Veteran Seamster looks tailor-made for speedy Ripon test
How common is it for horses to get faster as they get older? Take the splendid Seamster, the sort of veteran who deserves to have a following and has done trainer David Loughnane proud, as the 10-year-old did Richard Ford proud before him.
He's a wonderfully solid performer who has often been called on to race frequently and has frequently answered the call. From 68 appearances, Seamster has won 14 times, finished runner-up 11 times and been third nine times.
It's a terrific record but has netted less than £58,000 with Seamster's biggest win worth under £5,000. He has flourished with age. A total of 12 of Seamster's 14 wins have come since his seventh birthday and between June and September 2016 his turf rating rose from 56 to 85. You don't expect that from a nine-year-old.
Bought as a yearling by Darley for 90,000 guineas, two years later Ford bought Seamster for £5,500 and proceeded to win seven races with him, including on the beach at Laytown. After a short spell with David O'Meara, for whom Seamster won once, it was Loughnane's turn. Heavily raced, in the space of less than two months last summer Seamster won five times, with apprentice Cameron Noble on board each time.
Faster with age
Seamster hasn't always been regarded as a sprinter. Until he was seven he never ran over five furlongs and was regularly raced at seven furlongs and a mile, once winning over seven furlongs. Belatedly, Seamster has established himself as a sprinter, with 26 of his last 40 runs being over five furlongs and the remainder over six. They have yielded nine wins. The latest was for Sarah Hoyland, Loughnane's partner, and Seamster must be a favourite at their Shropshire yard.
Eight different jockeys have won on Seamster and Ger O'Neill, who has become his regular rider, almost won on him at Bath last week. Seamster has never run at Ripon before but has a fine chance in Thursday's apprentice race (6.05). Win or lose, he is certain to be involved.
Hopefully, that will also be true of Eminent in the rather more prestigious Group 3 Bet365 Craven Stakes at Newmarket (3.35). What catches the eye isn't the Frankel colt's promising win over course and distance last autumn - he now faces some formidable rivals - as much as the colours Jim Crowley will be wearing. They are those of Sir Peter Vela.
Vela isn't a familiar figure to British racegoers but he is top of the tree as a breeder and owner in New Zealand and was knighted in 2014 for his services to the industry.
There have been spasmodic sallies onto British racecourses. In 1988 Nebula Way raced for Vela from John Dunlop's yard after which he didn't have a runner until 1997 nor a winner until 1998, when Rachaels North and Shadow Creek, both trained by Robert Armstrong, were successful. Since then Vela has occasionally raced horses here in partnership with others but Eminent is the first since 1998 to have won with him as sole owner.