Belardo overhauls Euro Charline late in Lockinge

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May 14th, 2016

Belardo is capable of delivering a grand performance in the right conditions, as illustrated once again in Saturday’s Lockinge (G1) at Newbury. The 2014 Dewhurst (G1) winner, and runner-up to Solow in last October’s Queen Elizabeth II (G1), swept from near the tail of the field to run down a gallant Euro Charline.

Trained by Roger Varian for Godolphin and Prince A.A. Faisal, Belardo will now advance to the June 14 Queen Anne (G1) at Royal Ascot – and a showdown with America’s “queen of the turf,” Tepin. Euro Charline, however, is expected to skip Royal Ascot and await the July 8 Falmouth (G1) at Newmarket.

A prerequisite for Belardo is ground with give to it, and rains earlier in the week assured that Newbury would have some residual moisture. The son of Lope de Vega swerved left leaving the gate, but jockey Andrea Atzeni had plenty of time to get the late runner organized going the straight mile.

Up front, pacemaker Barchan was attempting to his job for his Godolphin comrades, but he didn’t make it much past halfway. That left Godolphin’s Toormore to take up the baton sooner than intended.

Euro Charline, who traveled conspicuously well in striking range, crept forward in company with Endless Drama. While Endless Drama understandably had to be driven on in his comeback from a year-long absence, Euro Charline continued to move sweetly to challenge. Team Valor’s globetrotting mare soon collared Toormore and forged ahead of the staying-on Endless Drama.

Then Belardo erupted several paths to Euro Charline’s left, nearer the far side of the course. Finding the best change of gear, the 8-1 chance cleared away by 1 1/4 lengths.

The 12-1 Euro Charline, last seen finishing a mighty second to Japan’s Real Steel in the March 26 Dubai Turf (G1), turned in another fine runner-up effort versus Group 1 males. Considering that she would have preferred the going to be a bit firmer, it was all the more creditable. She’ll get her ideal ground at the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.

Euro Charline held on by a neck from Endless Drama, who could hardly have run better in his first start since his second to Gleneagles in last May’s Irish 2000 Guineas (G1). Note that Belardo was a rallying fourth in the Irish Guineas, so the Lockinge result could be read as a compliment to the now-retired Gleneagles.

Limato was dispatched as the 3-1 favorite despite the fact he’d never tried a mile, and that trainer Henry Candy had been unsure of his participation until walking the course earlier in the day. Whether it was the trip, the ground, or a combination, Limato was only fourth. I say “only” because he’d never been out of the top two in nine previous starts. Also, as Candy noted, his other runners this past week were similarly lackluster. However you slice it, this result proved inconclusive, so I’m glad that he’ll get another chance at a mile, presumably on a quicker surface.

Toormore, last year’s runner-up, tired to fifth. Although the Richard Hannon pupil didn’t duplicate his performance from the 2015 Lockinge, he was best of those attending the early pace. Much more disappointing was Kodi Bear, who dropped right back to seventh.

Newbury reported that this marked a record seventh Lockinge victory for Godolphin. Cape Cross started the sequence in 1998, followed by Fly to the Stars (1999), Aljabr (2000), Creachadoir (2008), Farhh (2013) and Night of Thunder (2015).

Quotes from Newbury

Winning trainer Roger Varian: “Belardo salvaged his career last year when chasing home Solow at Ascot and that really told us that we ought to keep him in training.

“I have always kept faith in the horse because his work at home was outstanding and he has got masses of talent. We messed him around a bit last year, to be fair. We had him ready for races and then we didn't run because of the firm ground. We dropped him back to six furlongs at Haydock but he is not a sprinter.

“His run at Sandown (fourth to Toormore in the April 22 Sandown Mile [G2]) was a race to put a line through. He put up a good performance that day but I kicked myself after for running a pacemaker because we got a bit too strung out on a turning track and it just didn't work out. Most people who watched the race would feel that the horse put up a solid performance and it might have been a different result under different circumstances. We hadn't lost faith and certainly felt that he had a chance today.

“I didn't want to be so far behind early but he wasn't great coming out of the gates and he is a horse who loves coming through horses. I was happy throughout the race but I was worried a furlong from home when he wasn't getting light to come between horses.

“When Andrea pulled him out to go round them, I was worried that he might just throw it away going left-handed but he straightened himself out and won well on the line.

“He will certainly be trained for Royal Ascot now and, God willing, we get there in one piece."

Euro Charline’s trainer Marco Botti: "Euro Charline ran a blinder. I was delighted with her good performance.

“In hindsight, I wish she had someone to challenge for just a bit longer as she was in front before the final furlong. She is a mare who likes to challenge late and Ryan (Moore) said he probably got there a little bit too soon but unfortunately they stopped in front and he had no choice.

“However, credit to the winner - he is a good horse and I am thrilled she has run another good race. People don't give her the credit she deserves because she is so good as she has proved again today against the colts.

“I think we will give Royal Ascot a miss and wait for the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket in July and then perhaps a summer break before aiming for the Breeders' Cup late in the year.”

Trainer Ger Lyons on third-placer Endless Drama (pink silks in center of photo): “It was one hell of a run for Endless Drama's first time back after nearly a year off the track. He was caught a bit flat-footed when they quickened but the positive to take out is that (jockey) Colin Keane reckons he will get a mile and a quarter easily. That was a question mark which has been answered.

“We will discuss it with the owners but, if the ground is kind, we will go to Royal Ascot and then you would like to think about a mid-season break with a view to running in the Champion Stakes (G1)  on either side of the Irish Sea.”

Trainer Henry Candy on Limato, fourth as the favorite: “We could not say whether Limato stayed a mile or not from that run.

“If the yard in general improves (in form), that will lead me more to believe it was his condition today that caused him not to quite finish and I might be more bullish about going a mile again.

 “It is really no questions answered from today. We will just have to see how he gets on and come to a decision about what to do next.”

Photos courtesy of Newbury Racecourse.