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Bomber still flying under the radar

Author: Howard Wright

07/12/2017
1

HERE’S this week’s ‘turf trivia’ question: without rifling through the results on the ERA’s website, which horse did best of the colts among Aidan O’Brien’s record breaking team at Meydan on Dubai World Cup night? Given that O’Brien’s nine strong representation in Dubai is the most he has ever had, and he has gone on to smash the world record for Group or Grade One victories this year, it would be reasonable to think the answer ought to be found among the Ballydoyle stable’s superstars. After all, five of the nine have since won two Group Ones, two Group Twos and three Group Threes between them.

The answer, though, is a horse who has not won at all this season, and who has actually earned win prize money in just one of his 14 outings in total, and that one success brought in £7,461, a mere postscript to the astonishing winnings that the stable has racked up over the years. Yet Lancaster Bomber, yes, he is the horse in answer to the question, has accumulated more, much more, in his racing portfolio over two seasons than a single success second time out in a maiden race at Leopardstown. Only once in his last 11 outings has he tackled a race below a Group One, and he has been seen on three continents, amassing a total of £825,016 in prize money along the way.

And that’s from a horse who has generally had to play second or even third string to a better fancied stablemate. O’Brien has the admirable trait of not being a trainer who wraps up his best horses in cotton wool, and in Lancaster Bomber he has a willing partner, a battle hardened campaigner of a 3yo, who began the racing year in Dubai in March and in three days’ time will end it on the other side of the world from Ireland, contesting a prize fund of nearly £2.2 million in the Hong Kong Mile at Sha Tin. Three of the string who represented O’Brien on World Cup night have travelled to Hong Kong, demonstrating their soundness and outstanding ability to retain form beyond what would once have been considered an ultimate season.

Deauville and Highland Reel are the others, but Lancaster Bomber deserves more than a second look, simply because he did best on the big night itself. Ridden for the first time in his career by Ballydoyle’s first pick jockey Ryan Moore, Lancaster Bomber missed the kick at the start of the Group 2 UAE Derby, never really put in a serious challenge, but still finished strongly to be beaten only two lengths into fourth behind Thunder Snow. Moore has ridden Lancaster Bomber in only one more of his seven subsequent races, and he may well not be in the saddle in Hong Kong, with the filly Roly Poly likely to be preferred, but that’s just one of the fascinations of following this underdog. He turns up in the best company, but flies under the radar to get there.

Trainer’s son Donnacha has been in the saddle four times, and Wayne Lordan once, on a trip to Canada when better known stable jockeys had other, more pressing engagements in Europe. The sequence of jockey bookings mirrored Lancaster Bomber’s experience as a 2yo, when Colm O’Donoghue rode him to finish second to stable companion Churchill in the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes and Seamie Heffernan was in the saddle on his next outing in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita, where he finished a gallant second, with Moore well beaten on stablemate Intelligence Cross. Part of Lancaster Bomber’s purpose in running in these major events is at times to act as pacemaker for better fancied stablemates, particularly the star juvenile of 2016, Churchill.

More than once, though, Lancaster Bomber has exceeded his apparent duties, notably when running on strongly to be fourth to Churchill in the 2000 Guineas, and especially when finishing ahead of said stable favourite by taking second place, beaten just a length, by Barney Roy in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. That latter run, where Lancaster Bomber turned the Meydan tables on third placed Thunder Snow, represented our hero’s best ever performance, warranting a Racing Post Rating of 119, and only a couple of pounds less on the international handicappers’ scale.

Again, there’s the beauty of following this particular underdog; he is capable of outrunning expectations, and at a big price. That US-bred Lancaster Bomber came to the attention of the Coolmore partners Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Mrs John Magnier as a youngster was no surprise. His sire War Front’s biggest prize money gatherer, Declaration Of War, carried their colours, as did two other major winners in Air Force Blue and War Command. Then, as well as the useful Mull Of Killough, whom Meydan regulars might remember running down the field behind Variety Club in the 2012 Godolphin Mile, Lancaster Bomber’s dam Sun Shower had produced Excelebration, whom the Coolmore partners bought after he had won the German 2000 Guineas and Prix du Moulin as a 3yo trained by Marco Botti, and who went on to become the Champion Older Horse trained in Ireland in 2012 by winning the Prix Jacques le Marois and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

Lancaster Bomber has repaid their faith. And so to Hong Kong, where he and four others are rated within a pound of each other at the top of a very strong renewal of the Mile. Whatever the outcome two things are certain: Lancaster Bomber will run his heart out, and he will start at a very big price.

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