Talking Horses: trainers reflect on ‘devastating’ departure of Phoenix

Talking Horses: trainers reflect on ‘devastating’ departure of Phoenix

C

ould there be one last hurrah in Britain for Phoenix Thoroughbreds? The bloodstock operation announced on Tuesday that it was quitting the country “with immediate effect” and yet it appears set to have a runners on Wednesday, at Kempton and Beverley.

Productive looks up against it in Kempton’s 3.50pm race but Luck On Sunday is just a 7-2 shot for the 4.45pm at Beverley, where, as luck would have it, the filly’s main opponent is called Phoenix Approach. Luck On Sunday is trained by John Quinn, who remained tight-lipped when asked about Phoenix’s withdrawal on Wednesday morning, saying only that he would issue a statement “in due course”.

Quinn will lose significant business if Phoenix carries out its promise to leave, as he has raced nine horses for them this season and they provided one of his best racers of recent years in Signora Cabello, a Queen Mary winner at Royal Ascot.

But their withdrawal is still worse news for Peter Chapple-Hyam. While Quinn has plenty of horses from other owners to fall back on, Chapple-Hyam will be reduced from 13 horses to just five at his Newmarket stable and will lose the best of them in Deja, an Old Newton Cup winner, and Bahrani Star, who may yet contest a Listed race at Salisbury on Thursday.

“For a small trainer like me, it’s devastating,” Chapple-Hyam was quoted as saying in Tuesday’s Telegraph. “I’ve had more slaps than Frank Bruno and been put down more times, but I’m a fighter and have been able to get up from the canvas every time. I will have to do it again.”

Phoenix’s statement blamed its departure on what it described as “unfair” coverage following allegations in a New York court last year that Abdulaziz had profited from money-laundering, claims which he and Phoenix have denied. The Racing Post has led the subsequent coverage, pressing in particular for clarity as to where Phoenix gets its funding from.

Karl Burke, another of its trainers, told The Guardian: “I got a phone call from Amer on Sunday, explaining he was going to be pulling out of the UK because of all the adverse publicity he had been getting in the Racing Post. We’ve got four horses here, one of them is due to go to the sales at the end of this month and one was due to retire anyway.

“I have no complaints. They’ve been good to deal with, they’re good payers. I have nothing negative to say about them.

“It’s a shame to lose a big player out of the market. I don’t know whether he’s done anything wrong or whether he hasn’t and that hasn’t been proved yet.”

Wednesday’s best bets

Twentysharesofgrey (1.45) is my pick of the Kempton card and evidently it’s not just me, as she’s 6-1 after opening at 10s last night. I may be wrong but I don’t think that’s entirely due to the presence of Princess Hollie of Doyle in the saddle for the first time as this filly makes her handicap debut, having been claimer-ridden in novice races.

She has three siblings, out of four to have raced, who were rated about two stones above her initial mark, and there was some promise in her keeping-on third last time. This extra furlong ought to help.

Menin Gate (5.25) is another notable shortener and yet I still think 3-1 is fair enough about the progressive grey, making his first start for Archie Watson in a race for amateur riders.

Quick guide

Wednesday’s horse racing tips

Show Hide

Tips by Chris Cook

Kempton

1.15 Perfect Sunrise 1.45 Twentysharesofgrey (nb) 2.20 Last Sunset 2.50 Solar Flame 3.20 May Sonic 3.50 Glen Esk 4.20 City Escape 4.55 Dubai Welcome 5.25 Menin Gate

Beverley

1.35 Pythagoras 2.10 San Rafael 2.40 Sound Of Dubai 3.10 Independence Day 3.40 Buniann 4.10 Al Khabeer 4.45 Phoenix Approach 5.15 Hua Mulan (nap) 5.50 Dragon Glass

Wolverhampton

4.05 Chase That Dream 4.35 Likely Successor 5.05 Wade’s Magic 5.35 Absolutio 6.10 Kodiac Pride 6.40 Grace And Virtue 7.10 Mutalahef 7.40 Tasaamuh 8.10 Daheer

Beverley could turn into the O’Meara and Tudhope show. Al Khabeer (4.10) will be better for this step back in trip at 4-1, while Dragon Glass (5.50) needs the extra quarter-mile and 6-1 is not bad for a likely improver.