Jamie Spencer’s has high hopes for Shakopee at Haydock
On the riding front my trip to Japan for the World All-Star Jockeys event in Sapporo last weekend wasn’t very exciting. I just didn’t draw any good horses. When you’re looking up at the screen and they’re all 99/1 you know what little chance you’ve got. But it was a great experience, number one to be meeting and riding against all those different jockeys, and number two to witness how smoothly the whole event runs, and to see the die-hard Japanese racing fans. They are unbelievable. An hour after the last race they were all still there waiting for autographs from the jockeys. Because racing in Britain is so open, and it happens every day, when the second last is over, and you don’t fancy something in the last, racegoers are off.
As soon as I arrived I was quarantined from 9am on Friday until the event was over on Sunday night. Basically you are cut off from the outside world. You’re not allowed use your phone for any communication. Christophe Lemaire once retweeted something when he was there and got a thirty day ban. That tells you how strict it all is. We are in a hotel so it’s fine. You are allowed to everything else but you’re just not allowed outside. I was with the other international jockeys and all the Japanese jockeys. I know Christophe quite well, and Yutaka Take had come up from Tokyo. I’ve got to know him from doing lots of different things around the world. So I hung out with them and killed a bit of time.
The event itself was a points system based on two races each day, and with astronomical prize money. It’s hard to explain but when you see the racing in Japan it’s amazing. Everything just runs like clockwork. They are incredibly strict about the weights there too. No horse is carrying one or two pounds overweight. You’re not even allowed 0.1 of a pound over. You can’t compare it with British racing as they only race at the weekend, on Saturday and Sunday. So they have 5 days to prepare for it. It’s not an everyday occurrence. They have nothing from Monday to Friday, so the people are starved of it, and look forward to it at the weekend.
I really enjoyed the trip. It broadens your mind a bit more visiting new places and meeting new people.
In the first today at Haydock at 1.50 I ride Trainnah. I see William has reached for a set of blinkers for her. It looked like last time when she won she wasn’t really killing herself. She was head to head with David Simcock’s filly for a while, and though she pulled away in the end it looked like she had more in the locker. So the blinkers are on. I thought James Fanshawe’s filly Zest was the big danger. She seems to be pulling it all together. I think improving three year olds at this stage just have an advantage on the older horses that have plateaued and are at their peak.
In the 3.00 I ride Breton Rock. David Simcock is very happy with him. I saw him the other morning and he had a nice breeze. A shower of rain would do him no harm. He loves cut in the ground. He has that 4lb penalty for winning at Newmarket and that won’t make it easy for him. But this race picks itself for him. It fits well. A mile is as far as he wants. It’s a race for all the old stagers. They’ve all beaten each other before at one stage or another, so just have to hope it’s his turn again today. That penalty will be tough to overcome but the one thing in his favour is that there isn’t a host of improving three year olds to take on. Other than First Selection he’s taking on older horses, and they are exposed older horses too.
Shakopee is my ride in the 3.30. He’s up another two furlongs, and last time was his first try at a mile and a half. It’s the same as always, the first half of the race is very important to him. If I can get him to relax and not take me on too much, he should have plenty of energy for coming down the straight. Riding a hold up race around Haydock is different from York. Yes you have a half mile straight but at York there’s a long sweeping bend before you enter the three furlong straight, whereas Haydock just has two long straights and a sharp bend into the home turn. So at Haydock the leaders do get a good breather. If there are two in front entering the sharp final bend and they decide to get a breather, it’s very unlikely another horse is going to swoop by them round that bend, going three wide with five to run. So that makes it a little more difficult on a hold up horse. So we will do what we have to do. He’s drawn 17 so we’ll have to miss the break and drop in. If the race is run smoothly and things go his way, the three pounds rise since York won’t matter. A shower of rain would also be a big help to him. I think that was what beat him at York, it was just a little bit lively. The extra distance is also in his favour and should see more improvement too. The most important thing is how the race is run and whether he gets a good pace to run at. He will then go there with a good chance. Walpole who was a non-runner yesterday does look a danger. He’s an unexposed four year old and he’s going forward.
I ride El Astronaute in the 4.00. He won well the other day at Epsom. He has form on and around this rating, he’s running off 90, and a three year old won this race last year, so he looks like he has a good chance. He’s got back on track on his last two runs. He’s drawn six, so you just have to take it, and see how the race is run.
In the big race, the Haydock Sprint at 4.30 I’m on Mr Lupton. If they get some rain and the ground is good to soft, then I think he will outrun his odds. It wouldn’t surprise me if he got in the first four. You’d have to be pretty optimistic to think he would win the race but he could run well if there’s some dig in the ground and a fast pace to run at. Goken just needs soft ground and he hasn’t had it in his recent races. It’s a big must for him. Until he gets it it’s not easy for him. This is a good bunch of sprinters but if the rain comes it knocks out a good few of them at the top end of the market. If it rains then Quiet Reflection is the one they all have to beat. Her best performance for me was not the win at Ascot but when she won the Sandy Lane in May. She was visually very impressive that day, and she hasn’t been over-raced since. She hasn’t run since the July Cup when the ground would have been lively enough for her. She’s the one to beat if it rains.
I don’t know much about Evening Hush in the last at 5.50 for Evan Williams. I presume this is just a loosener before he goes jumping. He won a maiden in Ireland and this looks a competitive race, number one, and number two it’s probably a watching brief on his first run for the yard. I like a horse called Marmaduke Bay in this race. He’s the sort of horse who keeps his light under a bushel. I think he’s a good bit better than his mark, and if he was trained by someone more fashionable then he would be a shorter price.
For Jim Crowley and Silvestre De Sousa, what they are going to go through over the next six weeks will be very demanding. It’s interesting that for both of them their main trainers have only given them ten winners each so they are both very much freelancers. That means their agents will play as much a part in their battle as they will. The one thing that Silvestre has in his favour is that you can give him ten rides a day and he never looks exhausted. He’s built for being a jockey. He can eat whatever he wants. I think that will be a big advantage when it comes to Kempton Wednesday night, Wolverhampton Thursday, Friday night Wolverhampton again then Chelmsford Saturday night. It becomes fairly gruelling for them. It’s fine when the evening meetings are on the grass. It’s not mundane. But when you’re going to all weather night meetings four nights a week it soon gets pretty challenging. From the 1st September onwards I found the hardest part when I was going for the championship. The quality of the racing dips and the evening racing is zombie stuff. The boys will be looking forward to the Saturdays but then on Saturday night they’ll be off to an all-weather night meeting. And I don’t mean any disrespect to those tracks it’s just the way racing is structured. All weather evening meetings are very rarely high quality.