Australian adventure could come under consideration for Desert Hero

By Sports Desk December 06, 2023

William Haggas has raised the possibility of the King and Queen’s Desert Hero running in Australia in the new year.

A winner at Royal Ascot in June, he then chased Classic glory in the St Leger at Doncaster but with the King and Queen in attendance he could only finish an honourable third.

He was briefly under consideration for the Melbourne Cup which created a real buzz in Australia, but plans were shelved to give him time to recover from his Classic bid.

Now Haggas, who has enjoyed great success in Australia with the likes of Addeybb and Dubai Honour, has suggested the Tancred Stakes, a Group One over a mile and a half at Rosehill in Sydney, could be a viable option.

“We won’t decide until January. They won’t go into quarantine until February 20 and the first race is March 23, I think they would arrive in Australia on March 9,” Haggas told Sky Sports Racing.

“Dubai Honour is going to go and a staying horse called Post Impressionist will go who has been sold to Australian connections.

“We are umming and ahhing about Desert Hero maybe going for the Tancred Stakes, I’m not sure. He’s not thriving at the moment so I’m not sure. He’s just not enjoying the cold but there’s plenty of time, he’s come back in from his holiday so we’ll see.

“We won’t make any decision on him for ages. It’s a long way off.”

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  • Fontwell loses National Spirit card to waterlogging Fontwell loses National Spirit card to waterlogging

    Heavy rain around the UK continues to hit this week’s National Hunt fixtures, with Sunday’s top-class card at Fontwell and Friday’s meeting at Warwick falling to the weather.

    The £80,000 Grade Two Star Sports National Spirit Hurdle was to be the feature race of Fontwell’s biggest day of their centenary year.

    However, persistent heavy rain has left standing water on the West Sussex venue, with 18mm falling prior to a 4pm inspection on Thursday.

    Clerk of the course Philip Hide said: “The track is waterlogged and I’m seeing water lying where I’ve never seen it before.

    “We just haven’t got any fresh ground to offer up to get any meaningful racing line, with a forecast for plenty more rain – although the forecast doesn’t have a lot to do with it, because it would need to improve a fair amount from where we’re at and there’s just no prospect of it happening.

    “Even though I was expecting today to be wet, we’ve probably had 5mm above where I dreaded being. We had about 5mm in 25 minutes around 12 o’clock today.

    “It’s an important race for us, but unfortunately, however much you want something to happen, you can’t make it happen. I couldn’t just keep going blindly forward, I’d be misleading people.

    “It’s not a hard decision to make and it’s not a decision I’ll regret at any stage – I’m happy to have made it in a timely fashion, to be honest.

    “Obviously, there’s a chance they might put the race on somewhere for those horses that have been waiting for it – I think Brewin’upastorm has had it as a target since winning it last year.”

    Following another downpour at Warwick, the adjacent Gog Brook burst its bank and left the course unraceable due to waterlogging.

    Officials quickly decided there would not be sufficient improvement ahead of raceday and called an early halt to proceedings.

    A precautionary inspection has also been scheduled for 8am ahead of Exeter’s jumps meeting on Friday.

    After 10.5mm of rain fell on Thursday morning, the ground was described as heavy but raceable, although the last hurdle in the backstraight is being omitted.

    The prospect of further showers has forced officials to take another look at conditions in the morning.

    Thursday’s meeting at Huntingdon was called off due to a waterlogged track, but prospects for Saturday’s big jumps meetings are more encouraging.

    The Premier Raceday fixture at Kempton, which features the £150,000 Coral Trophy Handicap Chase and a trio of Grade Two events, is set to be staged on going that is soft, heavy in places.

    There has been plenty of rain in the Surrey area but the forecast is for sunshine and showers on Friday and Saturday.

    Newcastle’s Eider Chase card is currently set to be run on ground described as heavy, soft in places.

    Gosforth Park received less rain than expected over the last two days and a bright and breezy day is forecast for Friday.

    Temperatures could drop to around zero for a short time at night, bringing the possibility of a light frost, but raceday has a predcited low risk of showers through the afternoon, with a light breeze and highs of 7C.

  • ‘Very talented’ Sir Gino primed for Triumph tilt ‘Very talented’ Sir Gino primed for Triumph tilt

    Sir Gino does not fit Nicky Henderson’s typical template of a juvenile hurdler – but the giant four-year-old looks so good he has somewhat forced his trainer to go down a tried-and-tested route.

    On his arrival from France, Henderson had an inkling he was something out of the ordinary, although his size and shape made connections think he would be more of a longer-term prospect.

    Victory on his British debut at Kempton confirmed first impressions that he was very talented but some sloppy jumping still had Henderson thinking he might not be a JCB Triumph Hurdle type.

    However, the way he disposed of previous Triumph favourite Burdett Road at Cheltenham soon meant there was only one way to go.

    “He’s a lovely big horse. I think we always thought he was very good but didn’t want to get too carried away before we got to see it. Luckily, the spies hadn’t really latched on to him before Cheltenham but we thought he was pretty smart,” said Henderson.

    “He’s only had two races for us and one in France, he’s a very talented horse.

    “His jumping wasn’t very good at Kempton and he was babyish, he got a bit of a fright when he hit the front. He’d missed a couple on the way, was very good at a couple but he got very goofy on the run-in.

    “Normally, we’d expect the French horses to do it in their sleep, as they start with them as yearlings, whereas we chuck them out in the field. The French can normally all do it (jump) blindfolded but he didn’t do it at Kempton, so we did do quite a bit between Kempton and Cheltenham.

    “He beat a good horse, but was it the real Burdett Road that showed up and he wasn’t 10lb below his best? We’d have still won but we’re assuming Burdett Road ran to his previous form.”

    Usually, Willie Mullins dominates the Triumph Hurdle, but while he did saddle the first four in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown, Henderson was not left having sleepless nights after it.

    “I think he’s very good. It will be an interesting race. What surprised me most at the ‘Willie Mullins Festival’ was the race I was watching most carefully, the juvenile, they all finished in a heap,” said Henderson.

    “I was expecting something to jump out from that race but it didn’t look obvious. There’s some nice horses, don’t get me wrong, but nothing to do what Sir Gino did at Cheltenham.

    “The Triumph is a tough race and this is a big, scopey horse who will jump a fence, he’s not your typical Triumph horse. Sometimes you might have decided to wait another year with him but we’ve got this far, so we may as well keep going.

    “We won’t think about next year, let’s get through this year first. He’s only had two runs, one was a very moderate race at Kempton, so you’d hope he could do that, you have to judge whether Burdett Road ran to his best – he was rated over 100 on the Flat.”

    Running through some of his other Festival hopefuls, Henderson said: “Marie’s Rock will run in the Mares’ and I couldn’t be happier. Obviously, Lossiemouth is in the way but she’s in great form. It’s where she’s got to go, it’s the sensible race. She was much better last time and moved much better.

    “Under Control might go for the Morebattle (March 2), I want to see what the ground is like at Kelso and then when she’s won that, she’ll have to go for the bonus at Cheltenham – that will be easy!

    “We turned her around in nine days last year from Cheltenham to Sandown. I don’t know if she’s well handicapped but she doesn’t need to run in a non-handicap. Something went very wrong in the Gerry Fielden, I never found out what, but she finished very strongly at Doncaster, which was encouraging.

    “Jeriko Du Reponet has been in good form. I think the two-miler (Supreme) is going to be the hot one. I just need to persuade Ronnie Bartlett (owner of Ballyburn) to run his over two and a half because he promised me he would about Christmas time but they seem to have changed their minds, which is very inconvenient.

    “Iberico Lord will have to think about coming out again. I wouldn’t say he’s a step ahead because he’s won two very good handicaps, he looks really well and he’d be in the County, we’ve several in there. Under Control and Impose Toi could also run in it.

    “Doddiethegreat won’t get in the Coral Cup I don’t think, and it’s hurting me because it’s the race for him. It would be really sad because he’s crying out for another half a mile.

    “I’ve no real novice chasers, we’ve got good novice hurdlers this year but the novice chasers are weak.

    “I’ve got four for the Pertemps; Chantry House, Bold Endeavour, Walking On Air needs to finish in the first four at Chepstow on Saturday and Mill Green, who has been third in it twice.

    “Shanagh Bob (Albert Bartlett) had a dirty scope and was wrong over Christmas, he schooled this morning and looks a bit sharper than before Christmas.”

  • Jonbon ‘in good form’ ahead of El Fabiolo Festival clash Jonbon ‘in good form’ ahead of El Fabiolo Festival clash

    Nicky Henderson is unconcerned that Jonbon is heading for his big clash with El Fabiolo in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase on the back of a defeat.

    For a horse who has won 12 of his 15 races under rules, the Seven Barrows handler also reads nothing into the fact that all three of his defeats have come at Cheltenham.

    Stablemate Constitution Hill beat him in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle two years ago, while El Fabiolo saw him off in the Arkle last term. Most recently, in a performance littered with jumping errors, he was beaten in the rearranged Clarence House Chase as the 1-4 favourite.

    He did begin this season with a comfortable win at Cheltenham, though, and that is why Henderson sees no reason to worry.

    “He’s schooled this morning, AP (McCoy) was here to see him. He’s in good form, very good,” said Henderson.

    “We’ve done nothing different (since the Clarence House). You just put it down as one mistake. You’ve got to. He schooled this morning and jumped more than he will in the Queen Mother.

    “He won the Shloer, that proves he goes around Cheltenham, I’ve no worries on that front.”

    With Alan King’s Edwardstone looking a reformed character having adopted front-running tactics in the Game Spirit Chase, Henderson feels the Queen Mother will be run to suit Jonbon.

    He said: “They’ll go some gallop and I think that suits him. It looks as if Edwardstone has come into pace-making duties and he looked good at Newbury, but in some ways, I don’t think that is a bad thing for us. But I would have been happy to make the running.

    “AP thought he was very good (Thursday morning) and would love to ride him himself – of all the horses, I know he’d love to ride him because he would suit him. AP has watched him school so many times.

    “There’s one fence in our row of five he always meets on the wrong stride but he is so quick sorting his feet out. I think AP would love the challenge of him. While Constitution is straightforward, he is a bit the other way, he tests you, we call him fidgety.

    “He did well really last time (to get back on terms), the thing that cost him was the last fence, not the mistake down the hill. If he’d met it on a better stride, it would have been game over, but he landed in a bit of a heap and the other horse just got away from him.”

    A step up in trip had been discussed at the end of last season but he was not even entered in the Ryanair this year.

    “We discussed it but never put him in the Ryanair. I would have no problem going over two and a half,” said Henderson.

    “If you go back to last year, he was going to go over two and a half at Aintree and it was only because the two-mile novice chase was miles weaker that he ran in it, so we stayed at two and he winged round Aintree.

    “A fortnight later, we took him to Sandown against his elders to find out and he winged round there, so we said he was a two-miler. I’d be surprised if one day he doesn’t go over further. We’ll find out between now and the end of the season, let’s see how it all goes.”

    The rematch with El Fabiolo was all set for the original Clarence House at Ascot but when the race was moved to Cheltenham, Willie Mullins decided to keep his chaser at home.

    “I was really looking forward to Ascot and the clash with El Fabiolo, we were in absolute tip-top shape and I was very confident for that, we were very prepared for it,” explained Henderson.

    “He’s the one horse, when you’ve wound up the clock, a week was a long time for him, I couldn’t wind him up any more and it gave us a headache of a week.

    “People might say what difference does a week make, but to something like him it does. With Constitution Hill, you could hold him for a month, but Jonbon is a bit different to anybody else.

    “He might have had a harder race than we imagined from the betting, but until he made that mistake down the hill, everything had gone really nice.”

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