Although the eyes of the racing world were firmly fixed on the big Group 1 races there was a bumper set of fixtures on Saturday. With the Sprint Cup at Haydock and Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, racing fans were treated some top class racing. It wasn’t just that Group events that provided quality racing and the supporting racing provided another double for the team at Hambleton as Company Asset and Brilliant Vanguard impressed and continued their great seasons.
Starting the season off a mark of 77, Company Asset has improved through the ranks and will now be heading towards listed class following a devastating success at Haydock, winning the 1m2f EBF Breeders’ Series 32Red Fillies’ Handicap.
Hambleton Racing have once again enjoyed a fine season with their owners enjoying plenty of success. With a lot of horses in training it is always nice to see a flag bearer, a horse who can possibly take you to the big meetings on the big Saturday fixtures. Company Asset had threatened to be that filly previously but never quite built on her promise. This year it has all changed as she has thrived since a change in trip and a more mature running style.
Starting the season over 7f she put up a couple of good performances at Doncaster and York to finish 3rd in both races. Staying on strongly towards the end of the race showed connections that she was crying out for a step up in trip. It was the correct call as Asset picked up a pair of Hamilton Handicaps, over 1 mile and 1m1f. Again she looked like a stiffer test would bring about more improvement but unfortunately when this happened at York, over 1m2f, the race just seemed to come a too quickly for her as she ran a little flat. Thankfully she bounced back to form following a month off the track when returning to Hamilton. Flying home she picked up a third place, behind a couple of progressive types.
Plans are not always easy to make without seeing the performance first but it has been hoped throughout the year that Asset may develop into a filly that could have a go at pattern company. With that in mind Kevin needed to see if she could handle a step up in grade off a career high mark of 89. The 1m2f race at Haydock was the chosen target where she would take on some good fillies in the 0-100 race and would have something to prove.
Following a week of wet weather the ground was very soft, something that provided a question mark for Asset. Tom Eaves was booked for the ride and Kevin stressed beforehand to try and take his time, but most importantly to get the filly to settle. Earlier in her career she could be a little free going and getting her to relax has been important in her progression, on that ground it would be even more crucial.
As the stalls opened Tom immediately took Asset back to settle at the rear of the field. Despite the ground there was a strong early gallop and a few fought for the lead. This left Asset a little detached from the main body of the group as she raced 2 lengths off her nearest rival. The well fancied Time Chaser was the one who had initially taken the lead but as they eventually settled down it was left to Curlew River to do the duty. Company Asset relaxed nicely at the rear and got into a nice rhythm.
It was evident very early on that the ground was very soft but this didn’t seem to worry the leading jockeys as they continued to go a strong gallop for the conditions. Tom was happy to sit and wait, measuring up the race and seeing when would be best to make his move. There was little change in the order as they raced down the back straight and into the bend.
The complexity of the race changed very early and as Curlew River took them into the home straight, with 4f to run, there was a further injection of pace. Company Asset had travelled well on the ground and moved up to attach on to the back of the field. Tom kept her towards the outside of the group so he had a clear run if Asset could accelerate on the ground.
All the way through the contest the ground situation didn’t seem to make a difference and so it proved again as the leaders got racing a long way from home. Still with 3 1/2f left to run they were taking each other on at the head of affairs. This had a knock on effect on those behind as they needed to keep tabs with the leaders. Tom realised this too but whilst his colleagues were working away he sat motionless. Travelling hard on the bridle, Asset moved up down the outside with ease. Suddenly she had come into contention within a few strides and looked a big danger.
Between the 3f and 2f marker you could see Tom waiting to push the button. Although he was ready, Asset didn’t need his help as she continued to move menacingly towards the front. As they passed the 2f marker she had edged into the lead still on the bridle. Tom was pulling double and there was nothing who could go with them. Looking round Tom liked what he saw and realised he was in complete control of the race. Opening up by a couple of lengths it became obvious that Asset had the race at her mercy unless there was to be any last minute dramas.
With just the final furlong to run and a couple of lengths lead, Tom gave his filly a squeeze. There was to be no panic striking moment as Company Asset darted into an unassailable lead. As she managed to open up into a 10 length lead Tom applied the brakes. Easing down Asset crossed the line a dominant 6 length winner and a career best performance.
It was a very impressive performance and everything went perfectly for her during the race. Obviously the handicapper will not need to think twice about the hike she will get but it may be her final run in a handicap this year. Comapny Asset has had a great season and answered all the questions that have been asked of her. The obvious step now would be to to try and grab some black type which would really make her a bright breeding prospect. She handled the very soft ground so the end of the season should hold no worries and now she deserves her crack at pattern company.
From one horse who has been a revelation to another. Brilliant Vanguard had been a horse ready to win, just beneath the radar with a few good runs but failing to get the elusive win. that all changed at Ripon where he took a couple of decent handicaps and putting up career best performances. He took another step forward when cutting through the field to take the 1 Mile totequadpot London Mile Handicap (Series Final).
Very much like his stable mate earlier in the day, Brilliant Vanguard had been a horse bubbling away beneath the surface ready to burst through when things began to drop right for him. The new trip of 1 mile, tried for the first time this season, has seen a spark in form although initially it didn’t look likely. Missing the break or being slowly away was costing the 4yr old who could not get into his races which meant he could no damage towards the end. It was frustrating as the ability was there and he looked an ideal miler.
Change of tactics proved the key. When Vanguard pressed the leaders in his run at Ascot, he travelled well, quickened up nicely but just got collared on the line. Unfortunately these tactics couldn’t really be adopted next time due to the smaller field and a tactically run race. Kevin knew he had a horse just waiting to win and it was his two following runs at Ripon that really showed what Vanguard was capable of. Sat tracking the leaders, chasing a strong gallop, Brilliant Vanguard travelled extremely well before quickening up and putting the race to bed.
Those two wins were very impressive but with that comes a reassessment and the handicapper decided that a combined total of 11lb was fair, and nobody could really argue with that. Having performed well on the all-weather previously, Kevin decided that Vanguard should take a chance in the London Mile Final at Kempton. This was another step up in grade and he would be facing a different level of opposition but it should be run to suit with a strong pace and it would also show where Vanguard stood going forwards.
Kevin Stott has been the man in saddle for the wins and travelled south to take the ride again. Kempton is a very fair track which can play to any riding style. With a good field lining up for the contest it was fairly clear that there would be plenty of pace on and so it proved from the off. The mad dash came immediately, especially with Commodity being driven hard from the widest draw keen to get the lead. Those inside who wanted to go forward had to be quick so they raced hard for the first 1/2 furlong. Vanguard had jumped well and being taken along early he was in the first third. Commodity won the battle and led the field as they completed the first furlong with the rest getting into formation as the bend loomed. Kevin had got Vanguard travelling and although he got shuffled back a little, to sit in mid-division, he managed to tuck in a little to race just one horse off the rail.
Settling down, the field were soon into the bend and the strong gallop meant that they could race a lot closer to the rail than being spread wide across the track. Vanguard had the pace to aim at that he loved and moved well through the first half of the race. On the all-weather there can tend to be movement very early as the tight turns and short run in means they need to get racing a lot earlier. Kempton rides a lot more like a turf track so the jockeys were happy to wait to lay down their challenges, especially when the track opens up down the straight. That meant the race was yet to heat up and would do so once the winning line came into sight.
Straightening up for home and with just under 3f to run the leader injected the pace trying to use momentum to quicken off the bend. The field were close at hand and instantly went with the leader. Vanguard was still mid way down the field but Kevin now got after him to try and close on those rivals in front of him. Passing the 2f marker Vanguard began to pick up but in front of him was a wall of horses. Kevin now just decided to keep it simple and switched left to get a clear run. This daylight gave Vanguard a real boost and he began to shift up through the gears.
The handicapper would have been pleased watching at 1f pole as there were plenty still with chances, spread across the track. Brilliant Vanguard had been making good headway but now he burst through down the centre of the track. in top gear he cut through the field to hit the front. Those he passed were not able to respond but he was far from the winner already. The held up runners were the ones finishing best and it was The Warrior who had to give chase. Vanguard had quickened into a couple of length lead and began to edge over to the rail. His rival was brave and tried hard to close the deficit but the initial burst through had proved to be the winning stroke. Vanguard was seeing out the trip strongly and even allowed Kevin to just ease down in the final strides, to score by 1/2 length.
This was the hat-trick up for Brilliant Vanguard and by far the best career performance. He is thriving of late and finally looks the final product. He is settling very well in his races and the turn of foot he has is putting the races to bed when he can burst through the field. Now this win will ensure that he goes up once more and again he will need to prove himself. Owners Mr J Chua & Mr C K Ong look like they have a horse who could really break through next year into the heritage handicaps.