Ashforth's Alternative View: Roy Rocket warms up for another Brighton lift-off

By David Ashforth@davidjashforth
Wed 27 Mar 2019

Some horses are difficult to win with. Some days, most of the horses are difficult to win with. Wednesday is such a day. Still, it’s a bit like those screaming children in supermarkets; somebody loves them, maybe.

A lot of people, including me, love Roy Rocket, especially when John Berry’s grey runs at Brighton, where he is a local favourite. Every one of Roy Rocket’s nine wins have been there, including three last year.

On Wednesday evening the nine-year-old makes his thirteenth appearance at Kempton (7.30).

 Roy Rocket and Berry - a potent combination at Brighton, but not at kempton (Focusonracing)
Roy Rocket and Berry - a potent combination at Brighton, but not at kempton (Focusonracing)

Roy Rocket has yet to finish in the first three there and, on his seasonal debut, the sequence is unlikely to end. Think of it as a warm up for a Brighton meeting in the warm summer sunshine.

Alpha Tauri (Southwell 5.05) could claim to be even more of a course specialist.

Charles Smith’s 13-year-old doesn’t believe in anywhere that lacks Fibresand, which rules out everywhere except Southwell. I expect he modelled himself on his year older stablemate, General Tufto, 15 of whose 17 wins were at Southwell.

Originally living in exalted company, owned by the Niarchos family and trained by Sir Henry Cecil, Alpha Tauri left in disgrace, sold for just 2,500 guineas as a maiden three-year-old.

In 2012, aged six, he arrived at Charles Smith’s Lincolnshire yard via Frank Sheridan, Richard Guest and David Griffiths, going on to Scott Dixon before returning to Smith in 2013. At the end of that year, Alpha Tauri went back to Guest but in 2014 he was with Smith again.

Whoever he was with, Alpha Tauri proved addicted to Southwell, where all his 13 victories have been achieved. He hates racing on turf, as acknowledged by the handicapper.

In May 2017, Alpha Tauri won at Southwell off a rating of 74. Two months later, at Yarmouth, he finished last of eight off a rating of 46. Now, with age taking its toll, he is rated 61 on the all-weather but only 38 on turf.

Age hasn’t prevented him from winning twice already this year but it will probably prevent him from winning the Amateur Riders’ Handicap. It looks to me as if the first three places will be occupied by Caribbean Spring, Lafilia (all the way from Germany) and Baron Run.

It’s always possible, of course, that I may be mistaken, as Hitler was when predicting that he would beat Russia. Anyone can make a mistake.

Meanwhile, back at Kempton (see Roy Rocket, above), apprentice Marco Ghiani rides Human Nature for Stuart Williams in the 8.00. Five days ago, at Lingfield, Williams provided Ghiani with his first winner, on Lunar Deity at 33-1.

Lunar Deity is a good ride for inexperienced apprentices – Grace McEntee and Milly Naseb are recent winners on him - and the race unfolded favourably but Ghiani looked competent and it will be interesting to see how he progresses.

Keeping the Italian connection, Marco Botti’s apprentice, Stefano Cherchi, seeking his first winner, partners the stable’s Casina Di Notte in the 7.30. So the European Community still lives.

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