KARL BURKE believes stable star Laurens has the qualities to become this year’s champion miler.
He has signalled the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes – one of the features of the Qipco British Champions Day meeting on Saturday week – as the filly’s most likely next target.
Though the John Dance-owned three-year-old is already entered in the 10-furlong Qipco Champion Stakes on the same day that is due to feature middle distance horse of the year Roaring Lion and Burke is minded to supplement his French Oaks heroine for the shorter race.
Since dropping back in trip Laurens has won the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown and then Newmarket’s Sun Chariot Stakes last Saturday when North Yorkshire jockey Danny Tudhope once again deputisted for the injury-sidelined PJ McDonald.
With five Group One wins to her name her big race record now equals the number of elite level successes accrued by Mark Johnston’s Attraction – the most successful Yorkshire-trained Flat horse in recent years.
Yet much depends at this time of year on the wellbeing of horses after a long campaign and the probable soft going. The Burke-trained Quiet Reflection, a dual Group One winner, could only finish ninth in the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes two years ago. It was a race too many.
Reflecting on the Newmarket win last Saturday, Leyburn trainer Burke said: “We’re delighted with her. She only lost four kilos on the whole trip and she looks in great shape.
“She’s got a great constitution and I think she’s come out of Saturday better than she came out of the Matron. We’re definitely planning to run her again this year.
“I’ve spoken to John and at the moment we’re leaning towards Ascot. She’s in the Champion Stakes, but it’s more likely we’ll supplement for the QEII.”
Although Champions Day has emerged as the likely next port of call for Laurens, Burke is not ruling out the possibility of sending his filly across the Atlantic for next month’s Breeders’ Cup.
One Burke inmate who is bound for America is his Group One-winning sprinter Havana Grey.
Winner of the Flying Five Stakes on Irish Champions Weekend last month, the colt was not beaten far into eighth place in Sunday’s Prix de l’Abbaye at ParisLongchamp.
It is set for one final career outing in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint before being retired to stud.
Jason Watson has set his sights on reaching 100 winners for the year after riding out his claim at Kempton on Monday evening.
The 18-year-old is closing in on the century after his 95th career winner aboard Archimento, meaning he is no longer able to claim an allowance and will now ride on level terms with the likes of Frankie Dettori and Ryan Moore.
Only two of Watson’s winners came last year. The rest have been racked up in a whirlwind first full campaign in 2018 that has seen him rise from rookie to champion apprentice.
“It’s absolutely amazing. Back in January if you’d told me all this was going to happen – winning a Stewards’ Cup and becoming champion apprentice – I wouldn’t have believed it,” said Watson.
“I just want to get as much as I can on my CV. I want to reach 100 winners for the year. I’ve not got many to go and hopefully I’ll get some before Champions Day.”
That day at Ascot on October 20 is when Watson will officially be crowned champion apprentice.