Once thought of a potential Derby dark horse, Brentford Hope lines up in Saturday’s Lincoln as an exciting prospect for the season ahead.
But while the flat season curtain raiser often sees one line up labelled with the cliched ‘Group horse in a handicap’ moniker, his trainer, Richard Hughes, isn’t keen to put that pressure on his representative.
“He goes there on Saturday with a chance. He’s working well and I’m pleased with him, but I’ve not seen any evidence to suggest he’s a Group horse yet,” Hughes told Tote.
“I hate talking horses up, because this horse, from the first day he ran, people’s opinions of him have been very high. Straight away then you’re staring at disappointment. I like them to do their talking on the track. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as excited as anyone about Brentford Hope, but I’d rather just see them do it on the racecourse.”
His Doncaster outing at the weekend will be the first time we’ve seen the son of Camelot since he landed a Haydock handicap under a statuesque Jamie Spencer back in October, and his trainer reports him in good order.
“He went home to Sean and Bernadette Mulryan’s stud farm in Ireland over the winter, and he’s done well. We were held up for two weeks coming back with Brexit and Covid affecting travel arrangements. We got him back in mid-January, and he had done well. We’re really happy with him and he’s progressed well ever since.”
Keeping at a mile, for now
Hughes will be hoping this season is a bit more straightforward than 2020 for Brentford Hope, with new found belief that he’s discovered his gelding's ideal trip, having missed most of the Derby trials last season due to a broken rib.
“We went to York on good ground and got beat, and we put it down to him needing the run. Deep down I was a bit gutted, because he arrived there on the bridle and I thought ‘here we go’, but nothing happened.
“You’re always looking for an excuse on the day, whether that’s ‘he needed it’ or whatever, but he arrived there on the bridle two out and he didn’t get home. On the day I put it down to him needing the run, but in hindsight I think he just didn’t stay.”
Runs at Kempton and Leicester yielded similar results whereby Brentford Hope would travel better than anything, with Jamie Spencer oozing confidence, only for the horse to find a way not to win.
It was comments after the run at the East Midlands venue that prompted a change of plan for the gelding.
“Jamie came in and said ‘go back to a mile and two’ and I said ‘I won’t, I’ll go back to a mile.’
“It had stuck in my mind that when Jamie got off him the first day when he won a mile and a quarter maiden as a two-year-old the first thing he said to me when he got off him was ‘I’d have won over any trip today’. There was always a good chance he just wasn’t staying subsequently.”
The run at Haydock saw some of the promise the horse had hinted at, and more, as he glided past his rivals without Spencer lifting a finger.
That victory saw the handicapper raise him 8lb ahead of his run first time out on Town Moor, and a race that could propel him into Group company, but only if he wins it, according to his trainer.
As for Richard Hughes’ fledgling training career, the 43-time Group 1 winning jockey enters his sixth term as a trainer and remains grounded as to any targets he might have this season.
”We’ve got 60 horses in the yard, mostly owned by different people and we try to get every one to win. Unfortunately most horses aren’t very talented, that’s the reality, but we try to get them to win if we can. If we can get a good one along the way, then it’s absolutely brilliant!”