Skip to main content Skip to site footer


Article 24th September 2023 Newmarket

By Graham Clark

Trainer Ed Crisford is confident Vandeek can demonstrate his “natural talent” in the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket this Saturday (September 30th) and believes victory in the race would put him on the board as one of the top two-year-olds in Europe”.     

Having secured a first Group One win for Crisford, and his father Simon who he trains Vandeek in partnership with, in the Prix Morny at Deauville, France, last time out, the son of Havana Grey will bid to double his tally of top-level victories in the six furlong feature race.   

And although Vandeek, who is trained less than two miles from Newmarket’s Rowley Mile at Gainsborough Stables, is likely to come face to face with a number of his old adversaries along with several new rivals, Crisford believes the unbeaten Shaikh Khalid-owned colt can enhance his growing reputation.

Crisford (pictured above with Vandeek) said: “The Middle Park is a proper championship race and if he was able to win a Group One at Newmarket it would be huge - not just for us but for the owner and the horse himself. It would put him on the board as one of the top two-year-olds in Europe. 

“It will be a proper race against proper horses and there will be some new horses coming in that we haven’t faced yet. It is going to be a very good race, but he has gone and won a Group One so he goes there with every chance.

“He is the first Group One winner that me and dad have had and he just has that natural talent. We’ve had some good older horses come through our hands like Century Dream, but Vandeek has that real quality as a two-year-old and that means he should be an exciting three-year-old.”

Vandeek has gone from strength to strength since first setting foot on the racetrack at Nottingham in July, but Crisford claims that when he first arrived at their Hamilton Road base from the Tattersalls Craven Breeze Up sale in April he was anything but the imposing figure he cuts today.

Crisford said: “He was a breeze up horse, and he looked good doing his breeze. He posted a good time but when he came into the yard he was still very narrow and weak.

“He hadn’t filled his frame so we needed the time from April until June before we started pressing any buttons. When he came in he was like two boards slapped together, but he now looks stronger every time he gets to the track. 

“He always showed up nicely on the gallops without doing anything that made you think ‘wow’. He fell out of the stalls at Nottingham and missed the break and to be honest a lot of horses wouldn’t overcome that on their first start, but he did it well in the end. When they are green you know there is a lot of room for improvement, and there was.”

Although Vandeek had his task made easier in the Group Two Richmond Stakes at Glorious Goodwood with a number of his chief rivals pulling out of the race due to the soft ground, Crisford feels it was a performance that demonstrated the level of talent they were dealing with. 

He added: “The reason we went to the Richmond is that we knew he would go on the soft ground. We had an entry at Newmarket in a novice contest for him, but he was so well in himself and he looked a bit sharper in a gallop just before the race. 

“His owner is very enthusiastic and ambitious and he likes a challenge so he said ‘let’s go for the Group Two’. When he put the race to bed between the two and one furlong pole he did it instantly and you thought then he is a good horse.

“A lot of horses came out because of the rain so you didn’t quite know what you had beaten, but to be honest he did so well Andrea (Atzeni, jockey) said he could have won by four lengths had he not eased him down.”

Natural ability alone might have got Vandeek through his first two tests, however Crisford believes his latest success in France was all the more impressive given how he had to battle for the win.

He added: “Looking at the Morny it was the championship two-year-old race at the time and a proper Group One - you needed to be on your A game to win it.

“He got caught in a pocket a bit and the French filly Ramatuelle went for it and I thought we might not catch her, but he put his head down and for him to grind her down was a good performance. 

“He is still learning his trade and the Morny was the first time he had to race as up until then he had done it on ability.”

So far Vandeek has only run on soft ground, but Crisford does not believe the prospect of racing on a sounder surface will hinder his chances and might even bolster them.

He added: “I think good ground, or just on the quick side of that would be fine as Havana Grey’s (progeny) tend to go on that. To be honest running him on the soft ground has just been the way it has happened.  

“The way he moves and covers the ground I wouldn’t be too worried on better ground, and I think he could be a better horse on it as you would see that turn of foot come to the fore.

“For a breeze up horse he is unbelievable. He is so relaxed and that will put him in good stead for these big events. He doesn’t waste any energy.”

With Vandeek’s regular partner Andrea Atzeni now riding in Hong Kong, Classic-winning jockey James Doyle comes in for the ride at the weekend.

Crisford added: “James has been a big part of our team here and he has ridden a lot for us over the last few years. 

“He was the obvious choice once Andrea left and he has ridden some good horses for the owner over the years and he was keen to use him. 

“Once James sits on him a few times at home he will understand the horse well. He is a kind ride and I’m sure the pair will be fine as he is pretty straightforward.”

As it stands Vandeek is yet to race beyond six furlongs, but the prospect of seeing him over seven furlongs could be on the cards before the season is out, with Crisford not ruling out a tilt at the Native Trail’s Dewhurst Stakes back at the Rowley Mile on Dubai Future Champions Day (Saturday 14th October). 

He added: “He hit the line strong in France and I think he would stay seven (furlongs) standing on his head. He is a big, tall scopey horse who covers a lot of ground.

“The mare was winning over a mile, but we have to take one race at a time and the Middle Park is his next target. If he wins and looks like he is in great order who is to say he is not going to have a crack at the Dewhurst as well?”

The latest horse to complete the Middle Park/Dewhurst double was US Navy Flag who in 2017 was the first colt to win both contests since Diesis in 1982.




Cookie Policy

We use “cookies” to help enhance your experience and improve the functionality of our website. You can find out more in our cookie policy. We also serve cookies, some with chocolate chips, on our racecourses.