional attitude, leading from the start. Jumbo was joined 2f out and headed at the 1f pole but he then dug deep and really battled hard. Coming back at the fav, who had headed him, Uncle Jumbo retook the lead in the dying strides. It was a very pleasing debut run but following it Kevin decided to give Jumbo time between runs to let him mature. With that in mind the big sales races were plan going forward. They are extremely competitive races and the standard has increased year on year. Starting at York for the GoffsUK stakes, Uncle Jumbo ran a big race, again showing good speed before just being caught for toe and then staying on to grab a solid fourth place. The obvious next step was Doncaster for the 2yo Stakes and the trip of 6 1/2f looked perfect for Uncle Jumbo. He showed up well for a long way and looked to be a big danger when the race heated up. Going into the business end he was right to the fore but at a crucial stage was carried away from the action. He battled on well but was pushed towards the far side and could not match the winner. It was another solid effort to see Jumbo finish 3rd. His final run was disappointing but the heavy ground was certainly against him. Uncle Jumbo is far from the finished product and will strengthen over the winter. It will be interesting to see what his best trip will be but Uncle Jumbo is a promising individual.
Kodiac has always produced precocious progeny but Kevin had Hello Youmzain who got better with time. CAIRN ISLAND can hopefully do likewise as the son of Kodiac progressed with each run and should be a better 3yo. His homework had been good before making his debut but he ran very green and possibly over a trip too far taking on 7f at Haydock. It was that same track where he would head again, dropping to 6f but once more running a little green and showing inexperience. It was third time lucky when Cairn Island really put his best foot forward over 6f at Ayr. Kevin Stott drove him out of the stalls, chased the leader and then took control in the final furlong. He ran away to a 3 1/2 length win and began to show his true colours. With a mark of 80, Kevin decided to utilise that and sent the colt to York’s Ebor meeting for a nursery. It was a carbon copy performance, chasing the pace early on before staying on well in the final furlong. This time he was pushed all the way to the line but the first two pulled well clear and Cairn Island took another step forward. Unfortunately he couldn’t quite match those performances when tackling the 6 1/2f 2yo Stakes at Doncaster and was finished following that run. He is quite a raw individual and looks like he has a lot of growing to do. Time will be ideal for him and he should fill out into his frame over the winter months.
DIGITAL had to knock on the door a few times before smashing his way through. The son of Kodi Bear made a very promising debut on the first meeting back at Newcastle. Unfortunately for Digital he would fill the runner up spot on his first 3 starts. Sometimes people can question horses when that happens, maybe they are not giving their all but this was far from the truth with Digital. On his first 3 runs he bumped into Victory Heights (rated 91) Ubettabelieveit (Group 2 winner) and Umm Kulthum (Group 3 winner Group 1 & 2 placed). That level of form shows his ability and he had to overcome another talented rival, Significantly (Rated 96) to shed his maiden tag at Musselburgh. Showing good speed, Digital just galloped his rivals to submission before holding off late challenges. It was an extremely deserved win and set him up for a couple of bigger tasks. Having raced over the minimum trip only, Kevin stepped Digital up to 6 1/2f for the 2yo stakes at Doncaster. He showed up well for a long way before just finish the extra 1/2f a little too taxing. It was a fine effort to finish 6th and showed that he was not a one trick pony. Unfortunately the ground was far too heavy on his final start. Digital looks a promising sprinter moving forward and should have no issue with either sprint trip.
Certainly a filly who has got plenty more to come should be HALA HALA HALA. The start of her career couldn’t have been any better with the daughter of Exceed and Excel strutting her way to a debut success at Thirsk. It was a very professional display and as she jumped out and dominated the 6f Novice. It was that impressive that she would immediately take the step up to Group company, tackling the Gr2 Duchess Of Cambridge. Travelling well she just couldn’t handle the soft ground when coming under pressure. She made amends next time at Ascot in the Gr3 Princess Margaret Stakes. Settled off the pace and again travelling smoothly through the contest, Hala Hala Hala she cut her way through before delivering a good turn of foot. Although she quickened up well she couldn’t quite get to the winner but ran on very well to secure second place. Unfortunately she would encounter soft ground next time out before heading to Kempton where the track was riding very deep, riding like soft conditions. It was clear that her below par efforts were due to soft conditions. Hala Hala Hala has a lot of room to grow and the winter should see her fill out and she may is a nice prospect for next year.
Another juvenile who picked up some Group form was BEN MACDUI. The speedy Kodiac gelding was impressive on debut at Hamilton. Quickly away he forced the pace before picking up when they hit the rising ground. Initially he couldn’t quite match the leader but 1/2f from home he changed his legs and suddenly quickened up. Within strides he put the race to bed and went on to make a winning debut. The speed figures were very good for the race and earned him a step up in class immediately. Taking part in the Group 3 Molecomb Stakes at Goodwood, Ben Macdui had to overcome a wide draw, which can be a race wrecker. He utilised his smart early speed to get over and grab the rail. Nothing could go with him early doors and for a long way he had the field under pressure. It took the favourite, who travelled powerfully, to come through and nab Ben Macdui late on. It was a fine effort and following that performance he struggled with conditions. Two subsequent runs on soft ground just had the 2yo wheel spinning and he couldn’t show his true quality. Ben Macdui is a fast, good ground horse and there will be plenty to look forward to from him.
SEVEN BROTHERS is a strapping horse who should continue to improve as time goes on. Another one who was meant to be going to the breeze up sales, he arrived at Hambleton Lodge looking ready to rock and roll. Big and strong, Kevin decided to send him up to Ayr on debut which should be ideal due to its nice, galloping nature. Seven Brothers was a little green through the early stages, having jumped slowly Stott just took his time with him. Having wound the colt up, Seven Brothers responded in the latter stages lengthening and picking up. After hitting the front passing the 1f marker he strode on to make a winning debut. Kevin decided to keep the colt to Novice company to give him more experience before taking a step up in grade. It meant that Seven Brothers would need to carry a penalty at York but that did not stop the colt. This time it was the opposite as he bounced out and led form the off. He made all but had to battle hard to repel all comers and earn his second win under a 6lb penalty. On his third and final start of the season Seven Brothers could not shoe his best when running in the Group 2 Gimcrack. His first two runs had been tough and were only 3 weeks apart with the same time frame before the Gimcrack. That may well have taken it’s toll and Seven Brothers looked likely to be more of a 3yo type too.
Later on in the year TAHONTA made big strides in just a month. Having been bought at the rearranged Goresbridge breeze up sales, Tahonta made his debut in testing conditions at Haydock. He was well away and close up fro a long way before showing greeness for a few strides. Late on the penny dropped and he stayed on well again to secure a solid 4th on debut, with the winner looking very impressive. Kevin dropped him down in trip to 5f but Beverley but the stiff finish should suit the colt. he did everything right up until the final 100 yards where Tahonta began to drift under pressure. That movement allowed the winner to collar home late on to finish second. Now with a handicap mark of 76 he went to Pontefract for a 6f Nursery. This time he sat patiently off the pace before creeping through down the home straight. Going the strongest out of the field he burst through just over 1f from home. Along with eventual runner up, Tahonta pulled clear and battled for the lead. He finished the stronger out of the two and pulled away form his rival to secure a 1 1/2 length win. He stayed on very well and it looks as though he could be versatile regarding trip next year and is on an upward trajectory.
It took TINOCHIO two runs to get off the mark but when he did he did so with ease to confirm his promise. That performance led him into the Super Sprint at Newbury. The ultra competitive race was made all the harder when helot given the worse draw of stall one. Missing the break he gave himself a lot of ground to make up. He did quicken to make up a huge chunk of ground but could only manage to get to fourth, a very good and respectable run. Another good run at York has shown his potential for the future. DARVEL has shown plenty of promise on the gallops and he to shed his maiden tag on the second attempt. unfortunately he was disappointing following that win but was stepped into pattern company and can do better now he has been gelded. BEECHWOOD DONNA was very impressive on debut she ran away with a Beverley Maiden but 3 3/4 lengths. She ran well following that impressive win but was lumbered with a penalty in subsequent races. This proved tough and she still has room to grow and strengthen. Another filly to win well at Beverley was ROMAN ENCOUNTER who did it the other way round. Coming from off the pace she quickened up and stayed on strongly to win going away. Soft ground was against her when she tackled listed company on her second start. The tough conditions halted COTTAM LANE but not before he had put together two impressive runs. Having gone close on his first run, with a group performer close in behind him, Cottam Lane then comfortably won at Beverley. He won as cosily as he liked and received a reasonable mark going forward. A lovely moving colt he just got stuck in tacky ground at York next time out. Surely a winner waiting to happen is COPPER QUEEN who got better with each run. Having struggle on firm ground she then took a step forward on the AW. It was her final two runs when the ground eased where she came to herself. At York she chased home a subsequent Gr1 placed colt and then just got caught late on at Newmarket. She will start next year as a maiden but that shouldn’t last too long. TWO COP BOP was a regular visitor to Hamilton this season as all four of his runs came at the track. Starting with a decent effort where inexperience proved to be his undoing, Two Cop Bop improved start to start. He went on to finish 3rd and then 2nd, narrowly losing out on his third run. With a mark of 68 he made his handicap debut when stepping up to 6f on his final run of the year and thrived over the longer trip, staying on well to win cosily. He looks the type to improve with another year and can build on a reasonable mark. BABY ALYA created an impression when winning on debut and was turned out shortly after that run. Running on the Tapeta at Newcastle she dwelt at the start and had to race towards the rear. When the penny dropped late on she made giant strides and finished with a rattle to win a shade cosy with a nice 1 1/4 length margin. That was her sole run of the year and it’ll be exciting to see her return next season.
Along with the winners there are some lovely 2yr olds who have had chance to gain experience but will appreciate the time. With some nice pedigrees and decent form there is a nice team going forward that will be starting as maidens but will surely be delivering wins quickly enough.
Along with the horses we have been lucky enough to see the success of our jockeys. Kevin STOTT had a real breakout season and he was quick to put his name in lights with a first career Group 1. Having not been on board Hello Youmzain when he won the Haydock Sprint, Kevin was back in the saddle for Royal Ascot this season. Confidence and positivity saw the young Dane fire Youmzain to Group 1 success and his season took off. Just 30 minutes later he had notched a Royal Ascot double when Hey Jonesy took the Wokingham and Kevin was one of the stories of the meeting. As the season rolled on Kevin’s name was getting bigger and bigger as the winners flowed. He has enjoyed an unbelievable 2020 with 78 winners being his best total despite the limitations placed on the sport. Everyone at Hambleton has known about Stott’s talent and now the message is spreading. he has firmly stamped his name as one of the sport’s brightest stars and he will continue to go from strength to strength. TOM EAVES has enjoyed a memorable year due to his association with Glass Slippers. A stalwart of the north Tom helped to make history with the filly as he took the Breeders Cup Turf Sprint. Not only was it a memorable win but it was one of the best rides of 2020. With 27 winners to his name for the year, it doesn’t really tell the true story. Great on the big occasions Tom has shown his experience and quality in the saddle again this year.
2020 has been a strange year filled with worrying times for the whole world due to COVID but thankfully some normality managed to be rescued from the situation. From no racing, to restarting with one of the biggest meetings, to eventually allowing owners back, racing has worked hard to keep the show on the road. Thankfully the team at Hambleton Lodge have been unbelievable and it is thanks to them that the success has followed. Working hard during lockdown there was no issues and the horses were fit and ready for when racing resumed. Through difficult times the results have been good and in comparison the season has been successful. Hopefully next year we can get back to racing as we truly know it and enjoy the sport together, fans, participants and owners alike.