No excuses for Little Big Bear’s Ascot eclipse

By Sports Desk June 23, 2023

Aidan O’Brien offered no excuses for Little Big Bear’s defeat as he finished second to Shaquille in the Commonwealth Cup.

Sent off one of the shortest-priced favourites of the week at odds of 10-11, he grabbed the lead entering the final furlong but was run down late by Julie Camacho’s improver, who had also missed the break badly by rearing when the stalls opened.

Little Big Bear was last year’s champion juvenile but having finished last when tried over a mile in the 2000 Guineas first time out, he seems set to stick to sprinting for the time being, with O’Brien eyeing a possible rematch with the winner in the July Cup.

The Ballydoyle handler said: “He ran very well. Ryan (Moore) was delighted with the run. It was a very good run. He just got beaten by a better horse on the day.

“I don’t know where he’ll go. It could be the July Cup or something like that. It was only his second sprint, so we’ll see.

“I think the winner missed the break, but he usually makes the running. I think he’s an out-and-out sprinter, so we will train him for the July Cup.”

Karl Burke’s Swingalong was third at 66-1, a return to the form she showed as a juvenile.

“It was a great run. Delighted she got that Group One placing – it is so important for a filly,” Burke said.

“She was a Lowther winner and she’s a good filly. She wasn’t right in France (when last in the French 1000 Guineas) and would not have won at any trip in France, although she didn’t stay the mile. I don’t know what went wrong there.

“After that we gave her plenty of time to come back and we were always targeting this. I said to the guys that I could see her running a big race and be third or fourth and that’s what she has done, so we’re delighted.

“We are thinking more Prix Maurice de Gheest than July Cup. She was not stopping and was third over seven (furlongs) first time out in the Guineas trial and she stayed that well. I think six and a half will be very nice for her.”

Roger Varian was at a loss to explain Sakheer’s lacklustre run, however. The 17-2 shot came home last of the 13 runners.

“It’s mystifying at the moment and we’re obviously all very disappointed,” Varian told ITV Racing.

“He was a bit slow from the gates, he travelled well through halfway and David (Egan) was happy, he took a peek to the other side to see how they were going.

“But then he very quickly emptied out and his stride shortened when he let him down.

“His initial reaction was that the ground felt too firm and he didn’t let himself down.

“He pulled up sound and looks fine, we’ll carry out all the usual post-race checks. At the moment we are scratching our heads but something might come to light. Obviously it wasn’t his true form.”

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