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Sheema Classic: Sir Percy meets Red Rocks
by Handicappers ( / Globeform (
Last update: 2007-03-30 15:08:59 (First published: 2007-03-16 14:39:50 )

Nad Al Sheba 31 Mar: After a dull effort on his last start as a 3-year-old, the English Derby (G1) winner Sir Percy will try to get his 4yo season off to a perfect start in the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1).

His trainer Marcus Tregoning won this event with Nayef five years ago. That colt had last run in the Champion Stakes (G1) at Newmarket – and won. Sir Percy was also last seen in that event, but he flopped completely. Good as he may be, there is no doubt, the ’fairytale’ classic winner has something to prove this term.

He is set for a proper test too, as he makes his first start outside England. Ready to give him a fight are Honey Ryder, a classy mare representing Todd Pletcher’s team, Red Rocks, winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1), and the improving 4-year-old Obrigado. Hong Kong racing fans will all be behind Vengeance of Rain.


Nad Al Sheba 31 March 2007 – 2400 metres / 12 furlongs turf

Horses presented with best Globeform, sires, riders.
A ”+” after horse indicates improvement expected.

117 – HONEY RYDER (Lasting Approval) m / G Gomez (4.4lbs sex allowance)
121 – RED ROCKS (Galileo) / C Nakatani
120 - VENGEANCE OF RAIN (Zabeel) / A Delpech
119 – LAVEROCK (Octagonal) / K McEvoy
118 – SIR PERCY (Mark Of Esteem) + / Martin Dwyer
117 - COLLIER HILL (Dr Devious) / D McKeown
116 – YOUMZAIN (Sinndar) + / R Hughes
116 – OBRIGADO (Enrique) + / tba
116 – QUIJANO (Acatenango + / A Starke
116 – POP ROCK (Helissio) / O Peslier
116 – HOST (Husonnet) J Velazquez
115 – BEST ALIBI (King’s Best) + / L Dettori
115 – ORACLE WEST (Western Winter) / W C Marwing
115 – BELLAMY CAY (Kris) / S Pasquier
111 – SUSHISAN (Fuji Kiseki) + / K Shea


It is so tempting
to go with the Todd Pletcher trained mare Honey Ryder here. She has been running very much like a horse wanting 1 ½ miles for some time, finishing strongly from off the pace virtually every time she races, and she is capable of Globeform 117. With her sex allowance of 2kgs (4.4lbs) that gives her a great chance. Honey Ryder produced a nice performance on her seasonal debut at Gulfstream Park, where she finished well for second between the males Jambalaya and Einstein (stakes winner since) in the Gulfstream Park Breeders’ Cup Handicap (G1). That was over 11 furlongs. Over 12 furlongs she probably would have won, and the best thing about this prep; she did not get a hard race.

She is drawn 14, something which may not be ideal, but it is better for an off-the-pace runner to start wide than buried in the traffic on the inside. Heart’s Cry, who went straight to the lead, won this event from post 13 last year, and Phoenix Reach won from post 11 (of 11) two years ago. Sulamani also won this from post 11.

Look for the grey mare to drop in behind, save energy, and ground, then come with a late rattle. Garrett Gomez takes the ride, there is no better jockey around – anywhere – these days, and at 20-1 Honey Ryder simply must be backed.

RED ROCKS was last seen when causing an upset at the Breeders’ Cup in November. He was progressing well through last season, and a repeat performance here gives him a serious chance. He is strong on stamina. As the only 3-year-old in the 11-runner Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs, was given a superb ride by Frankie Dettori. The colt was held up a long way from the suicidal pace set by the pacesetter Icy Atlantic and came with a well-timed run down the stretch to beat Better Talk Now (BC Turf winner in 2004) by half a length. There was a further 2 ½ lengths back to English Channel (winner of the G1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic last time out), while the 2005 European classic winner Scorpion and Hurricane Run disappointed in fifth and sixth.

Starting the fifth choice of punters, the colt’s victory – very much a career best – was something of a surprise, given that he had not managed to win a race since May despite some good placed runs. He does not have a sharp change of gear, makes one long sustained run in his races and had looked tapped for toe on occasions, but everything fell beautifully into place on the first Saturday of November.

Red Rocks had three runs at two, showing improvement each time, but only collecting two places. He was the easy winner of a little 10-furlong maiden at Windsor in April 2006, and followed up over the same trip in a Listed event at Newmarket in May (on soft), winning even more easily than the 4 length margin suggested. The ground was totally different at Royal Ascot, where he contested the King Edward VII Stakes (G2). Ridden from the front, he was just caught by the in-and-out performer Papal Bull – on one of his good days – and there was a 2 ½-length margin back to the third-placed Sixties Icon (who was yet to reach his best form).

The Brian Meehan trained colt again made the running in the Grand Prix de Paris (G1) at Longchamp, but was no match for the rapidly-improving ’Arc’ winner Rail Link - who coasted home by 2 lengths. Another defeat to an improving colt followed in the Great Voltigeur Stakes (G2) at York in August. Red Rocks took the lead in the home straight but could not match the finishing burst of Youmzain (later won a G1 in Germany) and went down by a head. Now, some seven months later, these two meet again at Nad Al Sheba, where the track may suit Red Rocks best.

SIR PERCY has not raced since last year’s Champion Stakes (G1) at Newmarket, where he was well below his best and unplaced behind Pride. That was his first start since winning the Vodafone Derby (G1) over 1 ½ miles at Epsom in early June, and he was thus coming off a four-month layoff. It is hard to believe that the break was the reason for his poor performance in the Champion though, as he won the Dewhurst Stakes (G1) off a similar break as a juvenile, and ran a solid second in the 2000 Guineas (G1) first time out last year.
There must have been another reason for that flop – based on previous evidence one would assume he goes really well when fresh.

He was good in the Dewhurst Stakes (G1) on Champions Day 2005, when winning from Horatio Nelson, and he again in the 2000 Guineas (G1), when beaten by George Washington (and by the distance). That run set him up for the Derby (G1) at Epsom, where Sir Percy needed every yard of the 1 ½ miles to get up for a very narrow - but extremely game – win over Dragon Dancer and Dylan Thomas.

His Derby form is nothing special. In fact, his Globeform 118+ achieved is low for a classic winner – but the way he did it was quite impressive, as he made up an unusual amount of ground in the last furlong – to just get up in a blanket finish. Has the form worked out? Yes and no. Runner-up Dragon Dancer is still a maiden, the third placed Dylan Thomas went on to win the Irish Derby (G1) and Irish Champion Stakes (G1), the fourth placed Hala Bek has been sidelined by injury, the fifth placed Visindar has also been sidelined, the sixth placed Best Alibi has won a weak Group 2 and the seventh placed Sixties Icon has won the St. Leger (G1) – but had no chance in the ’Arc’. Sixties Icon was nowhere near ready for a G1 when running at Epsom, by the way, and he may be one to note for the big summer events. Sir Percy’s Derby win was solid, but far from brilliant. He is no world beater but he is certainly one of the best battlers around. His will to win is tremendous. And he possesses more stamina than most of there. If back to his best, he has a good chance of finishing in the top three. But so have so many others. This really is an open affair.

VENGEANCE OF RAIN (back to form but probably finds 1 ½ miles too far), LAVEROCK (who does stay but may be unhappy on firm ground) and the two likely improvers QUIANO (solid winning form here already) and YOUMZAIN (closed his season on a high last year, an interesting longshot) can all win this – without anyone calling it a serious shock.

This Sheema Classic is very difficult to predict – but if the pace is honest to strong it will suit three runners well; Honey Ryder, Sir Percy and Red Rocks.




WIN & SHOW / EW: 14 Honey Ryder


A: 14 with 5, 7, 13
B: 5, 7, 13 with 14


A: 14 with 5, 7, 12 with 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 15
B: 14 with 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 15 with 5, 7, 12
C: 5, 7, 13, 14 boxed / combined


Open / download our in-depth essay on Honey Ryder from Globeform Annual by clicking HONEY RYDER

Open / download our in-depth essay on Red Rocks from Globeform Annual by clicking RED ROCKS

Open / download our in-depth essay on Vengeance Of Rain from Globeform Annual by clicking VENGEANCE OF RAIN

Open / download our in-depth essay on Laverock from Globeform Annual by clicking LAVEROCK

Open / download our in-depth essay on Sir Percy from Globeform Annual by clicking SIR PERCY



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