Middle Park victory in Crisford’s sights for Vandeek

By Sports Desk September 24, 2023

Ed Crisford is excited to see Vandeek bid for a second Group One success in the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday.

The Havana Grey colt has won each of his three starts to date, with a successful debut at Nottingham followed by big-race wins in the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood and the Prix Morny at Deauville.

Crisford, who trains Vandeek in partnership with his father Simon, is well aware the youngster will have his mettle tested on the Rowley Mile next weekend but is relishing the challenge.

He said: “The Middle Park is a proper championship race and if he was able to win a Group One at Newmarket it would be huge – not just for us but for the owner and the horse himself. It would put him on the board as one of the top two-year-olds in Europe.

“It will be a proper race against proper horses and there will be some new horses coming in that we haven’t faced yet. It is going to be a very good race, but he has gone and won a Group One so he goes there with every chance.

“He is the first Group One winner that me and dad have had and he just has that natural talent. We’ve had some good older horses come through our hands like Century Dream, but Vandeek has that real quality as a two-year-old and that means he should be an exciting three-year-old.”

Vandeek’s top-level win in France came at the expense of Christopher Head’s exciting filly Ramatuelle, who had shown her quality by winning a Group Three and a Group Two.

“Looking at the Morny, it was the championship two-year-old race at the time and a proper Group One – you needed to be on your A game to win it,” Crisford added.

“He got caught in a pocket a bit and the French filly Ramatuelle went for it and I thought we might not catch her, but he put his head down and for him to grind her down was a good performance.

“He is still learning his trade and the Morny was the first time he had to race, as up until then he had done it on ability.”

While Vandeek’s wins at Goodwood and Deauville have both come on testing conditions, Crisford is confident a faster surface will not be a problem.

He said: “I think good ground, or just on the quick side of that would be fine as Havana Grey’s (progeny) tend to go on that. To be honest, running him on the soft ground has just been the way it has happened.

“The way he moves and covers the ground, I wouldn’t be too worried on better ground and I think he could be a better horse on it as you would see that turn of foot come to the fore.

“For a breeze-up horse he is unbelievable. He is so relaxed and that will put him in good stead for these big events. He doesn’t waste any energy.”

James Doyle will take over in the saddle aboard Vandeek from Andrea Atzeni following the Italian’s recent move to Hong Kong.

Should all go well in the Middle Park, Crisford will consider stepping his exciting colt up to seven furlong for the first time for a crack at the Dewhurst Stakes back at Newmarket a fortnight later.

He added: “He hit the line strong in France and I think he would stay seven (furlongs) standing on his head. He is a big, tall scopey horse who covers a lot of ground.

“We have to take one race at a time and the Middle Park is his next target. If he wins and looks like he is in great order, who is to say he is not going to have a crack at the Dewhurst as well?”

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