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Pride Of Southgate

Pride Of Southgate

They say the best laid plans often go astray, so when we mapped out the prestigious John Smith’s Cup Heritage Handicap at York for Pride Of America back in March of this year it was with an err of caution.  The exuberant front running mile and a quarter horse required a myriad of things to go his way most notably the underfoot conditions.  Given the race is run in the middle of summer, we arrived at the week of declarations firmly on weather watch and, with only a small amount of rain forecast, it looked unlikely that we were going to make the journey North.  However, as the week progressed the weather appeared to be swaying in our favour with rain forecast the day before race day so we took the chance and declared to run.  Fred Larson was another who took a chance, as he was booked to ride at another meeting, however, he relinquished his mounts even though the final decision to run had still not be made.

Pride Of America struts his stuff in the parade ring before winning the John's Smith's Cup at York

The rest is now history, with a prime draw in stall number two, Fred was able to bounce Pride out but was unable to get him into his preferred front running position.  As the race panned out, there was a strong enough pace for Pride to relax into his stride and halfway down the home straight he made his bid for glory.  However, the battle was not over as Astro King emerged from the pack to lay down a challenge in the closing strides.  Thankfully the Gods and the nods were on our side and, after what felt like an eternity, Pride was called the winner.  To land a race such as this for owners Kevin & Graham Freeman, Daniel MacAuliffe & Anoj Don, on one of the biggest days of Saturday racing was beyond our wildest dreams and I will always be eternally gratefully to his owners for giving me the opportunity to train him.

Pride Of America was also the star of another show along with sister, Miss Cantik, as they both won within fifteen minutes of each other on either side of the English Channel.  Miss Cantik came to us last year but proved to be too free willed in everything that she did.  It became a battle between horse and rider and, invariably, she would normally win so we decided to finish her for the year and sent her to Martley Hall Stud to relax into being just a horse.  Fast forward to 2023 and, to be honest, not much has changed apart from she has honed her obvious talent and become a racehorse.  To date, she has only run in France and has picked up two victories over a mile from three runs thus far.  We stepped her up to Listed company over a mile and two furlongs last time out but, unfortunately there was no pace in the race which did not play her to strengths.  I have no doubt that she is more than capable of winning at this level so watch this space.

On this side of the channel her brother paired up with Hollie Doyle at the Boodles Chester May Festival and stole the show with a tactical front running performance with Hollie managing to save some of his exuberance for a final kick round the home turn.  Savvy Victory and Ryan Moore tried in vain to peg him back but were unable to get within a neck before Pride pulled away in the final strides. 

We are very fortunate to have the continued support of American owners Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners who invested in three fillies at the yearling sales last year following on from the success of Manhattan Jungle.  From day one we have loved these fillies each for their individuality and to have had all of them win is something we only dared to dream.  Passionately got the ball rolling at Wetherby however her journey to success was not an easy one.  Finding herself stuck behind a wall of horses for most of the race, she was unable to find a clear passage through until the final half furlong.  Once she was in the clear, she rallied gamely for Jason Hart to win by a comfortable neck.   

Needlepoint was the next of the ETP fillies to make her way to the winner’s enclosure with an emphatic victory at Chantilly on French Oaks day.  This gorgeous Blue Point filly caught everybody’s eye when she arrived at Southgate Stables so it was inevitable that she would prove to be something a little bit special and, although her homework has always been top class, I think we were still taken by surprise by the way she won especially given the quality of race.

Needlepoint & Clifford Lee storming home at Chantilly on French Oaks day (picture credit Scoopdyga)

Last but by no mean least is Geologist who backed up her debut performance at Redcar with a facile victory at Ripon under Tom Marquand.  In between these two runs was a visit to Royal Ascot and a creditable effort in the Queen Mary. We were quietly confident going into the Ripon race but, again, we were slightly taken aback by the winning margin which earned her an entry level rating of 83.

Baileys Polka Dot has always showed ability at when working at home, so it was fantastic to see her win first time out at Dieppe under Tony Piccone.  She is a French home bred of the Venner family, widely renowned for their Baileys Horse Feeds, so she also collected the 80% French Owner Premiums on top of her winnings which made her total earnings for that win approximately 27,000 euros.

Baileys Polka Dot who won first time out for Baileys Horse Feeds (F.H. Nash Ltd) (picture credit Equuis Photography)

Myconian, who was our first two year old runner/winner at Saint-Cloud back in March gave us our first Black Type success of the year.  He was another who took in the sights and sounds of Royal Ascot and put in a huge run in the Windsor Castle.  He is a hardy little chap and we had no fear of sending him to Deauville just eleven days later to run in the Listed Prix Yacowlef.  Myconian will only give as much as is required in his races and, thanks to the urges of Aurelien Lemaitre, he gave just a little extra than the others to win by a cheeky head.

Myconian & Aurelien Lemaitre after winning the Prix Yacowlef (picture credit Scoopdyga)

Five days later, it was the turn of Silver Spirit who showed a huge amount of guts and determination to win by the narrowest of margins for owner David Anderson.  Ridden by Mickael Barzalona, he did the donkey work and led the field into the home straight.  He was then pressured by the eventual runner up who persistently lent on Silver Spirit throughout the last furlong.  However, our fella accepted the challenge admirably and battled right to the line to win by a head.  There was also post race drama as the horse who had finished third lost the weight cloth at some point during the race.  Unfortunately, we were unaware of this during the Stewards Enquiry, so we had an anxious thirty minute wait until the official result was declared.

Silver Spirit in the winner's enclosure with Mr & Mrs David Anderson

For anyone who attends the races or watches on the television, everything that you see is the culmination of hours of hard work from the team behind the scenes.  Some horses require more attention than others and Catwalk Model, Raqisa, Baileys Derbyday and Young Merlin are four examples of some careful and patient handling.  Catwalk Model is one who tends to expend too much energy at home, however, she has formed a fantastic relationship with her regular rider Caroline Kelly who has done a wonderful job in helping her to relax and enjoy her work.  Catwalk repaid Caroline for all her hard work when winning at Great Yarmouth following on from a good seasonal reappearance at Nottingham. 

Raqisa, Baileys Derbyday and Young Merlin are all down to the expert handling of Will Cunnington.  Will came to us from a dressage background and he does a lot of groundwork with these horses to make them use themselves properly which is something that Raqisa has benefitted from.  He is also a very quiet rider, and this is essential for Baileys Derbyday and Young Merlin who tend to be a bit edgy. 

Raqisa’s victory at Yarmouth gave Ryan Kavanagh his first winner as an apprentice and, in doing so, also gave us a first winner for owners Arthur White and Alan Raven.  The combination of Ryan and Raqisa would appear to be a good one as she has continued to run creditably since without finding her way back to the number one spot.  Baileys Derbyday and Young Merlin both broke their maiden tags over hurdles having previously been running on the flat.  Baileys Derbyday took a couple of attempts over obstacles before getting his head in front, whereas Young Merlin took to life as a hurdler like a duck to water.

Smiles all round from Young Merlin, Jack Quinlan, Will Cunnington & Liz Mason (picture credit Tony Knapton)

Last but by no means least, is our evergreen warrior Mercian Prince who returned to his favourite stomping ground at Kempton and, once again, showed the younger generation how it is really done by bringing home victory number fourteen.  In a week where we had announced the retirement of Kalashnikov, the old boy provided us with a much needed tonic and, in doing so, reminded us all that age really is just a number.

Mercian Prince & Conal Kavanagh after his 14th career victory


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