WHEN it comes to picking out horses for the Classics in recent years, the first port of call has generally been the powerhouse stables of Coolmore, Godolphin and the now retired Richard Hannon.
However, this year’s Qipco 1000 Guineas has the potential to throw up a surprise, courtesy of George Margarson, the Grimsby trawlerman’s son who served his training apprenticeship with Geoff Toft in Beverley.
He is the man behind Lucky Kristale, who is one of the most exciting fillies in training after high-profile wins in the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes at Newmarket and the Lowther Stakes at York’s Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival. Her only defeat came at Royal Ascot in the Albany Stakes.
Given that Lucky Kristale was Margarson’s only two-year-old filly in training last season, her exploits were even more remarkable considering the dominance of Flat racing’s elite group of owners and trainers who invariably monopolise the major races.
Having never raced over further than six furlongs, the age-old stamina issue still needs to be addressed but her trainer – now one of the most respected handlers in Newmarket – believes the way she settled last season and finished all her races powerfully bodes well on that score.
Denied the chance to sign off her campaign in the Cheveley Park Stakes because of a dirty scope, Margarson has not wasted any time in getting her back to work.
Now back in full training, Lucky Kristale will not run before the first weekend in May.
Margarson, speaking ahead of the start of the 2014 Flat season at Doncaster a week today, said: “We’ve been lucky because of the weather. We started her early because we weren’t sure if we’d get held up at any point over the winter. My feeling was that she was having her break at the end of last season when the others were still running.
“She came back in November having had September and October off, she was cantering by mid-December and did her first proper piece of work in the first week of March.
“We worked her with a couple of 70-odd-rated older horses, just like we did last year, so we’re keeping that the same. After that we’ll step her up to working with the likes of Rebellious Guest and Excellent Guest.
“We had a few that were coughing in the winter but you expect it as it was so mild. We had an in-and-out all-weather season but that was partly because a lot were badly handicapped, the year before they were all well handicapped after a quiet spell we’d had.
“We keep her a bit isolated from the others to minimise the risk but it’s no bigger than if you take them racing really, you can pick up all sorts.
“There’s a spare box next to her and because she was my only two-year-old filly last year she had a whole block to herself so we’ve just left her where she was.
“When we had Barathea Guest, who was third in the 2000 Guineas of 2000, he stood out from day one. As we didn’t have another filly to work with her, we could only work her with older horses and I think that helped. She found that very easy so we had to take a pull with her.
“In early March, I thought she’d win a maiden and then be rated in the mid 80s and for twenty-grand I would have been happy at that. I didn’t start dreaming until after she’d won her maiden.
“It wasn’t the intention to make all that day but she did and for me that proved her stamina – to make all over six furlongs in May takes some doing, she’s never stopped in any of her races but I know that people are going to question her stamina.
“If she doesn’t stay, we’re going to have to re-train her as she’s been trained specifically to get a mile at the moment, she’s been taken away from the sprinters, but she’s always settled really well, that has never been an issue.
“She won’t have a prep race, with her rating there’s no point. She’s only been given 108 and because of her penalties she’d be giving weight to some horses who may be rated higher. I rang the handicapper to try to work out where he got that figure from, but he didn’t really explain.
“Horses she beat are now rated higher, but there we go. It’s irrelevant really but were she to get injured and never race again she’s only a 108-rated filly and not above 110. When you get above 110 for a mare you can write your own cheque.
“I’m taking it as a compliment anyway, because if the handicapper thinks she’s only 108 I’ve done exceptionally well to win two Group Two races with her!
“If she doesn’t stay, she’d have a break then come back for the July Cup but the plan is to keep her in training, her owners are great and we never have any issues.
“They’ve already turned down some substantial offers but they are not mega-rich so if someone comes in with silly money it might be hard to say no. At the moment, they are living the dream.”