Kevin has been one of the leading trainers of juveniles for many years now and it’s something the yard really enjoy. With so many people involved in selecting and then preparing 2 year olds for their racing career it gives everyone a big thrill when they secure their first wins. Obviously they come in all shapes and sizes but it was a pair of scopey colts who took centre stage as they earned their first win and got everyone excited for what next year could bring for them.
Ayutthaya took the 7f Instarmac Novice Auction Stakes at Chester in good style at the third time of asking. The lovely Lope De Vega colt was coming into the race off the back of two promising seconds. His good debut at Hamilton over the extended mile, where he was collared late on, showed plenty of promise. Having shown a good professional attitude to lead the field throughout the contest, he just got tired late on and caught in the last 50 yards of the race. It was a fine effort for his first run but the style in which he raced caused Kevin to think about dropping him in trip for his next start. York 2 year old races always prove to be tough and usually high quality. This is where he ran next and despite having the best form there was one big talking horse who would go off favourite. Again he led the field before quickening up in the final furlong. Unfortunately he bumped into a future Group 3 winner, and likely big challenger in the coming Group 1’s, also as short as 25-1 for next year’s Guineas already, Elarqam who he proved no match for. That said, Ayutthaya pulled well clear of the rest and again showed he was a winner in waiting.
When Kevin declared Ayutthaya for Chester it seemed as though he had picked an ideal race. Even though there was a winner in the line up, it was Ayutthaya who arguably brought the best form. The only query was how he would handle the sharp, turning track but with Tom Eaves in the saddle those doubts were quickly dispelled. Although a nice, big colt he is also a well balanced and smooth mover. This was evident from the off as Ayutthaya jumped well and, as he had done on his previous runs, took the lead to make the running. Gabrial The Saint was very keen on his inside but with his jockey begging for cover he allowed Tom to cross over and take the rail and the lead without too much of a fight. Although 3 of his rivals were quick to tag onto his heels, Ayutthaya set a good but sensible gallop. Immediately turning the chestnut was on the correct lead and handled the tight track perfectly.
The ground was described as heavy and although it was a new test for Ayutthaya, he had performed well on soft going in his first two runs. Although the 7f is an easier trip at Chester the ground would ensure it would be a true test and all the jockeys were wary of this so didn’t do too much too early. They were soon through the first half of the race and nothing had really changed. Ayutthaya happily travelled along in front whilst he was stalked by the three rivals who had been there throughout. Those towards the rear began to work on their mounts around the 3f marker ensuring their horses were going through the gears ready to kick off the bend and use momentum.
Closing in on the straight and the final 1/4 mile, Ayutthaya still travelled smoothly and had his rivals hard at it trying to get on terms. Those that were hot on his heels now started to toil in his wake. Gabrial The Saint was the one who managed to maintain his position to give chase but once Tom asked his mount to quicken he did just that. Inside the 2f pole and with the line in sight Ayutthaya moved into a 3 length lead. Debutante Zatorious was coming from the rear of the field with a good looking run and was making up plenty of ground.
Tom found that his willing partner was now just beginning to idle in front a little. He had not seen another rival throughout the race and once he kicked clear there was no help coming from anyone else. In the final furlong Ayutthaya just began to wander under pressure. He was still going forward and it was nothing to try and get out of the task at hand but he was proving to be lonely. This allowed Zatorious, who had moved into second, to close the gap. He was never going to catch Ayutthaya despite the chestnut coming right away from the far side rail he had hugged from the early on. Tom kept his mount up to his work and once Ayutthaya felt the sense of a horse closing he found that little bit more to win by a comfortable 2 1/4 lengths.
Owner Mr J Chua & C K Ong have enjoyed a fine season and Ayutthaya not only provided another winner to the tally but gives them plenty to look forward to next year. He is a lovely colt and his sire’s progeny do get better with time. The form book stacks up and Ayutthaya was worth more than the bare margin of his win as he had plenty left in the tank. He will certainly be put away now for the season for his winter break which should help him fill out into his large frame. It will be interesting to see just where he could go as a 3 year old and what distance will prove to ideal for him because he is a nice prospect to look forward to.
Kendargent is a sire that has had to prove himself, starting with just a handful of mares he has excelled and is now one of the leading sires in France. Kevin has followed him from day 1 enjoying success with horses like Erik The Red and Goken. It may just be the case that he has got another smart progeny with Real Gent who shed his maiden tag with a win in the 1 Mile 32 Red Casino EBF Novice Stakes at Haydock.
Having gone through the sales ring at the Craven Breeze Ups, Real Gent was knocked down for £90,000 to Jeremy Noseda. For whatever reason the purchase did not go through and so Mark Dwyer, of Oaks Farm, put him into training with Kevin. It soon became apparent that Kevin had struck a bit lucky as Real Gent showed some early signs of ability although it may be a waiting game before he would see the track. The grey colt was a big juvenile and it was clear that he would be wanting a trip so patiently connections let him come to himself.
It was August when Real Gent saw the track and he produced a nice debut run at Beverley. Having been in touch for most of the contest he was hampered when the race heated up at the 2f pole. This caused him to just lose his place which, along with inexperience, scuppered any chance and knocked him off balance which he didn’t really recover from. It was still a pleasing performance and he had shown enough to suggest that a win would not be too far away. One thing that was taken out of the race was that the quick ground may not have suited so again Kevin decided to wait with the colt until he could find the right race with suitable conditions.
Unfortunately it took a little longer to find the right race which meant that he would go into the race at Haydock facing testing heavy going. It would also be a slight step up in trip but the galloping track would suit him better. With plenty of racing around the country Graham Lee was snapped up for the ride. Lining up against 6 rivals, Real Gent was second favourite behind Narcos, a winner on debut, and Bold Reason, who brought the same sort of form to the race as Real Gent.
Leaving the stalls there wasn’t anyone who really wanted to go forward so Graham moved up along the rail to take up front running duties setting a steady gallop. The field bunched up behind him with his two market rivals directly tracking the grey. Early on it looked as though the heavy conditions were no problem to Gent. He settled well in front and even pricked his ears as he looked around at the clear daylight ahead.
The field had little separating them and all travelled well down the back straight. Nobody wanted to take any risks and were mindful of the heavy going so allowed Graham to lead at an easy tempo. Despite being happy to let Gent lead they were all in close proximity to ensure any move was covered and you could throw a blanket over the entire field.
Passing through the first half of the race and the order remained the same as Real Gent travelled well in front. He was still have a little look around but dictated an easy gallop. As they rounded the bend and entered the home straight Graham just angled off the rail towards the centre of the track. This gave everyone a clear run and ensured there would be no hard luck stories. Passing the 3f pole was where the race began to heat up as for the first time Real Gent increased the pace as Graham let out a little bit of rein. Those giving chase started to work to match strides and close on the leader. The complexion of the race suddenly changed as Real Gent began to turn the screw in front and forced his rivals to begin to work harder and harder. The two favourites began to make headway but were under a stronger ride than Real Gent as the grey still travelled well on the bridle.
As the race moved into the final couple of furlongs the finish began to take shape. Narcos, the only winner in the field, soon capitulated and beat a fast retreat whereas his joint fav Bold Reason was making headway up the inside of Gent. With only a couple of rivals able to go with Gent, Graham now decided to kick for home. Getting into his drive Graham asked his mount to put the race to bed but the response was not what was expected. Although Gent did pick up it wasn’t as impressively as the way he had travelled up to this point. Bold Reason was slowly making headway and getting ever closer to the lead.
Dictating the race from the start was a tactic that landed into Graham’s hands and Gent had done the job well. Unfortunately inexperience was now showing and he was crying out for some help as he began to have a look around and lose a little concentration. As they passed the 1f marker Bold Reason edged his nose into the lead and having been rousted along for around 2f he was in top gear and powering on. It was only these two who had a chance of winning but now it looked all but done for Gent. He went down by around 1 1/2 lengths before he realised that there was still a race on and it switched a light on for him. Graham had not given up and now the hare became the rabbit in an attempt to chase down the favourite. Real Gent began to edge left towards his rival and now he was giving it 100%. There was not much time to close the gap but close it he did. With just 50 yards to run Real Gent had managed to bridge the gap and now he was the one finishing stronger. Using momentum he went past Bold Reason in the dying strides, galloped through the line and ran out a 1/2 length victor.
It was a fantastic result for Real Gent and although conditions were tough for these juvniles he showed a lot throughout this contest. Leading and dictating throughout Real Gent showed a good attitude although his inexperience did show as he had the tendency to look around. It was this that cost him the lead but then he showed good heart to get back to work and peg his rival back. The trip was ideal for him and he will certainly improve again for this. He could well be anything, he is definitely a nice prospect and that may be him for the winter now. Owners Mark and Jane Dwyer may have been repaid for their unfortunate sale with Real Gent as he now looks a quality performer. He is in the HIT sale and connections will decide what to do with the grey but whatever happens he is sure to be a lovely 3 year old next year.