Tony Wells - Racegoers Club column December 2023

19 December 2023

This is a good time of year to review the flat season. What have Chaldean, Auguste Rodin, Paddington, Mosthadaf and Ace Impact got in common?


Between them, they won the six Group Ones that Sea The Stars won in his 3yo season. Some years, it takes six horses to do what Sea The Stars did himself. In case you need reminding, he won the 2000 Guineas, Derby, Eclipse, Juddmonte International, Irish Champion Stakes and Arc. If there was a Sea The Stars award for the horse who came closest to emulating him this season, the winner would be Auguste Rodin for winning two of the races.


Sea The Stars retired to stud at the end of his 3yo season and I dare say there were people complaining about that at the time, similar to the wailing and gnashing of teeth that occurred when it was announced that Ace Impact was retiring to take up stallion duties. I can see why some racing fans may feel short changed, as the brilliant Arc winner retires to stud after just a six race 3yo career. But, as Owner Breeder readers, you know how important it is to have the best stallions available to produce the future champions. The sad loss of last year’s Derby winner, Desert Crown puts into perspective how difficult it must be for Owners to make the decision to retire or keep their champion in training as a 4yo.


Ace Impact taking up stallion duties at the end of his 3yo career has parallels with another new stallion, Justify, who has made a brilliant start to his stallion career after a one season 3yo racing career. He has produced the best 2yo colt of the year in City of Troy, as well as the best 2yo filly in Opera Singer. Added to that he had two juvenile grade one winners at this year’s Breeders Cup. If he hadn’t retired to stud at the end of his 3yo career, we wouldn’t have the mouth watering prospect of City Of Troy’s 3yo career to look forward to. If the bookmakers were betting on who will get closest to emulating Sea The Stars next season, City of Troy would be a short priced favourite. His early season campaign looks like taking in the 2000 Guineas and the Derby. If successful, I wonder if the lads may be tempted to try and match the 2009 Champion. Now wouldn’t that be something to keep us warm throughout the winter.


This is the time of year when the stars of the jumping game start to reappear. Gerri Colombe has thrown his hat into the Gold Cup ring, after a late surge secured him the LadbrokesChampion Chase at Down Royal and there have been several promising novices out already.


It’s also the time of year when I go racing hoping the sun doesn’t shine. A friend of mine refers to Aintree as ‘The course where they only jump half the fences’. I have written extensively about the low sun in previous Racegoers Club articles, so I won’t go over old ground. But I heard recently that in France that they never omit fences due to the low sun. I wonder if the BHA have asked their gallic counterparts why they don’t have a problem with ‘le Soleil’. It would be interesting to find out.


My race going recently has taken in jumps meetings at Cheltenham, Newbury and Plumpton. Cheltenham was the highlight, as I took in the Showcase meeting with three fellow Racegoers club members and we included a visit to Jackdaws Castle. The facilities there are second to none and we were given a fabulous welcome by Jonjo and Jacquie. I will be following their younger horses this season, as they appear to have a lot of promising sorts - Mt Fugi Park looks a particularly nice novice hurdler and is extremely well thought of.


On the course, the Irish served notice of what’s to come with a double from Henry de Bromhead and a treble for Gavin Cromwell. The Irish trainers appear to be sending more of their horses over for the Saturday meetings in Britain, which makes for more competitive racing, but it could also mean that some of our top autumn and winter prizes will be disappearing across the Irish Sea.


My visit to Plumpton was a joy, as usual. It’s my favourite small racecourse. We always get a warm welcome there. The racing is good, as they put up good prize money for a Monday. The food in the restaurant is excellent and very good value. The sun shone all day, they jumped every fence/hurdle and not one horse fell. If you haven’t experienced the delights of Plumpton, I can highly recommend it.


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