Alpinista climbs York test as Prescott eyes late Arc chance | Horses race
Aged 74 and in his 53rd season with a coaching licence, Sir Mark Prescott sparkled with teenage enthusiasm in the winner’s enclosure as he looked towards Paris on the first weekend of October. His five-year-old gray mare, Alpinista, had just completed a tough challenge on Tuesday, winning this year’s Oaks, to win Group 1 at the Yorkshire Oaks. She will now join Longchamp in less than two months as one of the favorites for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
It’s hard to imagine a more popular winner. Prescott has sent more than 1,300 winners since taking over the license of the historic Heath House stable from Newmarket in 1970, when he was 19-year-old racing HQ’s youngest trainer. Prescott won Group 1s in Great Britain, Ireland, Germany and France, saddled the two-year-old Spindrifter to win no less than 13 times in 1980 and worked his way through 10 Cuban cigars a day for decades until finally – and a little apologizing – abandoned five years ago.
So far, however, the famous engaging master of Heath House hasn’t had a horse with a real chance of winning Europe’s showpiece racing event. “We had Foreign Affairs [in 2001]“, he recalls. “We completed it for a joyful. He won the Magnet here and was second in the Ebor and then the owners put their money in and they had a fantastic time.
Alpinista, however, is a true competitor and the living embodiment of Prescott’s famous care and patience with his horses, having improved at every race over the past two seasons. She had just one length in hand on Tuesday at the line, but never looked likely to give up the lead after Luke Morris sent her about two furlongs away.
Two years ago, Alpinista finished five lengths behind Love in the same race. Thursday’s win therefore underscored his improvement since, completing what is now a five-game winning streak at Group One level that includes a loss to next-time Arc winner Torquator Tasso in Germany last season. .
“She’s a wonderful filly, she’s been improving all the time and her great gift is that she’s very straightforward,” Prescott said. “She goes on more or less any terrain, you can stand her up or race her. She’s not worried, she’s not overflowing, she’s not out of her food, she’s not lame – all the things these horses do, so far, we’ve escaped. It’s like people, if they’re very direct, it’s amazing what you can do.
Like many of the best horses to pass through Prescott’s hands, Alpinista runs in the green and white colors of Kirsten Rausing, who owned five generations of the mare’s family. In an unusually open Arc market, she is now one of three horses at single-digit odds – assuming Wednesday’s International Stakes winner Baaeed misses the race – and can be backed at around 8-1, just behind the defending champion (6-1) and Torquator Tasso (7-1).
“I think she’ll go straight to the Arc,” Prescott said. “She’s just good enough to get close. This is where you have a chance, and so you have to go. I would not like it very, very sweet. It’s been so dry for so long that I’m expecting a swim race, but there you go.
TV tips for Friday
It’s 15 years since Kingsgate Native became the last juvenile to win the Group One Nunthorpe Stakes and eight two-year-olds have tried and failed to emulate him since. However, few have arrived on the Knavesmire with such obvious claims to The Platinum Queen, and Richard Fahey’s filly is a great bet for Friday’s race at around 3-1.
The Platinum Queen has won three times from four starts to date and scooped £38,190 in prize money for the Middleham Park Racing syndicate who own it. This was effectively staked on his running in Friday’s race as his additional entry cost £40,000. The only blip on her record so far was a no-show in the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot, when she had an early bump and failed to recover.
But The Platinum Queen (3.35) capitalized on that experience in two subsequent wins and gets 22lbs off favorite Royal Acclaim. Hollie Doyle, one of the few jockeys who can go up to 8 and 2 pounds, takes the reins and could well claim her third Group 1 victory in as many months.
York 1.50: Cormier has been a model of consistency on both the flat and the jumps since his time in Brian Ellison’s backyard at the start of 2020 and can follow his recent victory in Chester, which was a new career high at the level.
York 2.25: The aura of invincibility that once surrounded Stradivari is long gone, but the eight-year-old remains unbeaten in his six York starts and could raise the roof with a seventh success here.
York 3.00: Although it only costs a fraction of some of its rivals here, Swamp may be worth an interest at around 4-1 after beating their ground by almost nine lengths at Thirsk last week and posting an excellent time in the process.
York 3.35: shampion needs to learn how to settle in, but Roger Varian’s filly has plenty of time to do so with just three races in the book so far. His winning time at Windsor 18 days ago suggests an opening mark of 84 is very fair.