Spirit of Bermuda heads to South of France in Listed company
Buoyed by a hugely impressive performance on Saturday at Newmarket, the home of English racing, Spirit Of Bermuda has been entered in a Listed race in the South of France.
The three-year-old filly, owned by Bermuda Racing Ltd, will run on July 25 at the Le Teste-De-Buch racecourse in Gironde, about 40 miles south-west of Bordeaux.
The race, over the mile distance on expected good to firm ground, is seen by handlers as a natural progression from the seven-furlong distance over which Spirit has triumphed on three of four occasions.
“We think it’s the right next progressive step for her,” Simon Scupham, the founder and principal of Bermuda Racing Ltd, told The Royal Gazette yesterday of Spirit’s first engagement outside England.
In the immediate aftermath of Spirit bolting up in good company six days ago at the Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa Fillies' Handicap, a Class 2 race, there was talk of taking her to the upcoming renewal of the prestigious Glorious Goodwood meeting, where she won her maiden in July 2020.
For a minute, there were thoughts about entering the Whispering Angel Oak Tree Stakes, a Group 3 affair at Goodwood on July 28 with ₤45,368 on offer for the winner.
Renowned trainer William Haggas has been of the view that Spirit, out of Laqataat by Twilight Son, is a horse who “loves really firm ground and gallops strongly” and “wants a mile”.
Her immediate pedigree is of the six to seven-furlong variety, although her grandfather, Alhaarth, raced over a mile to ten furlongs with distinction.
The trainer, based in Newmarket, had previously yielded to those who prefer seven furlongs for Spirit, but his penchant for a mile weighed against the quality of opposition the three-year-old might have faced at Goodwood has resulted in a middle-ground assignment.
Scupham said: “To have gone straight to Goodwood, it’s a testing track there and you don’t know what the weather is going to be like. You’re taking on older horses and it’s a Group 3, which is slightly up in class. So it’s one step at a time with her and we think this is a perfect next step.”
Spirit has been tried over a mile three times before without ever suggesting the distance is where she will make her name in the “Sport of Kings”.
Her debut over eight furlongs came at Pontefract on soft ground last September, when she was second of six runners and beaten by four lengths.
That was followed on April 15 this year by a five-length defeat in fourth from ten runners at Newmarket, on preferred good to firm ground, where she tracked the leader before fading.
Then two weeks later at Redcar, her quirky nature manifested in the filly not leaving the stalls.
“She can be a bit quirky, but a lot of the better horses have a bit of quirk about them,” Scupham explained.
The disappointment of Redcar was put to bed by a dominant front-running performance at Leicester on June 1. That form has not been franked by Divine Spirit, the 15-8 favourite, who followed that up 17 days later beaten eight lengths at Newmarket as an even shorter-priced nap.
However, Spirit’s run in the Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa Fillies' Handicap — where she went off at 12-1 odds having gone up six pounds in the weights for the Leicester win — distanced her from that form and has given cause for optimism.
“Very happy today,” Scupham said in the immediate aftermath of the race, which was worth ₤16,200 to connections. “She really did boss the field and she was determined to win.”
Tom Marquand, a top-quality jockey on the English circuit who is seen widely and somewhat unfairly as the “other half” of the sensational Hollie Doyle, will continue his association with Spirit in France.
The course at Le Teste-De-Buch will involve a bend, but that should not prove beyond an equine athlete whose only concerns have been getting out of the stalls in good order.
“She is coming on leaps and bounds under William’s training,” Scupham added. “The team he has there knows how to get the best out of her, which we saw today.
“Great jockey, great ride.”