Champions Day: Withhold has earned the chance to take on Stradivarius, but ground concerns in-form Jason Watson
Newbury Racecourse Ambassador Jason Watson reflects on the biggest moment of his career so far and looks forward to Qipco British Champions Day:
Winning the Fillies’ Mile on Quadrilateral last week was the biggest achievement of my career.
It was brilliant to win a Group 1 in Germany during my first season with Roger Charlton at Beckhampton, but then to go and win my first ever Group 1 in Britain for my new boss and for Prince Khalid - that was unbelievable. It was a moment I will never forget and definitely the highlight of my career so far.
Watching the race a lot of people thought Quadrilateral was in trouble and had come under a lot of pressure. We were in a bit of trouble, but all that was in my mind was that it was only her third race and her previous run was in a conditions race, albeit one of the better ones of the season.
So it was a big step up going to Newmarket on ground that probably didn’t suit her and on a track that is very testing for a horse to deal with. In Group 1 company it was a massive ask.
The way Quadrilateral finished up the hill was very impressive. I again felt I hadn’t quite got to the bottom of her, purely because she is still learning.
I had to get quite animated on her, to educate her and keep her up to her job because she wasn’t quite sure how to handle conditions.
She won very impressively, has come out of the race very well and all being well she will have a good winter off and come back a lot better next year.
Quadrilateral is a genuine Classic hope. In my opinion I made a mistake by going to the rail. A lot of horses wouldn’t go through that gap and it was slowly closing on us, but she had the class, speed and genuineness to take it on and go through it. Once through I was confident we were going to pick up and win the race.
Winning the Cesarewitch the day after was a very pleasant surprise. Stratum hadn’t won since his victory at Newbury last year. We were unsure he would deal with the ground, but when you ride for Willie Mullins you expect to sit on a fit, tough horse and we got a dream run through.
On Champions Day at Ascot last year I was collecting my trophy for winning the Flat apprentice title where I had one ride in the Balmoral Handicap.
This time I have three, two in Group 1 races. It is great that I have managed to pick up such decent rides.
Withhold takes on the champion stayer Stradivarius in the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup, which is going to be a big task, but my other concern will be the ground being a little too much on the soft side for him.
He has done nothing wrong this year, winning so impressively last time at Newmarket that this was the obvious place to send him next.
It is not an overly big field and we don’t have a bad draw. With him it is all about getting into a rhythm. He obviously hasn’t come up against opposition like this before, but he is within his rights to be in the race.
The ground is not going to favour a lot of horses so it will be whoever can deal with it best. I hope I am wrong and that he will be fine with the ground. I know for one thing, he is tough, genuine and has plenty of class.
I am very fortunate to have picked up such a great ride as Veracious in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. She has improved a lot. The last day out she got beat by a previous 1,000 Guineas winner and before that had won the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes.
She has run well at Ascot before when the ground was soft, even though she may prefer slightly better going. I think she is possibly a big price. She is more than capable of running in races like this and I hope she can run a big race.
Saltonstall, who I ride in the Balmoral Handicap, has won big handicaps in Ireland and shown improvement. He can deal with softer ground and it looks like we are drawn on the best side.
These big handicaps, in ground like it is going to be, can throw up shock results so it is whoever relishes conditions the most. Hopefully he can be that horse.