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Smith excited by double chance of ending Classics hoodoo

Smith excited by double chance of ending Classics hoodoo
Smith excited by double chance of ending Classics hoodoo

Owner Jeff Smith is still searching for that elusive Classic victory, but could have his strongest-ever hand to play in this season’s Guineas, as Ghostwriter and See The Fire head to Newmarket in pursuit of big-race glory next weekend.

Smith’s famous purple and blue silks have been made popular by the likes of Lochsong and Persian Punch down the years, while Chief Singer went closest to breaking the Hampshire-based owner’s duck in the year’s most prestigious races when finishing second in the 2000 Guineas four decades ago.

However, he has now been given cause to dream once again by this year’s aspiring three-year-olds, who head to Newmarket with leading claims.

First up for his shot at Classic honours is the Clive Cox-trained Ghostwriter, who was unbeaten during his two-year-old campaign, finishing off by dazzling over the Guineas track and trip when claiming the Royal Lodge.

That kind of profile has Smith excited for when his son of Invincible Spirit returns to the Rowley Mile to do battle against the likes of odds-on favourite City Of Troy and Rosallion.

He said: “I haven’t seen him for two weeks but Clive is very upbeat and couldn’t have the horse in better condition, given there is only a week to go – and we’re extremely hopeful.

“He’s an unbeaten two-year-old with cracking form and we would go there with every chance. If you take the favourite out of the colts’ race, then it is wide open.

“Chief Singer came second but Norse Dancer came third and was beaten slightly less, so you could argue that was better. I’ve had the second, third and fourth, so it’s time for that to change.”

Chief Singer finishing second in the 1984 2000 Guineas
Chief Singer finishing second in the 1984 2000 Guineas (PA)

It is 40 years since Chief Singer’s silver medal in the colts’ one-mile showpiece, but the Littleton Stud owner still speaks fondly of the horse, who may have narrowly failed to scoop Classic honours but would go on to strike in three of the summer’s biggest contests.

Trained by Ron Sheather, Chief Singer would win the St James’s Palace Stakes, the July Cup and the Sussex Stakes at three to earn a special place in his owner’s affections.

“He was very special and I was very lucky to get him very early on in my time owning horses, it was just amazing,” said Smith.

“I think at the time, I realised how lucky I was, but if I didn’t then, I certainly realise how lucky I was now.”

See The Fire (right) in action against Ylang Ylang last season
See The Fire (right) in action against Ylang Ylang last season (Nigel French/PA)

More recently, it was Alcohol Free who excelled in Smith’s colours and although only fifth when sent off 5-2 joint-favourite for the 1000 Guineas in 2021, she would follow in the footsteps of Chief Singer and go on to strike at both Royal Ascot and in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.

Alcohol Free was trained by Andrew Balding, whose family have long been custodians of Smith’s finest equine talent, with the Kingsclere supremo in charge of preparing See The Fire for her 1000 Guineas tilt.

A daughter of Sea The Stars, out of Smith’s Group One-winning mare Arabian Queen, she is bred for the role of top-class performer and showcased her ability when placed in two hot contests at the end of last season.

It is Andrew Balding preparing See The Fire for Classic action
It is Andrew Balding preparing See The Fire for Classic action (Mike Egerton/PA)

She has a length and a quarter to find with ante-post 1000 Guineas favourite Ylang Ylang from when the two clashed in the Fillies’ Mile, with Smith feeling See The Fire has just as good a chance as Ghostwriter of adding her name to the Classic-winning roll of honour.

He continued: “They are two proper chances, I’m extremely hopeful of both and I know all owners are balmy and optimistic and so on, but Ylang Ylang is favourite and we were beaten just over a length.

“On that occasion, we came too early if you look at it retrospectively and hung across the course, so why would that be favourite and we be much bigger? I think we go there with a great chance.

“We’ve never had a hand as good as this and if you can’t be enthusiastic about two Classic runners with chances, you may as well give up.”

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