Royal Ascot is in full swing, however, unfortunately we have not seen as many Andrew Balding runners as we might have expected thus far. The Park House Stables team have been forced to withdraw a number of entries in the run up and during the week itself. The high temperatures across the country leading to the quickening ground that made the decisions to take out high class performers like Horseplay and Here Comes When rudimentary ones – while they will have other races to target beyond Ascot. Intriguingly, one runner who does remain is the talented Count Octave.
The three-year-old by Frankel is entered in the Queen’s Vase today, where Oisin Murphy will take the ride. Owned by Qatar racing, the colt has made a promising start to his racing career, from a workmanlike debut run at Goodwood last Autumn, to an impressive first win in March at Wolverhampton on the all-weather; that day he beat the useful looking Utopian Dream, the John Gosden trained three-year-old went on to win next time out.
Firstly, looking at the form of that race, Venice Beach won, however, did not run up to form next time out in the Derby – finishing a dissapointing 12th at Epsom, he clearly didn’t give his running that day. Therefore the most interesting aspect to take form the Chester Vase form is the colt who finished second: Wings Of Eagles, who of course went on to win the Derby!
Secondly, solely looking at Count Octave’s run at Chester, which reads quite hopeful. The inexperienced three-year-old got taken a back early, David Probert wanting to find cover to settle the still fairly green colt. Next he got outpaced two furlongs out, before keeping on encouragingly to finish a two and three-quarter length fifth – prompting me to produce my pen and notebook for some more scribbles next to Count Octave’s name.
The Chester race was over one mile and four furlongs, in Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot he will tackle one mile and six furlongs for the first time — which ought to suit him well. Oisin Murphy will ride him, while he should cope adequately with the likely fast underfoot conditions too. This all gives me hope that Count Octave could be something quite special, given more time and experience, while his run at Ascot today is just another step on that journey.