In a debut season that has already yielded a Group 3 winner a Listed success, Ed Bethell could be forgiven for resting on his laurels, but the Yorkshire handler is looking to Fearby to bolster the campaign further in the Mill Reef Stakes on Saturday.
The son of Havana Gold looks likely to have three or four ahead of him in the pool for the Group 2 contest at Newbury, but Bethell thinks that could have been different with a bit of luck last time out.
“I love him as a horse, he goes there in good order, I do think he’s a Group performer and have always held him in high regard,” Bethell told Tote.
“He’s never been out of the first four which is a pretty admirable effort for a two-year-old and then you look through his form and he’s beaten the Coventry first and second when he was unlucky in the Gimcrack. Had we finished second in the Gimcrack I would have thought we’d be quite a warm favourite for the Mill Reef.”
“I think the ground would have been plenty quick enough for him at York. I think he could have finished second that day, he was unlucky in that when he went to make his move to the right, the gap closed on him, but then when switching left he picked up nicely.”
Before that run on the Knavesmire Bethell’s colt had already created a smart impression when blitzing the field in the Dragon Stakes at Sandown prior to a runners-up performance at Goodwood, a run his trainer thinks was better than the bare result.
“His performance in the Molecomb can be marked up because he was drawn out on a wing facing a strong headwind with no cover, and we all know the golden highway at Goodwood is up that stands rail and that’s exactly where Armor went.
“Would we have beaten him with the same sort of track position, probably not, but you could almost say he was a little bit unlucky.“
Looking further forward after Newbury’s contest, Bethell is cautiously optimistic about how much more there’s to come.
“He’s growing quite a lot at the moment, I think he could quite easily train on. It’s difficult to tell as you would have never said that Moss Gill would have trained on as he’s absolutely tiny.“
Blinkers for lazy Moss Gill
The aforementioned Moss Gill is also in action in Berkshire on Saturday, taking in the Group 3 Dubai International Airport World Trophy Stakes.
Having got to within a length of Winter Power in the City Walls Stakes at York earlier in the summer, the five-year-old sprinter was somewhat below form when down in the field in the Nunthorpe over the same track and trip.
“Theoretically, on form, if he turned up how he did at York in the Listed race he’d have gone very close in the Nunthorpe,” Bethell told Tote.
“He obviously didn’t, I don’t really know why. It might just have been that the ground was too quick that day and he was on the wrong side considering there was a major draw bias. He’ll get good to soft ground on Saturday which would be his preference and I think he’ll run a nice race.”
As well as a change of venue from his last two runs, Moss Gill is also getting a change of headgear with the regular cheekpieces replaced with a set of blinkers.
“I just thought that blinkers might just wake him up a little bit more. He’s almost got a little too lazy at home in the interim and I thought to myself ‘you’re supposed to be a sprinter not a two miler’ so we’d try something different.
“He worked nicely in them the other day so we’ll give it a bash.”
Middle East foray on the cards this winter
Whatever happens on Saturday it’s been a fantastic first season since taking over the licence from father James for the Middleham trainer.
“It’s gone fantastically well and we’ve been delighted with it all and don’t think I could have expected it to go any better.
“At the start of the year I wanted to try and hit 20 winners and £200,000 in prize money and so far I’m on 20 winners and £283,000.
“If I could get £300,000 in prize money now that would be fantastic!”
One of the horses who has contributed more than most to that tally is Artistic Rifles, who landed the Superior Mile at Haydock at the start of the month.
“Had you asked me at the start of the year I probably wouldn’t have said that Artistic Rifles would have been my first Group winner, but he’s just improved dramatically.“
Having spoken to his owner this week, Bethell has entered the gelding in the Group 2 Premio Premio Vittorio di Capua in Rome in October, but has a campaign in Dubai early next year at the forefront of his mind, with an Italian outing reliant on getting his conditions.
“He’s ground dependant and wouldn’t run on anything softer than good and it’d have to be quite fast good. I have just mapped out a bit of a route towards Dubai so I might give him a holiday now.
“He’s a horse clearly on the upgrade and I feel like we should probably take advantage of him while he’s in good form and run him in bigger and better things.”
Before he can make his next foray in Group company though, Newbury beckons for his two stablemates. And if Ed Bethell’s confidence in his horses transfers to their performances on the track, Artistic Rifles might not be his sole Group winner for much longer.