Hugo Palmer’s Flaming Rib will bid to recoup a costly supplementary entry fee when he lines up in Saturday’s Group One Darley July Cup at Newmarket.
The three-year-old was inherited by Palmer when he took over the licence at Manor House Stables and put behind him a disappointing Greenham Stakes run on his debut for the trainer to land a high-quality Chester sprint from King’s Lynn in May.
Stepping back up to Group level for the Sandy Lane resulted in a narrow second behind El Caballo, after which the colt was the runner-up again when beaten by Richard Fahey’s Perfect Power in Royal Ascot’s Commonwealth Cup.
The latter run persuaded connections, who include ex-footballer and Manor House owner Michael Owen, to produce the £36,000 required to supplement for the July Cup at Monday’s confirmation stage.
Though the decision was a pricey one, Palmer thinks it was better to wait and see if an entry was justified.
“It was a great run at Royal Ascot, when these entries came out he’d just won a conditions race for us at Chester,” he explained.
“Thirty six grand was an expensive entry this week, but those that were in at the first stage I think paid seven (it costs a total of £7,500 to run for horses entered when the race closed in May), so it’s quite an expensive entry anyway.
“Thirty six grand when you’re going in there an 8-1 poke is probably better than seven if he’d have got stuffed in the Sandy Lane and run no race at Ascot. We’d have wasted money but obviously things have changed a lot since then.”
Palmer was delighted with the bay’s Ascot performance and is equally pleased with how he has fared physically throughout the season, saying: “He ran a great race in the Sandy Lane and an even better one in the Commonwealth Cup. He does seem to be improving, his work last Friday was very pleasing and he just seems to be getting bigger and stronger and more masculine.
“When I first met him he was quite a slight, narrow, feminine horse and you could never call him that now. He’s really done so well physically and we’re seeing that on the track.”
The form from Flaming Rib’s Chester victory has panned out favourably as King’s Lynn went on to land the Temple Stakes and Palmer is also hopeful the track at Newmarket’s July Course will play to his runner’s strengths.
“He’s a winner over five (furlongs) and Group One and Group Two-placed over six this year. The horse he beat over five furlongs (King’s Lynn), giving his Listed penalty to, went on and won the Temple on his next start,” he said.
“I think he does have the qualities, despite what the Australians seem to be telling us, and also the Japanese, Newmarket is a much sharper track than Ascot.
“Anyone who’s ever walked the track at Ascot will know, you go down to the six-furlong point and you’re standing at the bottom of a mountain looking at the grandstand. Whereas if you go to the six-furlong point of the July Course you run downhill all the way before it climbs the last furlong and a half.
“It’s a much sharper track, it’s a track that favours prominent racers. Flaming Rib does not need to make the running but he’s also not a hold-up horse, he’s a horse that likes to wear his heart on his sleeve and race on the front end.
“He’s a horse who doesn’t like to lie down when he’s beaten. When Flotus quickened past him at Ascot, he fought back and beat her, only to find that there was the excellent Perfect Power some way to his right.”
Flaming Rib will be partnered by Ben Curtis, who will wear the navy and grey silks of co-owner Owen, someone whose involvement in the sport Palmer considers hugely beneficial.
“He owns a leg of the horse, it’s lovely that he runs in his colours because they’re the stable colours,” he said of Owen.
“Michael is what racing needs, it needs the enthusiasm of owners. To have English owners with real enthusiasm and top-class horses is very exciting.
“For all that British racing is enormously grateful for the patronage of the Middle East and further afield, it does sometimes make racing seem a little fanciful for English people to be involved in.
“A healthy, thriving industry will have a huge amount of horses owned by natives of this country as well. Michael was joking the other day when I told him the supplementary fee was £36,000, he said ‘goodness me, he only cost £35,000!’.
“It is proof that relatively inexpensive horses can make their mark at a high level on big Saturdays.”