Dual Group 1 winner Limato is the star of a superb 11-runner line-up for the £120,000 Godolphin Stud And Stable Staff Awards Challenge Stakes, a Group 2 contest run over seven furlongs at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile Racecourse on Friday (13th October) during Dubai Future Champions Festival.
The ground is very important to Limato – his best efforts, including a win and second place in the last two runnings of the Group 1 Darley July Cup, have come on a sound surface.
The going on the Rowley Mile is currently good, with only a small amount of rainfall forecast before warm weather is likely to set in for Friday’s start of the two-day Dubai Future Champions Festival.
Limato has been unfortunate this season as two of his four starts, when tenth at Meydan in March and fourth in the Group 2 Lennox Stakes at Goodwood on 1st August, have been on rain-softened ground. He has been absent since the Lennox, forced to miss a number of opportunities, including the Group 1 Prix de La Foret in France ten days ago, owing to soft ground.
Because his top level triumphs were achieved in 2016, Limato escapes having to carry a penalty on Friday, when he will be ridden by Harry Bentley.
But he is still unlikely to get things all his own way in an international event which has attracted runners from four different Irish trainers. The Irish contingent is led by Johnny Murtagh’s True Valour, runner-up to the subsequent Grade 1 winner in America, Suedois, on his latest start in the Group 2 Boomerang Stakes.
The British opposition to Limato includes the Godolphin-owned four-time Pattern Race scorer, Dutch Connection; Massaat, runner-up in last year’s QIPCO 2000 Guineas and back to form when landing the Group 2 Hungerford Stakes at Newbury seven weeks ago; and Dabyah, a lightly-raced Group 3 winner representing the powerful John Gosden-Frankie Dettori trainer-jockey combination.
Henry Candy, trainer of Limato, said:
“It has been infuriating to have a horse of Limato’s calibre and [because of the wet autumn] not be able to do anything with him. But I am very happy with his condition at the moment and looking forward to running him on Friday.”
“His defeat in the Lennox Stakes was 80 per cent down to the ground, which was riding soft. We talked ourselves into running him that day when we shouldn’t have.”
“At least it’s been no problem keeping a lid on him at home without a race, as he is a very free worker and keeps himself pretty fit.”
“This seven furlong trip should be fine – I think he is capable of winning Group races at anything between six furlongs and a mile – and I don’t see any problem with him handling the Rowley Mile as he is very light on his feet.”
“This is likely to be his final start of the season and, although we are toying with the idea of trying him over a mile again next year, we will go wherever the ground is right. With a horse like him who is so governed by the ground it is hard to make definite plans.”
About Dubai Future Champions Festival
Dubai Future Champions Festival, taking place on Friday, 13th and Saturday, 14th October, is the highlight of the Gold Season at Newmarket Racecourses as well as one of Europe’s finest autumn racing Festivals.
Dubai Future Champions Festival combines world class two-year-old races with premier older age contests at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile Racecourse.
Friday will feature four Group races with top billing going to the £567,500 bet365 Fillies’ Mile, Europe’s most valuable Group 1 two-year-old race. It will also be the Autumn Ladies Day featuring the Best Dressed Ladies Competition sponsored by the official Fashion Partner, the Spa at Bedford Lodge Hotel.
Saturday will bring another three Group races, including the only other £500,000 juvenile Group 1 contest, the Darley Dewhurst Stakes, not to mention the 179th renewal of the £250,000 Betfred Cesarewitch Handicap.