Can Pierre Lapin follow in the footsteps of half-brother Harry Angel in Newbury's Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes?
Pierre Lapin will emerge from a four month absence to try to build on a strong first impression to emulate his illustrious half-brother Harry Angel in the Group 2 Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury on Saturday (September 21).
The Roger Varian-trained juvenile looked an exciting prospect on debut when he won a Haydock novice race in May going away by three and a half lengths. However, the Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes - the highlight of Dubai Duty Free International Weekend - will be his first race since that victory.
Pierre Lapin is one of eight horses declared for the £75,000 prize which has also attracted the Richard Hannon-trained Mystery Power, already a pattern winner having landed the Group 2 Superlative Stakes in July. Also Shadn, a previous course winner who finished third in the Group 3 Prestige Stakes, and Gimcrack fourth Malotru.
The Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes, named after legendary Derby and Arc winner Mill Reef, has been won in the last four years by future Group 1 winners Ribchester and Harry Angel, who went on to become Europe’s champion sprinter the year after his 2016 triumph.
The Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum-owned Pierre Lapin holds Group 1 entries. Roger Varian is clear that he is a good prospect: “He won well first up way back in May. He spent a lot of time growing and developing and I didn’t think he fitted the frame of being an Ascot two-year-old."
“He is training well. It’s a big jump up in class. He is a promising horse for the autumn and next year and I think this race will tell us a lot more about where we are with him.”
Two of the horses Pierre Lapin beat at Haydock, Bravo Faisal and Top Buck, were winners last week: “At the time of his debut we weren’t sure what the form was worth but in any event he won by three and a half lengths and met trouble in running. He probably could have won five or six lengths that day with a clear run."
“For sure it was an eye-catching debut and I think he is a nice horse. I’m happy where I am at with him, but it took him to the point where I was happy to run him again. Saturday will tell us if he will have another run in the autumn or we put him away for next year.”
The Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes is one of three Group races on the eight race card which also comprises the Dubai International Airport World Trophy Stakes, headed by five-timer seeking Dakota Gold, and Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup, in which Desert Encounter bids for a third successive Group 3 victory.
Varian also runs Gibbs Hill, who was a leading fancy for the 2m Northumberland Plate in June and carries top weight in the £70,000 Dubai Duty Free Handicap, run over a mile and a quarter. The 13 runners also include Forest Of Dean, a winner at both Goodwood and York festivals this summer for John Gosden.
Varian said: “Joe Fanning rode Gibbs Hill last time at Kempton where he hit the front and Joe said he made his ground up a bit quick, made his run a bit early and didn’t quite finish his race off."
“It was still a good run, which followed another good run at York carrying top weight over a mile and a half. He’s got something to prove off the mark coming back to ten furlongs, but he’s in a good place and seems to go on good to firm nicely.”
Racegoers visiting the Dubai Duty Free marquee, located next to the Dubai Duty Free Grandstand, can sample complimentary Arabic coffee and dates and enter free prize draws to win Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise and Millennium Millionaire tickets offering prizes for a luxury car or USD 1 million respectively.