Juvenile Watch: Nymphadora and Gisburn have star appeal

By Ross Millar@rosscojmill
Tue 18 May 2021

The weather still isn’t suggesting that summer is close to hand.

It must be a particularly testing time for trainers trying to ready a team of two-year olds. Rain and cool temperatures can easily leave horses feeling under the weather (please excuse the pun).

As we head towards the end of the month there are now plenty more races over six furlongs for the juveniles.


The extra distance, combined with softer than ideal underfoot conditions, means I will be more cautious in my assessment of winning performances and less hasty to write off those who at first glance appear to have underperformed.

Performances of the week

I’ve been nominating one star performance each week up to now and did my best to stick to that but to my mind there were two standout performers at the end of last week.

One produced a show of potential brilliance but with a flaw; the other a demonstration of how much a two-year old can learn from a debut run.

NYMPHADORA (Andrew Balding)

I’d given her a positive mention in one of the early weeks of Juvenile Watch, before she ran, and in truth was marginally disappointed in her debut run at Newmarket, where she weakened late on to finish sixth to Desert Dreamer. If only I’d kept the faith.

The improvement she showed on her second start, when winning the Listed Marygate Fillies Stakes at York last Thursday, was incredible.

Click here to study Nymphadora's sectionals.

In the latter contest she broke smartly and was able to bag herself a prominent position just off the leaders. At the furlong pole she began to assert her authority and pulled further clear close to the line.

Given the level of ability some of the opposition had already demonstrated, namely Canonized and Crazyland, it was impressive that Nymphadora could beat them off level weights. The way she finished the race off would certainly suggest she will have no trouble with an extra furlong.

Jason Watson told Lydia Hislop more about Nymphadora

It also is worth noting that a filly losing her maiden status in a Listed contest wouldn’t be the usual modus operandi of Andrew Balding, which would suggest he holds her in high regard. She’s 10-1 with Sky Bet and Unibet for next month’s Queen Mary.

GISBURN (Richard Hannon)

He was noted as a “winner in waiting” in this column after his debut fourth to Berkshire Shadow at Newbury. He showed plenty of early speed before running all over the track that day, before rallying quite late on.

Back at the same track but over an extra furlong, a month on, he put up a taking although not flawless performance when running out a six-length winner.

As on his debut, he was quickest away from the stalls and showed by far the best early speed. At halfway, everything else in the race was hard at work while up front Gisburn travelled comfortably on the bridle.

Gisburn pulled clear despite hanging

When asked for maximum effort he showed a superb turn off foot and had the race won in a matter of strides. However, it was concerning to see him hang across to the stands’ rail when off the bridle and this could well be a flaw that could cost him when upped in grade.

The Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot next month was mentioned post-race and he’s now disputing favouritsim for that contest at a general 8-1.

Time may well prove that those in behind him are a moderate bunch (their pedigrees suggest otherwise) but visually this was most eye-catching and he is certainly a horse of immense promise.

Keep The Faith

It might well be that Sienna Bonnie’s seventh place in the Marygate Fillies Stakes at York is simply as good as she is.

I’m not so sure, though, as in her previous run at Bath she showed an exceptional turn of foot and powered through the line.

Last week, she showed good speed in the early part of the race but then faded tamely from two furlongs out.

I will take the view that possibly this run, only 11 days after her last, came too soon. It was also her third run in just 25 days.

I’d expect her to be freshened up by Jonathan Portman now before hopefully regaining the winning thread. As mentioned before, she was a cheap buy and as a consequence will have a low weight if running in the Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury in July.

Winners In Waiting

Mas Poder (Kevin Ryan)

Made her debut in the Listed contest won by Nymphadora. She travelled on the heels of the leaders and looked threatening but was short of room at a crucial stage and then took an age to get organised before closing to be an eye-catching fourth. A maiden is at her mercy.

Single Minded (Sylvester Kirk)

The fact that this he’s already been gelded would suggest that he’s maybe shown a bit of temperament at home.

The grey was certainly keen in the early stages of his debut over six furlongs at Newbury last week and he pulled hard. The 66-1 chance was pushed along two out but, instead of completely dropping away, kept on dourly to finish fifth.

He is by no means an obvious eye-catcher but if he learns to settle better and expend his energy in a more efficient way then he could well improve and make his presence felt another day.

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