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Article 29th April 2024 Newmarket

By Ben Cox

Trainer Karl Burke admits an English Classic victory would be “lovely to have on your CV” and heads to Newmarket this weekend with his best chances yet in the first two Classics of the season – the QIPCO 2000 Guineas (Saturday 4th May) and QIPCO 1000 Guineas (Sunday 5th May). The two contests are the first two legs of the QIPCO British Champions Series.   

In the QIPCO 1000 Guineas, Burke’s principal hope is Fallen Angel, the current 7-2 Favourite with William Hill, the official betting partner of the QIPCO Guineas Festival.    

The three-year-old Too Darn Hot filly, who was homebred by owner Steve Parkin, won three of her four outings in 2023, capped by victory in the Group One Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh in Ireland. Her preparation for the QIPCO 1000 Guineas included a racecourse gallop at Newmarket on April 17th.    

Speaking on a QIPCO British Champions Series Zoom call today, Burke, who trains from the historic Spigot Lodge at Middleham in North Yorkshire, said: “Fallen Angel is in great shape.

“She needed the gallop at the Craven Meeting but came out of it really well and took a big step forward. She did a nice piece of work on Friday and will have a little blowout tomorrow and that will about be her ready to go, with just a couple of canters for the rest of the week. I am very happy with her.

“The gallop brought her on fitness-wise and just sharpened her mind. They have been going up and down the same gallops at Middleham all winter and it is great to get them away to concentrate the mind. We took her down overnight, so it was the whole raceday scenario for her.

“She ran four times last season, including travelling to Ireland. She travels well, but a gallop helps to put on their raceday head and definitely helps to bring them forward.

“From the end of last season, the plan was always to go straight to the Guineas. I was keen to run in the Fillies’ Mile at the end of last season but Steve (Parkin) was pretty adamant not to and as it turned out, with that race run on pretty heavy ground, it was the right decision.

“The mile holds no qualms for her and she should improve for it. If you watch all her races, she is doing her best work at the end and doesn’t do much when she hits the front. She takes everything in her stride and that is why she probably gets a bit lazy at home.

“I think the opposition has got us to beat, I really do. The formbook says they have – I know Ballydoyle will give plenty of excuses for Ylang Ylang’s defeat in the Moyglare but she has got 9 or 10 lengths to make up on us and on a line through Darnation and the third from the Fillies’ Mile (See The Fire), we should have the beating of her. Dance Sequence got beat the other day and that form doesn’t look strong enough to win a Guineas.

“On all known form, I think we deserve to be favourite.”

There is a possibility Burke could be double-handed in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas, with Darnation (40-1 with William Hill) also confirmed today, although a trip to Longchamp seems more likely.

Burke continued: “Darnation is a very good filly on soft and heavy ground, as she proved last season.

“It was very much up in the air whether we left her in today. I spoke to PJ Colville who represents her owner (Newton Anner Stud) and they were keen to leave her in and see what the weather does.

“She galloped very well on heavy ground after racing at Wetherby yesterday. She is fit and ready to go but the favourite would be to wait until the French Guineas. We will play it by ear and see what the weather does – as we know Newmarket can quickly dry out and I don’t want to waste a run with her.”

Twenty-four hours earlier, Burke saddles what could prove to be the dark horse of the race in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas with Night Raider. A 16-1 hope with William Hill, the Dark Angel colt has won both his starts in impressive fashion on the all-weather at Southwell in December and March.

Burke said: “He’s a lovely animal and whatever he does on Saturday, he is going to keep on improving as he has a lot of scope. I am sure he is a Group One horse in the making.

“It could be a case of whether Saturday comes too soon but he has a lot of potential and a lot of ability. I don’t think I’ve seen a horse work better in the 23 years we’ve been up here on the Polytrack at Middleham.

“He has a lot of things against him – it will be his first run on turf and his first proper gallop on turf was only at the Craven Meeting. He came out of that really well and we did it to give him the experience.

“He has a high cruising speed and can quicken off it as well. Clifford Lee rode him for the first time in a long time today as his regular work rider Rhona Pindar is on holiday. Cliff said he is like driving a car with 10 gears – every time you move on him, he goes forward.

“Danny (Tudhope) who rides him on Saturday loves him and I wouldn’t mind betting there will be nothing travelling better a furlong and a half out.

“He has a lot to prove but has a lot of ability and am looking forward to seeing him run. There are a few horses in there with bigger reputations and hopefully we can burst a few balloons.”

The last year has been a difficult one for the 60-year-old Burke, having undergone treatment for bowel cancer.

He said: “Once the chemotherapy finished and I got back working around Christmas time, it has taken my mind off things like hospital visits and further check-ups that I have to have over the next couple of years.

“There are always plenty of things to think about in this job! The operation was fairly straightforward and I even attended a couple of yearling sales but once the chemotherapy started I was in the office and out for 1 or 2 lots but I got tired pretty quickly as anybody who has had it will know. Doing plenty of planning in my head kept me occupied.

“I probably wouldn’t want to do this job now without my family. They all have the pieces of the business they look after. Going back 10, 15, 20 years Elaine (wife) and myself were trying to do everything, so Kelly and Lucy (daughters) have taken a lot of weight and workload off of us.

“We now have a couple of grandkids on the way. Kelly is due to give birth on May 7th so maybe it will come this weekend, and Lucy is due in August.”


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