The Craven Meeting: What did we learn?

The three day Craven meeting at Newmarket saw some quality performances. Gaz walks us through who caught the eye and who disappointed.

The quality Racing comes thick and fast at this time of the year, with the National Hunt nearing an end and the Flat action starting to pick up pace. The Craven meeting at Newmarket is usually a good pointer for the remainder of the season, as horses with big reputations and Classic entries look to showcase their talents. This meeting is best avoided betting wise, but it’s essential viewing for Racing fans.

Mutasaabeq Impresses!

Without a doubt Mutasaabeq was the star of day one, who beat a small but highly rated field in the bet365 British EBF Conditions Stakes. Jim Crowley did well to bag the rail having been slightly slow out of the stalls, and his mount travelled supremely well from the front thereafter. As they entered the dip, Crowley asked for more effort and Mutasaabeq duly obliged, putting the race to bed. He hit the line strongly and surely will now be supplemented for the 2000 Guineas.

Tactical Affair

The standout performer in my mind on day two was Tactical. This colt was on something of a retrieval mission having fluffed his lines on a number of occasions towards the end of last season. The victory was made all the more impressive by the fact he didn’t get a clear run. As the horses passed the 2f pole, jockey Oisín Murphy looked to angle his mount wide but the gap was shut off. Murphy then spotted a pathway down the far side rail, and when he asked for effort the horse picked up impressively, winning with a bit in hand in the end. He’ll surely step back up to Group company next time out and is a horse to keep an eye on.

Watch Out For The Boys In Blue!

Godolphin were widely represented throughout the three days, and while some of their runners disappointed, there were some standout performances. Highland Avenue led home a Godolphin 1-2 in the Listed Feldon Stakes on Tuesday. Having tracked the leaders until the 2f marker, he kicked on impressively to win quite comfortably. Jockey James Doyle indicated after the race that he will now step back in trip, which could put him in the Guineas picture.

If Highland Avenue doesn’t end up in the Guineas, it will likely be due to impressive performances from his stable mates in the weeks feature race, The Craven. This was yet another 1-2 for the boys in blue, with the owners and trainer Charlie Appleby having big decisions to make over the next month or so. It was Maser Of The Seas who won the Craven from the admirable La Barossa. The official margin of victory was three-quarters of a length but that doesn’t tell the full story. As they entered the dip William Buick was short of room on Master Of The Seas and had to bide his time for a gap to appear, meaning the others in the field had first run. When the gaps did appear his mount knuckled down and showed great balance to deal with the tracks undulations. With 50 yards to go Buick resorted to a hands and heels ride and gave the impression there was a lot  more in the tank. An exciting prospect, Master Of The Seas could follow in the footsteps of Masar who tasted Classic glory shortly after his own Craven success.

I couldn’t talk about Godolphin horses and not mention Creative Force, who was an impressive winner of the Each Way Extra at Bet365 Handicap. He looked well handicapped coming into the race but the way he picked up off a strong pace really caught the eye. William Buick never had to get serious with him and he looks at horse to follow this season. Another who impressed in that race was the eventual third, Jumby. He had a luckless run but when he found daylight he showed a nice turn of foot and is definitely a horse for your tracker.

Ballydoyle Blowout!

While there were a number of impressive performances over the three days, the disappointment surely has to be the performances of the Ballydoyle runners. Aiden O’Brien’s horses are never fully wound up early in the season, but none of his runners seemed to get involved at the business end and most were sending distress signals by halfway mark. The trainer has had winners in Ireland, and it is way too early in the season to be writing his horses off, but it did strike me as odd how many if his runners seemed to run below par.