Another top-class performance from Prince Of Arran in Saudi

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I have just returned from Saudi where Prince Of Arran (Shirocco) did us proud once again. He ran great to finish third in the Longines Turf Handicap (1m4f) and most importantly he has come through the race in perfect order.

They went really hard early on, which is not a bad thing as he stays all day, however I think we should have sat a bit further back off such a strong pace, but you could have not predicted that going on. The winner, Call The Wind (Frankel), is a seriously good horse and the quicker they went was always going to play into his hands. Arran is back home now and next stop for him will be Meydan for another crack at the Dubai Gold Cup (Gr 2, 2m). The future plans are obviously not set in stone for him, but maybe after Dubai we will head to Royal Ascot for another go at the Ascot Gold Cup (Gr 1, 2m4f).

As for the trip itself – it was an interesting one. Obviously for some people it was always going to be a tricky place to hold a race meeting and there were slightly mixed emotions about it. Everyone knows about their human rights record and stuff like that and as a result you go out there thinking: ‘Should I be doing this?’

But they put on a really, really good show and they couldn’t have looked after us any better. I think the meeting will definitely work going forward and what they have achieved in ninth months nothing short of remarkable. The track was fantastic and it was really interesting. I learnt a lot about Saudi Arabia and came back with some more prize-money which is even better.

The main fallout from the meeting annoyingly has been about the whip… again.

Mike Smith wow! He was fined $200,000 for overuse of the whip and is still complaining about it — I literally can’t believe I am still reading about it. Every jockey knows the rules and again another jockey breaks those rules and is then flabbergasted when they are punished even though the rules are crystal clear.

We have a situation in global racing where the whip is under so much scrutiny and there is only one person to blame for that — the jockeys — because it’s them who continue to break the rules. If they didn’t break them we wouldn’t have such problems regarding the stick and this is just another massive high-profile example of this.

The jockeys have to take responsibility sharpish, otherwise the whip is going to go and it will sooner than they realise. They need to sort themselves out. When you read the quotes he asks: ‘What is excessive?’ It is in the rule book as ten, so you count to ten and when you get there you put the stick down. It really is that simple. Problem is it was a $12 million race so there is so much at stake prize-money wise that he was happy to break the rules to try and win the race.

The punishment was quite right, everyone knows my feelings on the matter that a jockey who breaks the rules the horse should not keep the race, but I think a $200,000 fine is spot on. He broke the rules and should have to pay the price. It’s not like the rules are sprung on the jockeys after the race, they know everytime they sit on a horse how many times they are allowed to use the whip – it is very clear. He knew the consequences of his actions – so I’m afraid he only has one person to blame.

Pirate the King of Lingfield once again

Pirate King (1st, Lingfield, Betway Handicap (1m4f)) – It was great to see Pirate King bring up the hat-trick at Lingfield, against a very good field. This was definitely his most convincing win to date and he is looking more and more useful as the day goes on. The handicapper hasn’t missed him and put him up 8Ibs for that win, which is right hike, but it was a good race and he absolutely demolished them. There is a race at Lingfield in about three weeks’ time so he will probably go back there. He is also certainly one we will look at Royal Ascot for perhaps the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes (1m4f) which would be the perfect race for him.

Frustratingly, London Arch (Fastnet Rock) (2nd, Lingfield, Ladbrokes Where The Nation Plays Novice Stakes (1m2f)) hit the post to come second when trying to give weight to a nice horse of John Gosdens. He ran really well considering he hadn’t run for a while. I wanted to run him about a month ago but he had a nasty spot on his withers which got infected and as a result was forced to have two months between runs and I think he probably got caught out by a sharper horse on the day. But there was no disgrace in the run when especially given the fact he had to carry a penalty for his win at Newcastle in January. He now gets a handicap mark and the plan with him is to go for the King George V Stakes (Handicap) (1m4f) at Royal Ascot and we will work back from that and manoeuvre him into the best possible position for that race.

Amarillo Star (7th, Lingfield, Ladbrokes Home Of The Odds Boost Spring Cup Stakes (Listed, 7f)) – Having run second at Newcastle on his previous start, nothing really went right for him here. He got stuck behind a horse of Hannons that was going nowhere and when we went inside he went inside and when we went outside he went outside, which meant we just got too far back – which was really frustrating. I’m not quite sure where he will go next, perhaps the finals on All-Weather Championships day. He is probably not good enough to win it, but it is very good prize-money and if he gets a good draw then he could run into a place. But then again we could wait for the turf. He’s got a really nice rating of 87 which I think he can win off.

Chiefofchiefs (7th, Meydan, District One Mansions Trophy (7f)) – The ground was just too quick for him, it was the quickest ground they had had all year and he didn’t let himself down on it.

Carnwennan (2nd, Newcastle, Betway Handicap (2m½f)) – He just got done on the line again having had suffered the same fate at Kempton last time out, but he ran really well and certainly looks back to his best having lost his way at the end of the last season. The plan with him is to go for the Ascot Stakes (2m4f) at Royal Ascot which should suit him as he likes quick ground and he will love the track. Alternatively he could go for the Northumberland Plate (Handicap) (2m). He is a lovely stayer and he’s got a nice race in him. He is now rated 96 which is a career high for him, so he is definitely back to his best.

Runners this week

Caen Na Coille – New tote Fillies’ Handicap (1m), Chelmsford, Saturday March 7, 7.00pm – She ran a nice race, better than her finishing position suggested, on her debut for the yard at Lingfield and I feel like she has come on since then and we know her better. I expect her to be very competitive on the weekend.

I’m off to Cheltenham on Tuesday with an owner. Really looking forward to seeing some top-class jump racing and it should be a really good day, as long as Coronavirus doesn’t cancel it!

ALSO very excitingly George and Charlie Off The Bridle is BACK – we are recording our first episode of the new series on Monday and we have Oisin Murphy kicking it off as our first guest of the new season, then ten days later, for Episode 2, we have Sir Mark Prescott. It’s going to be bigger, better guests, more fun and hopefully more winners for me than George!Another top-class performance from Prince Of Arran in Saudi

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