Can Limato win Newbury's Lockinge mile on Saturday? He’s on song & “He likes sunshine and hard ground"
Limato was exercising on trainer Henry Candy's gallops north of Lambourn - the weather was perfect, the turf was amazing and Limato looked a picture.The skylarks were so high you could not spot them against the blue sky.
Six year-old Limato - occasionally quirky and sometimes tricky to saddle up - is entered for Newbury Racecourse's Group 1 £350,000 Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes on Saturday (May 19.) His regular jockey Harry Bentley will be aboard for this mile race - as he has been for nine of Limato's ten most recent races.
Limato has not raced since he won the Challenge Stakes at Newmarket in October.Together they won the six furlong Darley July Cup (2016), the seven furlong Challenge Stakes (2017) and the seven furlong Prix de la Foret during the 2016 Arc meeting at Chantilly.
Back in the yard from the gallops, Bentley said they were very happy with Limato: “He is really good form and that was his last bit of serious work - we’re very pleased with how it went. Henry has been very happy with how he’s been throughout the winter.”
Henry Candy is quite open about the trouble Limato has sometimes caused his team. But says the gelding is older and bit wiser now: "He's not quite as ferocious as he used to be - you still have to be pretty careful. He's ultra competitive - he doesn't like people fiddling around with him. He's a proper racehorse - he just wants to do what he was bred to do."
Limato has yet to win over a mile. He came fourth in the Lockinge in 2016 when he did not have the clearest of runs. As Henry Candy explains: "The ground was on the sticky side. Our horses weren't firing at that stage. I thought the horse ran on pretty well to get fourth."
How will this year's Lockinge compare to the 2016 running? "They're very similar races - very similar. Winnable if everything goes right."
Limato's other mile race was in the USA - the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita. He came sixth. But in the run up to the race things did not go at all to plan - although he had travelled well: "It was the last hour before the race when things went wrong at the Breeders' Cup."
The state of the ground is really important. Candy has been told that Newbury on Saturday will be "Good to firm - proper fast ground." That will suit Limato very well: "He likes sunshine and hard ground."
If Newbury was going to be soft, Candy might have sent him to the six furlong Duke of York Stakes at York: "This horse is so intelligent he adjusts himself to what you want him to do."
The horse Henry Candy fears most among this year's Lockinge entries is the William Haggas trained Addeybb. The four year-old won the Lincoln Handicap in March and the Sandown Mile last month. Candy says most of the field are known quantities, but Addeybb "...might be improving an awful lot."
Questioned about tackling the longer distance, Henry Candy says that he probably persuaded Limato's owner, Paul Jacobs, to go for the mile again: "The Lockinge is the obvious place to start - you'd be an idiot to say you were one hundred per cent confident. I'm pretty confident. I'm pretty hopeful."
Newbury racecourse has its Starlight Charity Raceday on Friday, May 18 - first race 2.00pm. And the Al Shaqab Lockinge Day on Saturday, May 19 - first race at 1.50pm. And on Saturday gates will open early if you want to watch the Royal Wedding on their big screen - and have a picnic.
Details and tickets here.