After claiming a breakthrough Group 1 success at Newmarket in the July Cup, Roger Teal is adamant that we have yet to see the best of Oxted, as he completes his final prep before Saturday's British Champions Sprint Stakes.
Ahead of his next big test at Ascot, the Lambourn trainer has been speaking to the Tote about his stable-star’s prep.
“He’s usually quite explosive [at home]. We didn’t do too much with him on Saturday, just gave him a nice stretch which was very pleasing, but he looked great.“He then had a stretch on the grass on Tuesday and went very nicely. Obviously it wouldn’t have been as soft as what Saturday’s going to be but it was still a good test for him and he stretched out nicely on it so fingers crossed.”
Ground an unknown
Oxted has yet to be seen on anything slower than Good to Soft. However, by mud-loving Mayson out of a soft-ground winning mare, he’s certainly bred to appreciate cut in the ground.
“You wouldn’t have any concerns about the ground with the breeding, it’s just the unknown. If he handles it, then he should run his usual honest, good race but there’s always that little doubt in the back of your mind.”
When asked whether we’ve seen the best of Oxted yet, Teal’s response was simple;
“Not at all all. He’s only a four-year-old so I think he can keep on building. If the conditions were the same at Ascot as they were for the July Cup then we’d be going in there really confident.
“But you’ve got horses like Dream of Dreams and One Master who have got proven form in soft conditions so they’ve got to be respected. Good horses tend to deal with the situations no matter the ground, so please God, he can.”
Stall 13 not ideal
Drawn with the aforementioned pair on the far side of the track, stall 13 wouldn’t have been the first pick for July Cup winner according to his handler.
“I would have liked for him to have been drawn a bit lower, but what can you do? We don’t seem to get any luck with the draw these days!
“Hopefully there’s a bit of pace around us. I shouldn’t think they’re going to crawl, and we could sit up there, we’ll just see how the race pans out. If you were lower it makes it a bit easier, but we’re stuck out on the flank and you’d pick a better draw if you could.”
“After we scoped him the vet found a small ulcer on the back of his throat, so we thought we’d have it removed before it became a problem. It wasn’t any sort of invasive wind surgery, but obviously we have to declare these things.”
Looking further ahead, Teal was keen to stress that despite this being just his third run of the season, it’s unlikely we’ll see him out again in 2020 after Saturday.
“He’s going to have a tough race on Saturday, win, lose or draw, so we’ll probably call it a day for the season after this. We might look at Dubai in March, but we’ll wrap him up in cotton wool after Saturday, that’s the plan at the moment anyway.”
A British Champions Day double?
Aside from Oxted, the Teal team could have a second runner on British Champions Day, with Bear Force One currently holding the first reserve position in the Balmoral Handicap.
Should he get into the race, his trainer feels like conditions could see him go well at a price.
“Shane Foley rode him in the Cambridgeshire and said the ground was far too quick for him - he’s a big horse and he hits the ground hard,” Teal told us.
“A track like the Rowley Mile finds horses out, and Shane said he travelled great on the level, but when he went into the dip he didn’t feel great and just lost his action. He’s got a real high knee action so that suggests soft ground would suit him. I think if we could get in, he’s got a squeak of a place chance if he can handle conditions.”
Taking things one step at a time
Whatever happens at Ascot on Saturday, 2020 will have been a fruitful season for all associated with Roger Teal. A first Group 1 win and the biggest earnings of any season since he started training are evidence of the hard work being undertaken at Windsor House Stables. While others might have their eye on a specific tally, or be setting their sites on a particular race to win, Teal is more than happy to take everything one day at a time.
“We just try to do the best we can. I think you put yourself under pressure when you set targets, so we’ve just got to just keep doing what we’re doing and nick a winner here and there.
“If we could nick another Group 1 it would be unbelievable. So please God, we’ve got a shout and if we could pull it off it would be amazing for the whole team.”
The British Champion Sprint Stakes is off at 1:55 on Saturday, with Tote Superpools in operation for all six races at Ascot.