When you think of all the characteristics and make up of a quality horse you think of size, scope, athleticism, power, ability and the list goes on. Armandihan looked to have all these qualities when he breezed last year and is the reason why he came with a lofty price tag. Although it has taken a bit of time he finally put his best foot forward to get off the mark and take his first career win when running away with the 7f Book Now For 10th June Maiden Stakes at Catterick.
Armandihan has always been a fine stamp of a horse but it was clear that he would come into his own as a 3 year old. A lovely, big colt he towered over his peers but despite this he also showed plenty as a juvenile. Kevin likes to get the experience into his horses, even the ones who look likely to need time, and this was true with Armandihan. He left it as late as possible and sent the Zoffany colt up to the Ayr Western meeting to make his debut. It was a fine run, showing plenty of inexperience but still finishing third and promising a bright future. With this good debut Kevin felt one more run would be ideal before a winter break, hopefully signing off with a win. Redcar was the next port of call and he travelled very well throughout the contest, looking like the winner for most of the race. Unfortunately inexperience showed again in the latter stages and it was another third place finish for Armandihan. It would have been great to get a win in the bag but connections were happy with the start to his racing career and it was time to stick him away until the following year.
Winter is always a great time of year as you can really see the change in young horses as they grow and mature. Armandihan came back as a much more finished article and his early work was again very good. Despite his size, Armandihan came to hand very early on which Kevin decided to use and run him on the all-weather. The first outing was a lack luster run, weakening easily to finish midfield. The result was nowhere near a true running and following the race it was decided that a gelding procedure might help. It wasn’t that Armandihan was colty or ungenuine but they looked as though they were causing obstructions which may be resulting in some pain.
Following a small break he returned as a gelding to finish second at Redcar. Looking like the winner all the way, he just hung left handed in the latter stages to give away the win. During the race he had shown plenty of speed and this resulted in convincing Kevin that a drop to 7f, from 1 mile, would suit.
Only 9 runners were declared for the 7f Maiden at Catterick and on the face of it it did seem like a two horse race. The punters and bookies were torn between Armandihan and his closest rival Mokhalad, sent up from the powerful Sir Michael Stoute stable. It was Armandihan who would take over favouritism and the strength of these two showed with only one other horse in single figure prices.
Regular partner KevinStott was on board once again and he decided to ride with confidence, taking the race by the scruff of the neck. Bouncing out from stall 4 he got into stride quickly and immediately took the rail and the lead. Utilising his long stride, Kevin let Armandihan go on setting quick early fractions. He was contested for the lead but it was soon evident that they couldn’t go with him so one by one the rest filtered in behind and took a lead off Armandihan. His market rival sat in midfield, in a position to stalk and track Armandihan’s every move.
The early stages of the race was the story of the next four furlongs too. Just as he had done at Redcar, Kevin let his mount stride on although this time he was allowed to go a stride quicker. Despite the drop in trip he still managed to comfortably take the field along and had control throughout. Armandihan is a big horse and there was a concern about Catterick’s tight and turning characteristics. These worries were dispelled early on as his athleticism enabled the gelding to glide around the bends, easily taking them on the right lead. With this he was able to continually pour it on in front as is stride would force everything else to go a little bit faster.
Having dictated from the outset, Armandihan had travelled strongly through the first half of the race but his moves were monitored at every turn by Mokhalad. Downhill and on the turn Kevin took them into the final 3f where the track levels out into the home straight. It was at this point where the majority of the field started to get to work and evidently began to struggle. Although they had gone a good gallop, Kevin allowed Armandihan go on again and on a loose rein the 3 year old shifted up a gear. Mokhalad moved through the field, stealthily pursuing the leader and looking a big danger.
Armandihan passed the 2f marker with a healthy couple of lengths lead. The Eagle’s Nest had been his closest pursuer throughout but now came under pressure and immediately looked one paced as he was passed by Mokhalad. This meant the two market leaders were set to battle it out down the home straight. Dane O’Neil, on baord Mokhalad, began to get to work to close the gap and initially they did. Unfortunately for the challenger Kevin was still yet to move on Armandihan but this didn’t mean the race was done. With his rival in full swing it was going to be interesting to see how much he would find when coming off the bridle. There was also the small question of whether he would hang or not.
With the lead being cut to just a length Kevin had to make sure the final furlong counted. Almost instantly after passing the 1f marker he got into his drive. The response was immediate and impressive. Armandihan quickened up, shooting into a clear lead. He was straight as an arrow and really strode out. This was the real showing of the horse and he put the race to bed in a matter of strides. Kevin knew the advantage was unassailable as soon as it opened up. Knowing that it could take a while to pull him up, Kevin put the brakes on well before the line as too did Dane O’Neil, accepting defeat. Armandihan won by 1 1/2 lengths but was heavily eased.
Although it took longer than expected for the win to come there is no question that Armandihan is a talented animal. There were a few people doubting him but he is still unexposed and definitely has a bright future. He is still maturing and probably will not reach his full potential until later in the year or even next season. For a big horse he shows a lot of speed and has plenty of options going forward. He could well be a horse for the 7f/1mile handicaps and hopefully there are a few big days out with him.