Well there’s definitely light at the end of the tunnel with British horse racing set to return at Newcastle on Monday June 1st.
The following weekend there’s going to be a three-day Newmarket fixture, which will see both the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas being run, as well as the Coronation Cup
So its top class racing from the off.
It’s going to be strange watching the first two English Classics run behind closed doors but it will be great to see the sport back. You can see the fixture list for the first week here
There’s also good news for Irish racing fans. Naas will host Irish racing's return fixture on Monday June 8th, with the Irish 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas rescheduled for Friday June 12th and Saturday June 13th.
Plenty to look forward to. Until then I’m going to continue down memory lane.
Henry Cecil trained four Derby winners during his career. I think the best of his Derby Winners was Reference Point who is the subject of today’s look back.
A son of the great Mill Reef. Reference Point was foaled in 1984 at owner Louis Freedman’s Cliveden Stud.
Sent into training with Cecil, who had also trained Reference Point’s dam Home On The Range. The colt ran three times as a juvenile.
Too green to do himself justice, when only third on his 2-year-old debut at Sandown in August of 1986. He put that experience to good use back at the same venue, when making all for an impressive win in the Dorking Stakes a month later.
Clearly the trainer knew he had a good horse on his hands as the colt’s next and final race of the season came in the Group 1 William Hill Futurity at Doncaster.
Sent off the 4/1, second favourite, behind stablemate Suhailie who was ridden by stable jockey Steve Cauthen.
Reference Point was soon sent to the front by jockey Paul Eddery and set a strong gallop. Two furlongs from Eddery really poured on the pressure and the colt soon powered clear of his toiling rivals. It was a devastating front running performance which you can watch here.
Success in the Futurity meant he ended the season the highest rated 2-year-old in Europe.
Guineas Setback but Dante Success
Reference Point was aimed at the 2,000 Guineas over the winter but due to sinus issues wasn’t able to run in the first English Cols Classic of 1987 and he was re-routed to York for the Dante Stakes.
Facing seven rivals he was sent off the 13/8 favourite. Cauthen soon had him out in the lead and he would never be headed.
Ascot Knight came out of the pack to throw down a big challenge at the furlong point but Cauthen always seemed to have a bit extra up his sleeve to register a cosy length win at the line.
You can watch his Dante win here.
Most jockeys who win the Derby are happy to let others take the lead as they settle their mount and gradually bring them into the race. Steve Cauthen had changed all that when becoming the first jockey since the Second World War to make all to win the Derby on Slip Anchor two years earlier.
Once again Cauthan decided to make all on the running. Coming down the hill Reference Point was bowling along in the lead with Dante rival Ascot Knight travelling just as well in second. Two out Cauthen piled on the pressure. Ascot Knight had no more to give and it was left to Most Welcome to challenge the favourite at the furlong mark. Reference Point dug deep and found more than his rivals inside the final furlong to win the 208th Derby.
Relive the 1987 Epsom Derby here.
The Derby proved to be solid form. The fourth Sir Harry Lewis went onto win the Irish Derby and the non-staying Ajdal would go on to become that seasons Champion Sprinter.
Next up for the Derby winner was a crack against the older generation, including the great race mare Triptych and the improving Mtoto in the Coral Eclipse at Sandown.
Triptych had a pacemaker who couldn’t get to the front as Reference Point set a really strong gallop from the off. Two furlongs out he was still in the lead but was strongly challenged by Mtoto. The pair dueled all the way to the line but Mtoto just had a bit too much pace for the brave Reference Point who went down by three quarters of a length.
See the that memorable race here.
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes
His next race was just was just three weeks after the Eclipse, in the King George VI at Ascot. He led the field into the straight and powered clear of his rivals. To hold off Celestial Storm with Triptych once again back in third.
Watch the final stages of the race here.
Onto the St Leger
After the King George, connections decided to aim the colt at the St Leger and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
A facile win in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York followed prior to his St Leger bid.
Facing just seven rivals, the 4/11 favourite was quickly sent to the front. Two out he was sent for home with Mountain Kingdom chasing. As ever he found plenty for pressure to hold off Mountain Kingdom to win his second Classic.
Watch the race here.
Reference Point started an odds-on favourite for the Arc. However, there was to be no fairytale end to the season. As usual, he was sent to the front but in the straight he weakened quickly and could only finish 8th.
After the race he was found to be lame. It was his only poor performance in a ten-race career and it was also to be his last race, as he was retired to take up stallion duties.
He wasn’t particularly successful in his short career at stud and unfortunately broke a leg in 1991 and had to be put down.
A perfect partner for an ace front running jockey like Steve Cauthen, Reference Point was a real grinder who won his races the hard way. He could defend a lead and always seemed to find that bit extra to hold off his rivals.
To win a Derby, King George & St Leger in the same season marks him down as a great race horse. Maybe it was his racing style but for me Reference Point remains one of underrated flat horses of the last 40 years.
Until next week
John Burke is the tipster behind the long standing Victor Value service you can join him here – https://victorvalue.uk