November 30, 2021

Balding expecting ‘very competitive’ run from Imperial Fighter

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In-form trainer Andrew Balding is expecting Imperial Fighter to run with plenty of credit in Saturday’s Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster.

Balding’s two-year-old colt backed up an impressive winning debut at Goodwood with a second in the Group Three Acomb Stakes at York, before again finishing second in the Vintage Stakes at Newmarket.

The form of both races has been franked, with Royal Patronage going on to win the Group Two Royal Lodge Stakes by a neck from Coroebus, the winner of the Vintage Stakes earlier this month.

That has provided Balding – who has already won two Group One races this season with Alcohol Free – with optimism that Imperial Fighter will be competitive as he takes the step up in class this weekend at Doncaster.

“I thought he won well first time out at Goodwood on very soft ground,” Balding said. “He then ran a good race in the Acomb Stakes and had came back but I wasn’t happy with him after the Acomb for a while.

“I think he was just going through a growth spurt at the time but it looks to my eye that he’s grown an inch between York and his run at Newmarket.

NEWMARKET, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09: William Buick riding Coroebus (blue) win The Emirates Autumn Stakes at Newmarket Racecourse on October 09, 2021 in Newmarket, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Image: NEWMARKET, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 09: William Buick riding Coroebus (blue) win The Emirates Autumn Stakes at Newmarket Racecourse on October 09, 2021 in Newmarket, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

“I couldn’t believe when I came to saddle him just how much he had grown so perhaps it was a good job he was a bit flat after York.

“We left him alone but his Newmarket run was excellent and I think Coroebus is probably as good a two-year-old out there.

“He beat us fair and square but we were clear second best so we are certainly entitled to run him in the Vertem Futurity.

Royal Patronage and Jason Hart wins the Acomb Stakes at York
Image: Royal Patronage and Jason Hart wins the Acomb Stakes at York

“I don’t think there’s any reason with the conditions we are expecting tomorrow that we can’t improve on the Acomb run and be very competitive.”

Balding also drew comparisons with Imperial Fighter and Kameko, who won this race at Newcastle in 2019 before going on to 2000 Guineas glory the following year.

“There’s possibly similarities with Kameko in that he was improving and kept on improving with racing,” he added.

“Elm Park was just a natural, an outstanding two-year-old. We probably didn’t have the calibre of horses we enjoy now but he was head and shoulders the best horse we had at the time.

Kameko winning the Joel Stakes at Newmarket
Image: Kameko winning the Joel Stakes at Newmarket

“He had been hugely impressive when winning the Stonehenge and the Royal Lodge and looked every inch a high-class two-year-old.

“So I think he’s possibly got more in common with Kameko than Elm Park.”