TRAINER Ralph Beckett knows more than a thing or two when it comes to handling Classic fillies having captured the Oaks twice and the St Leger with Simple Verse.
On Saturday, Cecchini attempts to earn her place in the Investec Oaks by winning the Lingfield Oaks Trial having been an impressive winner of her only start to date.
Beckett, who has his team in fine order, spoke to us about his Classic contender, his runners at Ascot and which of his horses has most impressed him on the course this season.
Cecchini bids to give you another victory in the Lingfield Oaks Trial. How are things with her?
She showed plenty at home at two and we weren’t surprised she won on debut. But even then it takes a bit of doing to break a track record like she did. Whether turf will suit quite as well as the all-weather we’ll find out on Saturday, but I can’t see why not. She’s had a tough spring but of late her work has been good and she’ll be ready to do herself justice on Saturday.
You have won the Oaks twice. What does a filly need to excel in that race?
For Epsom you need temperament and to be well balanced. You also need to be athletic and most of all you need to be talented. You need all of those to win around there in a Classic.
What does it feel like to win a Classic?
It’s incredible because there are only five of them each year it means more than anything else. It’s the greatest test of you and your horse. To win one means more than winning a.n.other Group 1, in my opinion. It means much more. They’re special.
Across at Ascot, Western Duke contests the 1m4f handicap. What do you make of his chances?
He had a troubled trip last season. He didn’t really get going and it took him a long time to put it all together again. He’s been training well this spring and Ascot will suit him. Whether he’s up to winning first time I’m not entirely sure as I’m not convinced he’s particularly well handicapped. He is going there in good shape though.
Di Fede (3.25 Ascot) was raised 8lb for winning a short-head last time. What did you do to upset the handicapper so much and is she up to competing in this grade?
I don’t know what we did – that’s a very good question! It was a competitive heat I suppose and it is what it is. I think she deserves to be running in a race of this nature and she’s up to this level for sure. I hope she can run a really good race.
Dave Dexter bids to follow up his debut win in the 5f novice stakes at Ascot. Can he do it?
He slightly surprised us that he was capable of doing what he did at Newbury. He was suited by the juice in the ground that day although he has a fast-ground action. We’ll find out in this race if he is suited by the quicker ground. He’s a nice horse and I think he’ll run well.
You are teaming up with jockey Louis Steward plenty this season. How did that link come about?
Louis came and saw me at the end of January and said he wanted to spread his wings a bit as he’d been in Newmarket all his career. He comes in here three mornings a week and he’s getting on plenty as a result. I like how he rides and he’ll keep getting opportunities.
Mount Moriah was hugely progressive last season. Would be have Cup ambitions this year?
Yes. He has those ambitions but we have to see if he’s up to that level. He’ll go to the Henry II Stakes at Sandown next and then hopefully we’ll know what to do after that.
Taurean Star made a winning debut for you in the big handicap at Goodwood last week. He misses the Victoria Cup, so where is he likely to head next?
He’s going to be running in all those big, Saturday 7f handicaps through the season. He needs a fast-run race so all of those type of races are right up his street. Races like the Bunbury Cup would be on his horizon this season and there’s more to come from him potentially.
And, finally, you’ve made an excellent start to the season. Which of your horses has most impressed you on the course in 2018?
Rock Eagle won on debut at Windsor last month and I think he’s a horse with a future. I’m looking forward to seeing how he gets on next week at Salisbury.