Belardo eyes Doncaster champagne

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Belardo is set to bid for a first Pattern race success in the At The Races Champagne Stakes at Doncaster on September 13.

Roger Varian’s charge was an impressive winner of the Listed Washington Singer Stakes at Newbury earlier this month after winning on his debut at Yarmouth in June before finishing fourth in the July Stakes.

Belardo switched up to seven furlongs at Newbury and that is also the trip he will face in the Doncaster Group Two.

Varian said: “The Champagne Stakes is on Belardo’s agenda. He is in good order and really took the race well at Newbury. He has been training nicely and the Champagne Stakes is where we are looking to go next.

“It was a good performance last time. We were a bit worried about the ground beforehand but he handled it well. He travelled nicely and showed a good turn of foot, which was pleasing.

“He has now won on good to firm and good to soft and is showing that versatility which is always nice to see in a young horse.”

The Aidan O’Brien-trained pair of Gleneagles and Highland Reel, who both won Group Two contests last time out, are among the contenders at this stage along with last week’s Acomb Stakes winner Dutch Connection.

JACK SEEKING TARA TRIUMPH

Jessica Harrington’s exciting filly Jack Naylor bids to complete a hat-trick in the Flame Of Tara European Breeders Fund Stakes at the Curragh on Sunday.

Following a couple of creditable efforts in defeat at Leopardstown and Fairyhouse, the daughter of Champs Elysees made it third time lucky with a runaway victory at Roscommon before beating a strong field in Leopardstown’s Silver Flash Stakes.

The form received a significant boost when the fourth home Raydara came out on top in last weekend’s Debutante Stakes at the Curragh and the prospect of slightly easier ground conditions on Sunday holds no fears for Harrington.

“She seems in good form and I think the step up from seven furlongs to a mile will suit her well,” said the trainer.

“She’s got to give 5lb to the other fillies, but I’m happy with her and the ground won’t bother her, so we’ll see what happens.”

The only other previous winner in the eight-strong field is David Wachman’s Galway Festival scorer Legatissimo.

Wachman said: “She seems fine and I’ve been happier with her since her last run.

“She’s only won a maiden and she’s got to step up now she’s in Listed company, so we’ll see how we go.

“I’m not too concerned about the ground.”

The Aidan O’Brien-trained Together Forever has shown up well on her two starts to date, while Jim Bolger saddles a pair of newcomers in Deontas and Steip Amach, with stable jockey Kevin Manning siding with the latter.

Paul Deegan’s Hassah is also previously unraced.

The Michael Mulvany-trained Bluerince Lady and Could Should Would from Andrew Oliver’s yard complete the line-up.

ARC STILL THE TARGET FOR TAGHROODA

Taghrooda is on track for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe despite suffering a shock reverse at York last week.

John Gosden’s charge was a hot favourite for the Yorkshire Oaks after bagging both the Oaks at Epsom and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on her previous two starts,.

However, she had to settle for second behind Tapestry with Gosden thinking his star filly was not totally at home on the quick ground.

He told At The Races: “I’ll be quite honest, our filly didn’t quite let herself go on the ground but I was not going to stand making excuses afterwards. I don’t believe in that, I don’t like anyone who whinges, but the ground was quick underneath and she was just holding back on it.

“It was the same for everyone and that’s why you don’t whinge, you just get on with it.

“She’s in great order and we’re pointing towards the Arc.

“I take nothing from the filly that won - she’s very talented, beautifully bred and people forget she was favourite for the Guineas. She got lost early in the year and I think they changed the programme, put some condition on her and she came there with a lot of confidence behind her.

“I think they are two exceptional fillies and she liked fast ground more than we did. It was that ground where the grass was short with a little give on top and boom, very firm underneath. It wasn’t her favourite but you go there to race, not to moan about the ground.”

NTF LAUNCHES NEWCASTLE PETITION

The National Trainers Federation has launched a petition against plans to convert the turf course at Newcastle into an all-weather track.

The NTF asked members for their views on the subject earlier in the year, with the majority opposed to the plans of Newcastle’s owner Arena Racing Company.

The trainers’ body is now eager to give those outside the training ranks an opportunity to voice their opinion and have duly launched an online petition.

Rupert Arnold, chief executive of the NTF, said: “There is a need for an all-weather track in the north and we don’t underestimate the requirements of our members in the north.

“However, a decision to convert Newcastle’s valued turf course has major long term consequences for the sport and as an alternative venue for a northern all-weather track is still a possibility, the decision must not be rushed.

“We have been approached by trainers and others in the sport asking if any more could be done to change ARC’s plans. At this late stage we felt the only option was to get all those people’s voices heard and an online petition offered the best solution.”

Hugo Palmer added his voice to a growing number of trainers opposed to the plans at Newcastle.

Those having signed the NTF petition include Sir Michael Stoute and Luca Cumani.

Palmer, whose winners at Newcastle include his star two-year-old Aktabantay, said in his StanJames.com blog: “I was born in Edinburgh and my family house is 80 miles north of Newcastle. I was at university at Newcastle for four years.

“Newcastle is the racecourse where I have the best strike-rate. I don’t know whether I have the best strike-rate of any trainer at Newcastle, but I would suspect it would be between 40 and 50 per cent of the horses I send there.

“I do think it is the best racecourse in the country and I mean that as a place to run a horse. It ticks all the boxes for me. James Armstrong is a magnificent clerk of the course, they’ve got wonderful turf, very good shelter - there’s very rarely a strong wind. It’s a very very nice place to run a horse and I would be devastated to see it turned into an all-weather track.

“If Arena were to do it, they would of course be doing it for their own profits. I know there is a call for an all-weather track in the north of England but, if we assume the centre of training in the north is Middleham, I put Middleham to Southwell and Middleham to Newcastle into Google maps and I think Newcastle is only a dozen miles closer than Southwell is.

“I know Southwell isn’t the north but it’s pretty close. If they want to have it in the north, they should have it at Musselburgh or at Catterick.

“Don’t destroy the best turf track in the country. And when you’ve got people like Sir Michael Stoute speaking out against it - and we all know that Stoutey is quite reticent when it comes to speaking out - they need to be listened to.”

CATTERICK HOPING FOR 2017 AW START

Catterick is set to formally apply for planning permission to the local authority with a view to possibly staging Flat racing on an artificial surface in 2017.

Officials at the North Yorkshire track, ideally placed close to the A1, have been working closely with the British Horseracing Authority and other interested parties, including English Heritage, on a project that began two years ago.

Jump racing would continue as that circuit is separate apart from a couple of areas, similar to that at Kempton.

Ideally, Catterick would look to increase Flat racing by at least 30 fixtures so that they would have 50 Flat all-weather fixtures and 10 over jumps on turf.

Giving an update on progress, John Sanderson, chief executive of International Racecourse Management which runs Catterick, told Racing UK: “We started working on this two years ago.

“We spent quite a lot of time on the design of the track which will replace the turf track if it happens with the assistance of the BHA and the racecourse department.

“We’ve had to involve English Heritage as there are a lot of Roman remains at Catterick.

“We are now formulating our formal planning submission to the local authority.

“Jumping will continue at Catterick. They are two separate tracks, they do intertwine twice but that isn’t an issue and that’s all been approved by the BHA.

“It’s very difficult to put a timescale on it, but maybe 2017 something like that.”

Sanderson’s update comes hot on the heels of news of a petition being organised by the National Trainers Federation against plans to convert the turf course at Newcastle into an all-weather track.

No such objections are expected to stall Catterick’s ambitions.