Andrew Balding aims for Newmarket success with Spiritual Star

By Cornelius LysaghtBBC horse racing correspondent
Trainer Andrew Balding
Balding has trained 63 winners so far this season and is hoping for more success on Saturday

Trainer Andrew Balding is hoping that a rewarding strike rate for late entries into major Flat races this year can stretch to Saturday's Future Champions Day at Newmarket.

On Balding's advice, members of the Thurloe Thoroughbreds syndicate have paid up the £20,000 required for their two-year-old Spiritual Star to be added to the prestigious Dubai Dewhurst Stakes.

Horse racing's supplementary system allows late-comers to join the line-up for top prizes, at a price.

Last weekend, 100,000 euros (£86,313) secured a Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe berth for German filly Danedream, who went on to win the race while Nathaniel landed the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in July only after his owner paid £75,000 for a last-minute place.

"It's a great big punt," said Balding. "But the other horses who were in from scratch have had to pay £3,000, so I keep telling myself it's actually a £17,000 punt, but it's still a lot of money and responsibility."

Spiritual Star, who has run twice, most recently winning last month over the same Newmarket course where he contests the Group One Dewhurst, is rated a potential 2,000 Guineas candidate for next year.

And that is high praise from Balding because at his family's historic stables close to Watership Down, at Kingsclere, near Newbury, a strong team of young horses has been assembled.

Recent Salisbury winner Bonfire is being aimed at the Group One Criterium International at Saint-Cloud in France, while Dandy is another colt getting rave reviews.

"Spiritual Star is one of those horses that could be anything," he explained. "But on the gallops he looks like quality, and is maybe the most obvious one to be very decent.

"Early on, I thought he was a proper [Royal] Ascot two-year-old, and he ran a nice third at Newbury, but afterwards, he had an x-ray issue with a knee, down to immaturity.

"So, we had to back right off him, and what is exciting is that he was only half-cooked for the Newmarket win, but he should be cherry ripe now."

Since taking over from his father Ian in 2003, Balding, 38, younger brother of the BBC presenter Clare, has established himself amongst the very brightest training talents in Britain.

In his first season, he won the Epsom Oaks with Casual Look, and soon afterwards globe-trotting Phoenix Reach won a string of international races.

This season, however, has lacked that much longed-for 'headline horse'.

"It's 40 years since Dad won the Derby and Arc with Mill Reef to remind us there's nothing like a big one," Balding added.

"I'm happy we are having a good year numerically, but it would be great to go even further. There's no doubt Spiritual Star has shown enough promise for it to be him."

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