The horses are in great form at present and the juveniles are now starting to hit the track thick and fast. Kevin has already sent out 3 debutante winners and each one was impressive in their own right. The famous yellow colours of Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum have been carried to victory by Repartee and Rhea, impressive winners at the first time of asking and their stable mate continued that trend. Juan Elcano took to the track at Haydock and flew home to win the 7f British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes.
Frankel made headlines as a champion racehorse and he’s doing the same as a stallion. When Kevin snapped up the chestnut son who’s Dam was a 1/2 sister to a Chesham winner there was plenty in the pedigree to suggest that the colt was bred to be useful. Although he was impressive from an early stage it was clear that Juan Elcano would need a bit of a trip so therefore the early stages of the season were obviously not on the radar. As soon as the 7f races began, Kevin was into the entry book looking for the ideal race.
Haydock has always been a track that Kevin has favoured starting 2 yr olds at. A lovely, galloping track it offers a perfect introduction for youngsters, although you do need a nice one as it attracts plenty of good juveniles. The novice race selected attracted 6 declarations with just one of the runners with previous experience. That said the market principals would offer some good breeding to suggest that it could be a decent contest.
Holding the largest price tag and with Kevin’s juveniles hitting their stride, Juan Elcano was fancied by the punters to make a winning debut. The weather had not been too kind to these 2 yo’s as the ground was softened to heavy going, which would be a real test. Andrea Atzeni is Sheikh Obaid’s retained jockey but he had to be elsewhere so Kevin Stott stepped in for the ride.
Slowly away, Juan Elcano gave the field a start as the raced Mellad and Subjectivist took the lead and set the pace. Kevin squeezed Elcano into his stride and the chestnut moved up to tag on to the back of the field. They were quickly through the first furlong and into the bend at which point the lead was Mellad’s who proved a little keen, increasing the pace. Juan Elcano was proving green through the early stages but had a decent enough position to race from.
With a good gallop being set up front it wasn’t long before the field were around the bend and entering the home straight. Still a good 1/2 mile from home but there was no let up in front. Juan Elcano again just ran a bit green and hit a little flat spot which caused Kevin to just niggle him along for a few strides to maintain their position and keep tabs with the field. The leading pair were seemingly travelling fine but the other quartet were running a little bit in snatches and showing their inexperience.
Moving on down to the 3f marker and Elcano was demoted to last position but Kevin had to move him out as in turn he past a rival. Mellad now tried to turn the screw from the front and did start to stretch them although Subjectivist was able to shadow this move. Kevin was working to try and get his mount to lengthen and Elcano did respond, slowly starting to get to grips with the task at hand.
The leading pair had been in that position from the get go but passing the 2f marker it was Subjectivist who suddenly took control, travelling powerfully. Juan Elcano had moved up to battle for 3rd spot and was learning with every yard. The new leader kicked clear by a couple of lengths which increased to 4/5 lengths to Elcano. With well over 1 1/2f to run the leader had set sail for home leaving Juan Elcano a good margin to try and close. With Mellad beginning to toil, the leader looked good with a strong advantage. Kevin had got Elcano balanced and moving forward with the pair passing a couple of rivals to be the one left giving chase to the leader. Although now really beginning to lengthen the gap was still a wide one and it would take a big effort to overcome the deficit.
Passing the 1f marker and Juan Elcano found another gear taking a length out of the lead. Although closing on the leader, Subjectivist was not stopping and the line was looming large. With his mount starting to really find his feet Kevin asked for one last effort to see if he could pick up the leader in the latter strides. With a couple of reminders Elcano changed his leg and hit top gear. There was only 100 yards to run and a couple of lengths to make up but it was clear that the chestnut was really starting to motor. The race would be decided in the dying strides but now momentum was with Elcano. With a flying finish he ate into the deficit, clawing back the ground with every stride. Within the final few strides he nabbed the leader, passing him with his next step and pulling into a neck advantage when they hit the line.
Juan Elcano not only had to overcome his inexperience but also testing conditions and a very brave, tenacious rival. All these factors show that this debut performance was impressive and the colt will improve a lot for the experience. He has always shown ability at home and is the type to thrive on the racecourse, willing to give everything. Showing a good turn of foot, Elcano quickened up once the penny dropped but he was also very powerful through the line which gives the impression that he could get further in time. Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum has enjoyed a good start to the season and it is a honour to be having winners for him in his famous silks. Juan Elcano is his third debutante winner and looks like another one who could be set for a bright future.