Lightning Spear strikes at Goodwood to boost Dave Simcock Ascot hopes
Hayley Turner The Observer Lightning Spear strikes at Goodwood to boost Dave Simcock Ascot hopes Simcock’s five-year-old wins Celebration Mile with impressive burst of speed
Hayley Turner refuses to comment on reports she will join ITV’s racing team
Relief was the principal emotion for Dave Simcock after the Doom Bar Celebration Mile here on Saturday when his five-year-old Lightning Spear finally produced the same form on the racecourse that the trainer has been seeing on the gallops all summer. Two recent disappointments in Group One company can now be set aside, and Lightning Spear’s next target will be the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, Europe’s championship race for milers, on Champions Day at Ascot in October.
Bookmakers offer prices as big as 16-1 for Lightning Spear to win the QEII, odds that could well attract each-way backers at least given that the chestnut’s last race over the straight mile at Ascot saw him finish a close third behind Tepin in the Queen Anne Stakes. His turn of foot also seems sure to be a potent weapon when he returns to Group One company, as he was caught in an unpromising position with two furlongs to run here but quickened so sharply that Oisin Murphy, his jockey, was already easing down as he crossed the line one-and-a-quarter lengths clear of Zonderland.
Thikriyaat, the warm favourite for this Group Two race at 7-4, was a bitter disappointment, pushed along at halfway and already beaten with a quarter of a mile to run. That should not detract from the quality of Lightning Spear’s success, however, and he is not a runner to dismiss lightly as the autumn’s big prizes come into view.
“The last two races have been so frustrating to watch, he’s a very talented horse and he hadn’t been able to produce for one reason or another,” Simcock said. “I’ve always said he’s good, and I think he’ll show his true potential next year.
“His turn of foot is something we’ve seen at home. We’ve always said he’s the best miler we’ve had, and I’m just really relieved. When you have belief in a horse and it doesn’t quite happen, you don’t doubt yourself but you wonder why and what went wrong.
“His good run at Ascot should have led on to the Sussex Stakes here and also to Deauville [in the Prix Jacques Le Marois]. I hate making excuses, but Goodwood is a hard place to come from the back when they don’t go a pace, and Deauville was messy and he got shuffled back on tacky ground.
“Everything will now aim towards Ascot and we’ll have a real go at the QEII.”
Kilmah held the late charge of Promising by a neck in the Group Three Prestige Stakes, but the runner-up may prove to be the better long-term prospect despite still being a maiden after three starts. Kilmah, seventh of eight in the Lowther Stakes at York nine days earlier, enjoyed a trouble-free trip in front under a well-judged ride by Franny Norton. Promising, however, was forced to come around the field having turned for home with just one rival behind her.
“She stayed on well and found a bit more when it mattered,” Mark Johnston, Kilmah’s trainer, said. “After running so disappointingly in the Lowther, it would have been so easy not to run her, but she was the only one I had in the yard that could go for this.”
Platitude, who was well beaten here behind his stablemate Ulysses in the Gordon Stakes in July, stormed away from his field to take the March Stakes by five lengths from Vive Ma Fille, but a gelding operation at the end of last season means that the three-year-old is ineligible for next month’s St Leger.
Away from the track, Hayley Turner, Britain’s most successful female jockey until her retirement from the saddle at the end of last season, has refused to comment on a report that she will join ITV’s team of presenters when the channel takes over coverage of the sport next year.
Rishi Persad, a current member of the Channel 4 Racing team who also worked for the BBC during the Rio Olympics, is also the subject of strong rumours linking him to the ITV team, while Radio 5 Live’s John Hunt has been linked with the commentator’s role.
Ed Chamberlin has already been recruited from Sky Sports to front ITV’s coverage, along with Francesca Cumani, the daughter of Newmarket trainer Luca, who will share presenting duties during the Flat season.