David Morgan

Chief Journalist


King Hermes faces the Newmarket rise

Yoshito Yahagi believes his July Cup contender will be better off for having faced the July Course incline while Bathrat Leon builds towards Goodwood.

King Hermes got a taste of what to expect from Newmarket’s July course during a 45-minute introduction to the summer track’s tranquil environs on Tuesday, four days out from Europe’s premier 1200-metre contest, the Group One July Cup.

At the centre of the whole exercise was a five-furlong gallop up the straight to the winning post. And it was the ‘up’ that trainer Yoshito Yahagi was focused on after the Lord Kanaloa colt quickened under Ryusei Sakai to draw a length and a half clear of a Roger Varian-trained lead horse ridden by Jack Mitchell.

“I was a bit conscious that the horse lost his speed at the last furlong – maybe it was the hill – and I’m sure this work will make the horse understand how to run (here) on race day,” said Yahagi, via Kanichi Kusano of the Japan Racing Association (JRA), who interpreted portions of the trainer’s interview.

“My image of the ideal distance for the horse is seven furlongs but since you have the incline here, maybe reducing to the six furlongs will be good for the horse as well.”

King Hermes, winner of the Group Two Keio Hai Nisai Stakes over 1400 metres last season, has raced only five times and was last seen when sixth of 18 in the Group One NHK Mile Cup on May 8.


King Hermes galloped at Newmarket on Tuesday. (Photo by The Jockey Club)

The three-year-old appeared relaxed as he cantered to the starting point of his gallop – hooded and wrapped in the trademark Yahagi red and white – and maintained that calm demeanour afterwards.

King Hermes’ workout came after he had sampled the sylvan beauty of the pre-parade ring – in company with the Varian gelding, as well as trainer John Berry riding one of his own string – and had walked around the flower-bordered parade ring proper.

Those confines were all so serene at 7am under postcard blue sky but come the weekend, when the Japanese raider will face a field of older rivals for the first time, the place will be busy with race goers, abuzz with tense anticipation.


“I was worried about it until I saw the horse today but after seeing the horse, I’m quite confident that he will manage the July Cup,” said Yahagi, who revealed that he first became enamoured with the July Course and the July Cup during time spent in 1990 at the town’s Abington Place Stables, with the late Geoff Wragg.

An hour and a half after King Hermes had worked in front of an audience of gathered media, Yahagi was across the other side of Newmarket – minus the press pack – to watch his Group One Sussex Stakes contender Bathrat Leon stride at three-quarter pace up the stiff-climbing Warren Hill. Sakai again was in the saddle.

The Yahagi camp expressed satisfaction with the Godolphin Mile winner’s work – “Everything is good,” said the trainer – and confirmed that the plan is for Oisin Murphy to gallop the four-year-old Kizuna colt before his assignment at Goodwood on July 27.



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