South African superstar Soft Falling Rain will be heading into “unknown territory” this afternoon when he makes his British debut in the Betfred Hungerford Stakes at Newbury.
The Mike de Kock-trained colt is unbeaten so far in his career after being crowned champion juvenile in his homeland and being one of the star turns at the Dubai Carnival earlier in the year.
However, he had a very hard race in winning the Godolphin Mile and has been given plenty of time overcome those exertions. The plan had been to run possibly at Royal Ascot or in the July Cup but he makes his comeback later than originally planned.
“He’s done everything we’ve ever asked of him,” said Angus Gold, racing manager to owner Hamdan Al Maktoum.
“However, he’s done none of it in Europe so this is a new venture for him.
“He was champion two-year-old in South Africa and then went out to Dubai, but he’s had a very long rest and is just starting back on Saturday.
“When he won the Godolphin Mile, he did it in exactly the opposite fashion that I had imagined. There were question marks over the trip so I thought he’d be held up and be the last off the bridle, but Paul (Hanagan) was forced four or five wide, was one of the first off the bridle and then had to hang on grimly.
“He had to work very hard that day and, unsurprisingly, he gave himself a very hard race. Mike has given him plenty of time to recover and this looks the right place to start back.
“He seems in good form from what I have seen of him and Paul has been a few times to ride him and is happy, so it’s time to get back to work.
“This will be unknown territory for him, though.”
Caspar Netscher would be a popular winner after his return to action following a failed spell at stud.
Now in the care of David Simcock, he ran an absolute stormer on his comeback in the Lennox Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, just being caught close home by Garswood.
Jockey Shane Kelly rode him when with Alan McCabe and has kept the ride this season.
“I was very pleased with his comeback, he acquitted himself very well,” said Kelly.
“He’s in good shape and I was very lucky to pick up the ride on him, he’s been good to me and we’ve struck up a good rapport.
“I’m looking forward to the race, it looks interesting.
“Obviously Soft Falling Rain looks the one to beat and while some horses don’t recreate their Meydan form over here, he was also a champion at home so he’s got plenty of form on turf.
“It’s his first start back but that doesn’t usually stop a Mike de Kock horse.
“If the ground turned up soft, I’d give the Godolphin horse (Tawhid) a big chance too, but all his best form is with plenty of cut in the ground.
“My horse goes on soft but doesn’t really need it, he just copes with it better than some. When he won the German Guineas it was like a road and he didn’t really like that either.
“All he needs is nice, decent ground to show his best.”
Richard Hannon’s Libranno is something of a standing dish in these events and ran his usual solid race behind Garswood and Caspar Netscher in the Lennox.
He will be ridden by Kieren Fallon with Richard Hughes suspended and forcing tactics are expected.
“Libranno will enjoy the fast ground,” Hannon told www.richardhannonracing.co.uk.
“He ran a super race in the Lennox at Goodwood considering it was the one day when it rode soft and he was drawn wide and, though he has never run well in three visits to Newbury, this small field might give him a chance to dictate from the front.”
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