Four things we learned from Racing Post Trophy day

Andrea Atzeni celebrates his Racing Post trophy win

Andrea Atzeni celebrates his fourth consecutive Racing Post Trophy win

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (  

 By Stuart Riley 1:57PM 23 OCT 2016 

WITH the Flat season officially over and the jumps season yet to unofficially start, we highlight four key things to take away from a weekend in narrative limbo.

Atzeni is good, but Haggas is a genius

One man has a firm grip on Doncaster’s ‘Andrea Atzeni’ Trophy – and he is not letting go. From Atzeni’s win in the 2013 Racing Post Trophy he has won just four more races on Doncaster’s straight mile (from an additional 16 rides) and three of them have come in that same Group 1.

As David Carr wrote in Sunday’s Racing Post: “To ride the winner of a Group 1 for the fourth year in a row, for four different yards, on fancied horses and outsiders, is little short of miraculous.”

And yet he owes much to the genius of William Haggas, whose dedication to finding a soft option for his horses got the better of any nagging concerns induced by his disappointing Dewhurst run.

Many would have drawn stumps after that Newmarket flop. But Haggas left Rivet in at the five-day stage and, with the race cutting up and the odds-on favourite Capri coming out, he saw an opportunity to do right by his owners and make their colt a Group 1 winner – not to mention the not insignificant amount of more than £100,000 in prize-money.

His ability to weigh up a race for one of his horses is unparalleled and Rivet is merely the latest example of Haggas’s mastery of placing his horses.

Time for some musical Group 1s

It is madness, pure madness, that the Flat season’s final Group 1 comes a week after the season has officially finished. So change it.

There are growing calls for a two-year-old championship race to become the seventh race on Ascot’s Champions Day card. But does Doncaster deserve to lose the Racing Post Trophy in the shake up? No, it has been robbed of enough of it’s relevance by the new-look Flat season.

Newmarket already has far more than its fair share of showpiece events, so how about sliding the Dewhurst across to Ascot, a move which would surely allow the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes to revert to the round course, and moving the Saturday of Future Champions Weekend to Doncaster?

Rivet (Andrea Atzeni) beats Yucatan

The Racing Post Trophy could be the feature of a Future Champions Saturday run at Doncaster

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (  

It would be a boost for the north, the track would likely draw a vastly bigger crowd and the fine history of Racing Post Trophy winners, to which Rivet looks more than capable of adding, proves it is a good track for bringing on talented juveniles.

It also drains famously well, which is an asset when it comes to hosting a major day of Flat racing in October.

Nicholls quickly out the blocks

The champion trainer is famously competitive and clearly still fired up from last season’s to the wire battle with Willie Mullins. He has taken his Tesco philosophy of every little helps from the title run in into the start of this season, bringing up his 50 for the season with his third winner on Friday.

For some perspective, after the Showcase meeting last year Nicholls sat eighth in the table with 25 winners and £188,156 in prize-money, some £191,766 behind pacesetter John Ferguson.

This season his 51 winners, from more than double the number of runners, have amassed £412,025 – taking him £92,073 clear of his nearest pursuer, with almost all of his big guns still to be unwrapped.

Nicholls clearly viewed last season’s battle as a wake up call and he seems intent on killing off the Mullins challenge before it begins by compiling an insurmountable buffer.

He seems to have his horses straighter than everyone else at this stage of the season and looks a man on a mission.

Showcase needs a boost

While we are sorting out the back end of the Flat season, let’s not forget about the jumps. Cheltenham’s Open meeting has often been viewed as the unofficial start of the season, but that is a hangover from a time when the Flat season concluded with the November Handicap at Doncaster on the first Saturday of the month.

With the Flat season officially ending at Ascot in mid-October that is too long to wait and Cheltenham should take a serious look at giving the Showcase card a boost and elevating it from the sort of fixture more befitting of a Newton Abbot or a Market Rasen, to something more in keeping with the high standard racing fans have come to expect from Cheltenham.

The winner Sceau Royal (Daryl Jacob,centre

Sceau Royal (green) was a very impressive 11-length winner

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (  

The four-year-old hurdle, won so impressively by Sceau Royal, could be opened up to older horses who were novices last season as something of a graduation hurdle – over the Champion Hurdle course and distance.

A 3m graduation chase could also attract some star names with festival ambitions and act as a much-needed stepping stone to either the Hennessy or Betfair Chase, while a bonus for following up at the Festival could tempt a few more novices to get some course experience.

Under the old system the Showcase could sneak by as something of a hors d’oeuvre for the locals, but with the racing calendar as it is now it could really do with bolstering as, followed the next day by the Old Roan Chase, and then the following weekend by Ascot and Wetherby, it is perfectly placed but lacking the clout.

Horse Racing News | Racing Post

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