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Circling on the Berkshire skyline like a marauding band of Red Indians in a John Wayne western, trainer Mick Channon’s string of horses impressed observers the other morning, none more so than his 1,000 Guineas candidate Flashy Wings.
A fortnight before the first fillies classic, the former England footballer was pronouncing his star ready to do the job and many will hope that the muscular, chestnut filly will break Channon’s classic duck and make up for the dreadful luck he has suffered in the past. He has trained two other leading fancies for the race but Bint Allayl shattered a shoulder on the gallops and Queen’s Logic too was injured just before the race.
Reluctant to make comparisons, Channon says only that Flashy Wings has a great attitude and has worked “unbelievable”. And that despite the cold spring: “There were two dead polar bears up here the other day.”
As for her preparation, he noted: “The last two gallops aren’t for the horse at all, they’re for you – you wouldn’t want to be going to a classic with a horse not fit, making you look a prat.”
Ireland’s trainers dominated the National Hunt season and last year Aidan O’Brien and the Coolmore team took both the opening classics with Footstepsinthesand (2,000 Guineas) and Virginia Waters (1,000).
O’Brien rates his 2,000 candidate George Washington as one of the most talented horses he has handled and he also runs Horatio Nelson, whom jockey Kieren Fallon believed was an unlucky loser to top English contender Sir Percy when they met in the Dewhurst as two year olds. But so far this season the Coolmore horses have failed to spark, with not a single victory among O’Brien’s first 15 three-year-old runners.
English trainers will fancy their chances of seeing off the raiders this time, none more so than Marcus Tregoning, who has been delighted with the progress of Sir Percy, bought for only 16,000 guineas and whose owners Anthony and Victoria Pakenham have refused big offers after his four wins as a two year old. Sir Percy’s sire, Mark of Esteem, won the 1996 2,000 Guineas.
Fellow Lambourn trainer Barry Hills, who has won the race twice, runs Killybegs, Red Clubs and Olympian Odyssey in the 2,000. His son Michael has chosen to ride Killybegs and his twin brother Richard will be on board Red Clubs. Champion jockey Jamie Spencer, who rides Flashy Wings in the 1,000, will be aboard Olympian Odyssey.
Newmarket trainer Sir Michael Stoute, who has trained five 2,000 winners, relies on Final Verse, and Godolphin run only Opera Cape, trained last season by Sylvester Kirk. Yorkshire-based Kevin Ryan, who has trained more than 30 winners this season, will be hoping for a first classic winner with Amadeus Wolf but I take Killybegs and Richard Hannon’s Asset to chase Sir Percy home.
Flashy Wings’ chief rivals in the 1,000 look to be the O’Brien-trained Rumplestiltskin and John Gosden’s Nannina, who has both class and guts. There will be a hearty cheer for the little battalions, though, if the temperamental Speciosa, from the 13-horse yard of Pam Sly, the self-described “Fenland farmer”, lands the spoils. She is no forlorn hope, having won the Nell Gwyn Stakes over the course.
The other threat is Silca’s Sister, trained as a two year old by Channon before being bought by Godolphin. She is said to have done well in trials in Dubai. Although Channon is a realist who gets on with the job, there might be some choice Anglo-Saxon language in one corner of Berkshire if Silca’s Sister should prove the one to pip Flashy Wings.