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Ger Lyons: Siskin "in great form" but Sussex Stakes opposition is "scary"

Tue 21 Jul 2020

Having waited more than 20 years to win a Group One in his homeland, Ger Lyons wasted no time in doubling his tally – and now has his sights set on the Qatar Sussex Stakes with Siskin.

It was the same colt who provided him with an all-important first Classic in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, which Even So added to in the Irish Oaks last weekend.

With those notable wins under his belt, Lyons can attack Goodwood with vigour through a horse who is unbeaten in his five-race career to date.

Re-live Siskin's victory in the Irish 2,000 Guineas

“Touch wood he’s in great form, he’ll work in the morning (Wednesday), have a light piece on Saturday and then it’s all systems go,” said Lyons.

“Obviously the Irish Guineas wasn’t our initial plan – that was to go to England for the 2000 Guineas and then hopefully the St James’s Palace, but Covid knocked that on the head.

“With the timings, Ascot became a non-runner, so we were always going to go to Goodwood fresh in the hope the others knocked each other on the head en route to Goodwood.

“As it happens, it’s turned into one of the hottest races of the year, but that’s just typical.”

Lyons is not wrong – among the opposition is the Andrew Balding-trained Newmarket Guineas hero Kameko, Marcus Tregoning’s Summer Mile winner Mohaather and last year’s runner-up Circus Maximus, trained by Aidan O’Brien.

“The opposition is scary to say the least, and the one that stands out for me is Mohaather,” said the former jump jockey.

“I thought he looked very impressive at Ascot. You have to respect Circus Maximus, then there’s the English Guineas winner stepping back from the Derby and I’ve even read Earthlight might come over. The only one missing is Pinatubo.”

The only setback Lyons has ever suffered with Siskin was when he sent the son of First Defence to Newmarket in the autumn for the Middle Park Stakes, where he became upset in the stalls and was withdrawn.

Lyons, though, does not expect that to be a problem again.

“We borrowed Clive Cox’s rug he had made for Harry Angel,” he explained.

“We had it all spring, put it in the stalls at the Curragh and there wasn’t a problem, so we’ll use it next week. We’ll put a hood on him, too. Hopefully there’ll be no excuses – and we’ll see what happens.”

Earlier in the week it was still undecided who would take the ride, because Colin Keane will need to self-isolate for 14 days on his return. Frankie Dettori was waiting in the wings, but a quiet word from Lyons had the desired affect.

“These are the races you need to be in. The niggly thing is Colin having to miss 14 days when he gets home,” said Lyons.

“It would be lovely if common sense was used and you could do a test when you get home and then get on with your livelihood, but unfortunately that’s not the way it is.

“After the Oaks on Saturday I put my hand on his shoulder and just said to him, ‘Look, this is what it is all about, how would you feel watching someone else win on Siskin?’.

“Big races are what it’s all about. It was probably only me and Colin who thought we had a decision to make anyway. I’ve got Gary Carroll lined up to step in for two weeks, and he’s a terrific fellow.

“Going forward it might be the best thing we’ve done, becaue it will take Colin’s mind off the championship race. We’re blessed to have horses like Siskin, Even So and Frenetic – and wherever they take us we have to go. Given how long it has taken us to get these horses, we can’t take it for granted.”

Lyons – whose first Group One win came in England with Lightning Pearl’s Cheveley Park success in 2011 – is a relatively recent addition to owner Khalid Abdullah’s roster of trainers.

“I can’t explain how proud I was to get an association with Juddmonte – the farm is just up the road from here,” he said from his Glenburnie Stables in County Meath.

“Prince Khalid is a huge supporter of many people and arguably runs the best breeding operation on the planet.

“Believe it or not, the stream of horses who came through with Siskin were the worst draft. I was at the bottom of the ladder – but it just shows, even in the worst draft, what can come out of it.

“We got a draft again this year, and they are very fair. They try to give you something that will help you, based on the kind of trainer you are.

“Irrelevant of Siskin becoming Siskin, I knew we’d get plenty of winners, but then it was a question of which pedigree came in, similar to the Camelot filly (Even So, owned by the Coolmore partners) – once you get these pedigrees you’ve half a chance.”

Lyons will be making his first visit to Goodwood – “it looks beautiful on TV”, he says – while Keane has had just one ride there. But he has some racing greats to call upon for help.

“I’d imagine Colin will be watching videos of Goodwood – and he’s plenty of guys he can call on like Mike Kinane, Johnny Murtagh and Pat Smullen, they are all great friends,” said Lyons.

“We are all rivals, but there’s a lot of camaraderie as well.

“He was telling me the other night how the other day his phone went and it was a number he didn’t recognise – when he answered there was a yell, so he thought it was a prank. It rang again, so he cut it off.

“Eventually a message came through saying, ‘It’s Frankie (Dettori) you Irish sausage, will you take my call?’, and he was trying to tell him about A’Ali (who won the Sapphire Stakes), so that shows you how they are always talking to each other.

“I’m old enough and mature enough to realise the importance of all this – we’ve earned our stripes and have come up the hard way.

“To win any Group One, I just want to win as many as I can, but to win the big ones – the Sussex is one of those, like the Guineas and the Derby, any of them – it’s so important.”

Not long to wait now until both Goodwood and Galway!

Lyons is eager to test juvenile filly Frenetic against older horses in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes, as long as he can find a jockey who can make a feather weight at York.

Under the conditions of the race, two-year-old fillies are scheduled to carry 7st 12lb, although that rises by 2lb to 8st should such a runner be declared as that is the minimum riding weight in Britain.

That leaves Lyons seeking a rider capable of making that mark for his charge, who blazed a trail on her first two starts over five furlongs before falling just a head short when upped to six furlongs in a Curragh Group Two on Sunday.

“It wouldn’t be my style running a two-year-old against their elders, but she’s all speed – even though I think she gets six well,” said Lyons.

“If you watch the race, it’s the first time she’s ever seen another horse. She saw off the Ballydoyle horse and Chris (Hayes on Aloha Star) attacked her late and by the time she looked she was coming back at the line.

“I think she’s very fast, but the problem we could have is a jockey as she’ll have a very low weight. I asked Chris, who jumped at the chance, but I think it’s even too light for him.”

Lyric Fantasy famously took advantage of the hefty weight allowances from older horses to triumph in 1992, while Kingsgate Native was the last juvenile to lift the Group One prize in 2007.

As well as Frenetic, other top two-year-olds in line for the York showpiece include The Lir Jet and Golden Pal, who finished first and second respectively in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot.

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