When a horse is bought with a very large price tag it is usually expected that they will start repaying that sum rather quickly. Commander Han arrived at Hambleton Lodge following the hammer going down for £400,000 and whilst Kevin loved the colt from day one it was clear that patience would be key for him. With another winter on his back, Commander Han returned to action at Chelmsford and took the 7f toteplacepot Races 1 to 6 Novice Stakes by destroying the field.
The Siyouni colt was impressive when first seen galloping in public, at the Craven Breeze Up. Kevin and Steve (Hillen) were mightily impressed with him, not only his action but his physical presence. Despite being a huge colt, he managed to carry himself so athletically which meant that he was just the type that Kevin wanted. Knowing that the colt would be making a big price did not put the pair off and with owner Mr Rahman on the phone, they secured the chestnut who soon become Commander Han.
It was clear from day one that Commander Han had some serious talent. He did everything so easy at home which meant that it was quite hard to gauge just how good he was. Ready to hit the track, Kevin tasked Commander Han with a very difficult debut in the Convivial Maiden at York. Slowly away, the chestnut then took a bit of time to find his feet. Once he did he travelled well into the race before staying on strongly. Unfortunately by the time the penny dropped, those who were to fight out the finish had already gone, but he still ran well to finish 9th. It was a promising debut and Kevin would wait until October to run him again. This time he headed to Redcar with plenty of support, going off the even money favourite. Again he wasn’t the best away but soon made up for it and got into a decent position. Unfortunately the race panned out just like his debut and Commander Han just couldn’t get into the mix once the race heated up. He stayed on late in the race to finish 4th. It was clear to Kevin that despite the horse’s ability he was far from the finished article and time would certainly be his friend.
Coming back from his winter break, Commander Han was a lot more mature. The plan was always to get him out on the all-weather, ensuring that he would be race fit for when the turf season starts. Since he did not have a handicap mark yet, Kevin was looking for Novice and Maiden races. The 7f event at Chelmsford looked perfect for the colt, so he made the long trip down south. It was only a small field declared for the race and the bookies seemed to have it as a match, between favourite Nice Shot (recent winner) and Commander Han. Kevin Stott travelled down for the ride, having partnered Commander Han on his two previous starts.
As the race got underway it was the two market leaders who were quickest into stride. Nice Shot went straight to lead but was closely pursued by Commander Han who was not giving him an inch. It was a good early galloping Kevin sensibly allowed the fav to go on, giving him a lead of just over a length but not attempting to take each other on. With a slight break to the other 3 runners the field settled down and quickly made their way through the first couple of furlongs.
Commander Han had jumped a lot better and travelled well through the early stages. Nice Shot was attempting to make all and certainly wasn’t playing any tactical games, striding along in front. With the pace being quite strong it meant they were soon heading past the first half of the race. This brought them towards the entrance of the bend and it was at this point that Kevin just had a moment where he needed to help his mount along. Niggling along for a few strides he had to keep Commander Han up to his work so he did not let the leader get away. Fortunately the colt immediately changed legs and moved up to maintain his distance form the favourite.
Around the bend and inside the 3f marker the positions had not changed and the leader now started to wind things up. Increasing the tempo did not affect Commander Han and he moved along easily to close the gap. Once straightening up for home he quickly latched on to the leader. Now with only inches between the market rivals it looked as though Commander Han was travelling the stronger of the two. None of the other 3 runners had got into the race yet and it was clear that the winner was going to come from the leading pair. Now inside the final 2f and Commander Han moved into the lead. Immediately Kevin seized the initiative and kicked him on.
There is very little to say about the final 1 1/2 furlongs as Commander Han turned it into a procession. Once in the lead he started to pull clear and quickly put the race to bed. Opening up into a couple of lengths lead, Commander Han started to get stronger and stronger with every stride. Nice Shot had no answer and the chestnut quickened up well. He held an unassailable lead heading into the final furlong but Kevin kept him up to his work. It was now about educating Commander Han, teaching him to gallop all the way to the line and the 3yr old did just that. With ease Commander Han ran out a 7 length winner and really made a statement on his return to action.
This result is far from a surprise and it is even better to see on his first run back. Sometimes there is that small concern of race rust but Commander Han either did not feel that or simply his ability allowed him to perform in that fashion. He is a lovely colt and really does look like a nice prospect for the season ahead. Mr Rahman has been great with the horse, allowing him the time to mature and hopefully he will be repaid for the patience shown. The favourite, and runner up, had an official rating of 87 so it will be interesting to see just what the handicapper does. Everyone is excited for the future of Commander Han and Kevin will certainly be itching to get the chestnut out once again.