Newmarket will host impressive racing action during its Champions’ Day race card
Patience, a virtue possessed of all top trainers, has played a leading part in the preparation of Ireland’s Beckett and Barba Papa in two of the feature races on Newmarket’s Champions’ Day on Saturday.
Beckett has been nursed back to rude health under the astute eye of Aidan O’Brien in preparation for the Dubai Champion Stakes after suffering from niggling muscle problems earlier in the season.
Barba Papa’s appetite for the game is as insatiable as that of his trainer Tony Martin, the champion amateur rider and trainer from County Meath. Martin produced Barba Papa in winning form for a Punchestown hurdle recently with an eye to making up for the gelding’s unlucky third in the Tote Cesarewitch last year.
At the start of last season Barba Papa had a trapped epiglottis and underwent a soft palate operation before winning the Ascot Stakes. Earlier in his career he had fallen on the road and has suffered from a painful knee every time he comes under pressure.
“When Johnny Murtagh asked him the big question in the Cesarewitch last year Barba Papa became unbalanced and hung with the pain of his knee,” recalled Martin. “But for that he would probably have won.”
Trainer Sir Mark Prescott and his owners Kirsten Rausing and Sonia Rogers have elected to run Alleluia in the Cesarewitch and not the Jockey Club Cup.
Alleluia, who is most effective on good ground, is likely to start favourite as long as the rains stay away. She has plenty in hand on her Doncaster Cup victory but if everything goes Barba Papa’s way he will be fancied to avenge his defeat of 12 months ago.
Beckett won a Group 1 two-year-old race in Ireland last year but then proved difficult to train as a result of muscle problems. O’Brien brought him back gradually and Beckett’s all-the-way win at Newmarket a fortnight ago suggests he could improve again and beat Nayef.
O’Brien’s Rock Of Gibraltar, owned by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, should complete a memorable day for Ireland by winning his second Group 1 within a fortnight, the Darley Dewhurst Stakes.
Rock Of Gibraltar ran away with the Grand Criterium in Paris 13 days ago and appears to have been gifted this prestigious race by the defection of Godolphin’s Dubai Destination who beat him at Doncaster but has been retired for the season with a leg injury.