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HRN Original Blog:
Across the Pond

Future Champions show class at Newmarket

Newmarket may not have drew the crowd levels that Keeneland managed for it's stellar Saturday card, but the level of thoroughbred on show was from the upper echelons of future thoroughbred stars.

A day which produced two Classic victors in Dawn Approach and Just the Judge last season, Newmarket's Future Champions Day was blessed with two Group I contests alongside four further Group races and a historical handicap in the shape of the Cesarewich.

The Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes had been earmarked as the next and final start of the season for the English 2,000 Guineas favourite Kingman. However, with the John Gosden colt absent again from the entries, and seemingly set to end his season having only had the two starts, it was down to Aidan O'Brien to produce the winner as War Command surged back to form with a gutsy display in beating Charlie Hills' Cable Bay.

War Command (10/11F) has been somewhat disappointing since his scintillating display at Royal Ascot in the GII Coventry Stakes, but there can be no doubting that this was a creditible performance for the son of War Front on less than ideal ground conditions.

A winner of four from five lifetime, this was War Command's first win at the top level and he looks set to end his season on this performance with the English 2,000 Guineas the obvious starting point for his three year old season.

"He's a big powerful horse, I think he'll get the mile and he traveled very strong," said Aidan O'Brien. "He's a beautiful action horse and it was very fast the day he won at Ascot and that's really what he wants."

In the other Group I race on the card, Kevin Ryan achieved a fantastic personal triumph as he trained the first two horses home in the Group I Middle Park Stakes.

Ignored on the front end, Neil Callan rode a superbly timed ride aboard Astaire to ensure the colt would win his fourth race of the season - his only defeat coming in the Group II TNT July Stakes at Newmarket. 

A quirky colt, Astaire (8-1) received the assistance of specialist trainer Gary Witheford at the start. Witherford has a long and succesful history with ironing out the quirks of equines whom harbour unique behavioural problems, and the work of Witherford in getting Astaire to relax when going into the stalls was a notable assistance towards the subsequent victory.

"He plants himself at the stalls and stops and steps back and tries to give you a bite," said Witherford. "He's been slow to come to hand but he's still improving, we haven't seen the best of him yet. He'll be a lovely horse next year."

Ryan was quick to point out the tremendous relationship between Gary Witherford and Astaire whilst also dreaming of potential 2,000 Guineas glory with his colt come next year.

On the undercard, Al Thakhira bounded to an easy victory in the Group II Rockfel Stakes and Marco Botti spoke of the potential for Sheikh Joaan Al Thani's filly taking the Breeders' Cup in as her final start of the year.

"She's a straightforward filly but we were a bit worried if she would get the trip on this ground as she has so much speed," said Botti. "The owner is keen to go to the Breeders' Cup, and there is a chance she could go there, but we will see about that in the next week or so."


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