Trainer Karl Burke keeping Guineas options open with Lord of the Lodge

Trainer Karl Burke at his Spot Lodge stables at Leyburn.Trainer Karl Burke at his Spot Lodge stables at Leyburn.
Trainer Karl Burke at his Spot Lodge stables at Leyburn.
KARL Burke could still look to a 2000 Guineas trial with Lord Of The Lodge once racing eventually resumes.
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The Dandy Man colt finished second in the Gimcrack at York last year and already has a win under his belt in 2020, landing a conditions event at Newcastle back in February.

Burke had been planning a spring Classic trial, but with racing on hold until an as-yet unspecified date and the Guineas meeting pushed back to June in a “best-case scenario”, plans are fluid.

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Topofthegame, winner of the 2019 RSA Chase under Harry Cobden, could be a Gold Cup contender, says Paul Nicholls.Topofthegame, winner of the 2019 RSA Chase under Harry Cobden, could be a Gold Cup contender, says Paul Nicholls.
Topofthegame, winner of the 2019 RSA Chase under Harry Cobden, could be a Gold Cup contender, says Paul Nicholls.

The Leyburn-based trainer said: “Lord Of The Lodge has wintered really well, we’re just sitting on our hands now and waiting for a programme.

“We don’t so much need a date from the BHA – we will restart when it is safe to do so – but a programme as to what kind of races and the conditions of those races, so that we can start to plan.

“If there is a Guineas trial, we could look at that for Lord Of The Lodge, stepping up to seven furlongs.

“There’s not a lot of stamina on his sire’s side, although Dandy Man does get mile winners, but there is on his dam side.”

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Burke, who has enjoyed multiple Group One successes in recent years with horses like Quiet Reflection and Laurens, did saddle Living In The Past to win the Lowther at York last year.

However he thinks a mile may prove too much of a test this term.

He added: “We’re thinking more sprinting with her as we don’t think she will stay a mile.”

Like the rest of racing, Burke is in limbo over the sport’s resumption after plans to start racing on May 1 had to be put on hold.

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No definite date has been set for racing’s return, but senior BHA officials, including chief executive Nick Rust and chair Annamarie Phelps, have held talks with Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston.

It is understood they discussed the plans that have been drawn up to hold fixtures behind closed doors – and the safeguards that would be necessary to minimise the spread of Covid-19. Government scientists have also been working with the BHA and other sporting bodies.

The BHA say the meeting with Mr Huddleston was private and an update is expected after the Resumption of Racing Group has met to consider the conclusions of the meeting and also the Minister’s comments to Parliament on Monday.

Meanwhile Carol Nickels, admin manager at Pontefract Racecourse, has been volunteering for NHS Volunteer Responders – and helping deliver prescriptions – after being furloughed.

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“I was furloughed and after seeing the opportunity with the NHS Volunteer Responders, I knew straight away that I wanted to get out there and help other people,” she said.

“I’ve been up to pick up prescriptions for elderly people that can’t leave the house, and have also been on the phone to someone who has been struggling mentally and with anxiety during the lockdown, to put their mind at rest.

“This period has been difficult for me; my family live in Liverpool and it’s not possible to see them.

“However, it has not affected me in a big way in a comparison to others, and it feels really good to be able to support other people and give back to the community that I live in.”

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In other news, Paul Nicholls says Topofthegame could try to emulate Denman by winning the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury en route to a possible Cheltenham Gold Cup run.

Denman famously shouldered top-weight to win the Newbury feature in 2007 before going on to beat stablemate Kauto Star in the Festival showpiece.

Like Denman, Topofthegame won the RSA Chase at the 2019 Festival under Harry Cobden but he missed the whole of the last campaign due to a leg injury.

“Denman obviously won an RSA on the way to winning a Gold Cup, and I don’t see why Topofthegame isn’t the same sort of horse,” said Nicholls.

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“He’s not quite so robust, he wouldn’t want so many runs – we’ll have to space his runs out – but when he’s right, he’s obviously very good and he’s got lots of stamina. We’re really looking forward to next season with him.”

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