By Richard Griffiths
Published in the Aug. 24 issue of The Blood-Horse
The decision to keep a filly in training is one that is laced with tension. You can never be sure how it will work out. It had certainly looked as if it wasn't working out for Banks Hill, until she roared back to form in the Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard Jacques le Marois (Fr-I) at Deauville on Aug. 18.Now we can start talking about a bid to win another Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) after the daughter of Danehill justified trainer Andre Fabre's view that she is indeed "exceptional."Two defeats preceded Banks Hill's Marois run, although Fabre felt there were excuses both times, be they fitness, the going, or the distance.Back to a mile and with the ground riding fast, there could be no such excuses at Deauville--none were needed. Starting the 17-10 favourite, Banks Hill was settled early by her jockey Olivier Peslier before finishing strongly to take the race by 1 1/2 lengths from Domedriver with Godolphin's Best of the Bests finishing third.Banks Hill capped a memorable 24 hours for owner Khalid Abdullah as the Chicago successes of Beat Hollow and Chiselling had help him to three group/grade 1 wins, all of them with home-breds.Abdullah runs a model enterprise at Juddmonte, developing his families and mating them to the right stallions in a way the other Arab studs have so far failed to match. It is testament also to Abdullah and his advisers that they rarely feel the need to enter the public market, so sound is the succession of their own nurseries."It doesn't get much better than this," said Abdullah's racing manager Teddy Beckett. "When you spend time with older horses, you begin to love them and that is the case with Banks Hill. She was magnificent and this was a day to remember."A more dispassionate view came from Fabre, who stressed the need for quick ground. "Her action is so good on a good surface. That's when she gives her best," he said.
Tregoning Beckons It says much for the contempt for staying horses among British and Irish breeders that Marcus Tregoning is wary of running his progressive 5-year-old Mubtaker in the Irish St. Leger (Ire-I) on Sept. 14. Mubtaker won his first group race, the Stan James Geoffrey Freer Stakes (Eng-II) over 13 furlongs at Newbury Aug. 17, but fears the Irish St. Leger could damage his value as a potential stallion. Tregoning took out his license in 1997, succeeding the late Dick Hern, for whom he had been assistant for 14 years. Hern, a master trainer, could be an abrupt man--very much part of the "old school" in British racing, who thought racehorses were nobody else's business but his and the owner's. Tregoning has already out-pointed Hern in one respect, by dealing with inquiries about his horses with charm and grace. He can produce the horses, too, as witnessed by his handling of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (Eng-I) runner-up Nayef, who he put away for much of last season after a disappointing start, yet was still able to ease him back to group I success in the Dubai Champion Stakes at Newmarket. He is also steadily reminding everyone that while his landlord may be Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum, and the majority of the horses he trains are owned by the sheikh, Tregoning's yard is by no means private. Highdown provided ample reminder of that when winning a group race on his first attempt, the Prix Guillaume d'Ornano (Fr-II) at Deauville Aug. 15. b Bits and Bobs
A live candidate for next year's classics emerged at Newbury Aug. 16 when Muqbil made a winning debut in a listed race. He is a first winner for Swain, a top-class horse in Europe and narrowly beaten after a poor ride from Frankie Dettori in the 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I)... Another juvenile to make an impression was Commission, a $250,000 yearling by Gulch, bred by Gainesway Thoroughbreds. Trained by Gerard Butler, a former assistant to D. Wayne Lukas, Commission made a half-length winning debut in a seven-furlong conditioned race at Sandown Aug. 14...At Deauville, Snipewalk, a son of Nureyev trained by Criquette Head-Maarek, was impressive when winning the Criterium du Fonds Europeen de l'Elevage.