With a maximum field of 28, Saturday’s tote Victoria Cup (4.05) at Ascot, live on Sky Sports Racing, will take plenty of winning, but the upwardly mobile Kevin Philippart De Foy has two live chances.
The fledgling flat trainer hopes that both of them will be very competitive – granted the luck in running that is often required in order to win this most competitive of handicaps.
ALREHB (Franny Norton, drawn 24) has thrived since he was bought by Philippart De Foy for 120,000 guineas at Newmarket’s Horses in Training Sale, after making a belated racecourse debut for Charlie Hills at four and winning a Lingfield novice on the second of only two starts .
The gray has narrowly won seven-furlong all-weather handicaps off 85 and 87 for his new connections and went down by just half a length to Boardman in a competitive handicap at Haydock on his turf debut off 88, when he was in front plenty soon enough. He will be another pound higher here, and up in grade, but there’s scope for more improvement.
VAFORTINO (Benoit de la Sayette, drawn 27) is another relatively new recruit, having arrived from Joseph O’Brien late last year.
Whereas Alrehb has only recently made his turf debut, Vafortino raced exclusively on turf before going down by a neck to the patiently ridden Bless Him in a decent seven-furlong handicap on the all-weather at Newcastle on his first start for his new stable.
Two very different profiles then, but two equally solid chances.
Phillipart De Foy, who has made a great start to what is just his second full season, said: “Alrehb has been busy through the winter and made a good debut on the turf at Haydock, where unfortunately he couldn’t get any cover and was in front too long.
“He’s off a nice low weight and we’d like to ride him more patiently, as he shows a good turn of foot at home.
“I was slightly disappointed when he was beaten on his first outing for us, but that race worked out quite well and the only real disappointment was at Kempton, where he was caught out wide and the mile looked a bit too far for him.
“The Victoria Cup is a nice race for him, and I don’t anticipate the straight track being any problem as he works well on the Limekilns at Newmarket.”
Turning his attention to Vafortino, he said: “When he arrived from Joseph O’Brien’s late last year we decided to geld him and give him plenty of time off. He ran a nice race at Newcastle on his first start for us, finishing second to Bless Him, who was then third at the All-Weather Finals.
“We’d kept him quite fresh, as he had a fairly busy three-year-old campaign, and he should come on for the race. We decided to wait for this to go back on the grass, and it will be interesting to see what he can do.
“He’s in good form, and his owner is looking forward to making the trip over from Luxembourg to see him.
“It’s a big field and they will need luck, but it’s exciting to have two runners in the race.”
De Foy eager to reward loyal owners
Saturday will be an important day for the stable, as Philippart De Foy is also looking forward to the return to action of last year’s Salisbury Group Three runner-up Pearl Glory (Ben Curtis) in the Group Three SBK Chartwell Stakes (3.50) at Lingfield, also live on Sky Sports Racing.
He said: “We want Saturday runners, and more importantly Saturday winners. Pearl Glory showed some good form as a two-year-old and although she was slightly disappointing over seven furlongs at Newmarket at the back-end, she wintered well and she’s done plenty of work for her first start of the year.
“She’s taking on older fillies, but she is at a low weight and she was a course winner over six furlongs at two, so we know she handles the track. It will be interesting to see how she gets on.”
Philippart De Foy learned his trade from some of the best, including Christophe Clement, James Fanshawe, Criquette Head and John Oxx, and his Machell Place team has grown fast, from just seven horses when he had his first runners in November 2020 to the 74 listed in the latest edition of Horses In Training.
The 30-year-old was quickly off the mark, with three winners late in 2020, and he followed that with 30 winners in 2021. He already has 16 winners in 2022, so it would not be unrealistic to hope for 50 or more by the end of the year.
He said: “I’m someone who is never overly optimistic, and it’s never good enough for me, but it’s been a decent start and we have a strike rate of 23 per cent – or something like that.
“It’s very important to keep running the horses in the right races, and we also want to keep improving the quality, with the aim of getting to another level this year.
“We want to keep getting the best out of all of the horses and we have great support from a huge variety of owners. Some of them are buying at the sales, and some of them are owner-breeders. We are trying to reward them. all with plenty of success on the track. “