By Nicholas Godfrey
GB: Dual Classic favourite Quadrilateral will go into next weekend’s Qipco 1,000 Guineas with an endorsement from her big-race jockey Jason Watson, who reports the filly to have “packed on the muscle” ready for her Newmarket assignment.
“She looks like a bull,” says the former champion apprentice, who will partner Khalid Abdullah’s daughter of Frankel on Sunday June 7 in his role as stable jockey to Roger Charlton’s Beckhampton operation.
“She’s done very well over the winter, strengthened up lovely,” adds Watson. “She’s filled into her frame and this year she looks even stronger. She hasn’t particularly grown a massive amount but she’s well in proportion, packed on the muscle and looks great.
“I’ve only sat on her once this year but she worked good and she hasn’t put a foot wrong. She’s been heading in the right direction and it is a very exciting time for me. I left school at 13 and I never thought I’d be lucky enough to be in the sort of position I’m in now!”
Watson, who turned 20 earlier this month, has spent the winter dreaming about Quadrilateral. The pair followed up a nine-length Newbury romp with a last-gasp success in then Bet365 Fillies’ Mile over the Rowley Mile course and distance, giving the jockey his first G1 victory in Britain.
Although not everyone was impressed as she rallied late to beat Powerful Breeze by a head after looking in trouble, Quadrilateral was made winter favourite for both the 1,000 Guineas and Investec Oaks.
“She learned so much from that run,” says Watson. “She showed how tough she is that day. I was thinking midway, ‘Oh God! She’s struggling to handle conditions here but all of a sudden she picked the bit back up and took me home.
“I think people were maybe a little naive to say she looked more of a stayer that day. It was her third run and Newmarket is not an easy track to deal with. Everyone knows it can be a tough track to master and they’d had a lot of racing there so the ground was pretty chewed up.
“She went from a conditions race to a Group 1 against a good bunch of horses and she showed her true colours. She showed what sort of potential she could really have.
“At the same time, I’m not saying she’ll better over a mile or further or vice versa, but I’m sure she’ll put in a smart performance.”
In Saturday’s Qipco 2,000 Guineas, Watson rides the 33-1 shot Kenzai Warrior, unbeaten last year in two starts including the G3 Horris Hill Stakes.
“He’s a very nice horse with a great attitude,” says Watson, who has been riding out for the colt’s trainer Roger Teal alongside his daily visits to Beckhampton.
“He won first time out making the running at Salisbury and after that I couldn’t see him getting beaten in the Horris Hill – though unfortunately I was suspended that day and couldn’t ride him!”
Teal saddled 50-1 chance Tip Two Win to come second to Saxon Warrior in the 2018 Guineas. “I know Roger does rate ‘Kenzai’ quite a lot but he’s a different type to Tip Two Win, more of a grinder.
“He’s grown a massive amount over the winter and I think he could run a big race, though obviously on paper Pinatubo looks a league above the rest and I think Kameko is a proper horse too so it’s tough.”
Often spoken of as a future champion jockey – “every jockey’s dream,” he says – Watson cannot wait to get going after the coronavirus delay.
“We’ve got some nice horses to go to war with but now the season is sort of squashed up,” he explains. “I’ve been keeping fit and riding out every day, getting to know all the horses, but it has been frustrating, though we’re not in a different boat from anybody else.”
Watson’s first year in his job with Charlton also started late – albeit for vastly different reasons, when he was sidelined at the start of 2019 after fracturing four vertebrae at Kempton in January.
He finished with a flourish, ending up just three short of the century mark in Britain with Quadrilateral’s G1 victory supplemented by a second top-level triumph on Aspetar in Germany.
He also won the Cesarewitch on Stratum and a couple of French G2s on Headman – “a big horse who’s even bigger now,” according to his rider, who is forecasting big things in 2020 from the son of Kingman. “It’s almost scary how powerful he is.”
Looking back, Watson adds: “It was rollercoaster year, that’s for sure. When I was off it was pretty tough mentally but I’m very lucky that Mr Charlton is such a gentleman and the owners were lovely and understood, gave me the time to get back to full strength and it came good in the end.”
Now, a month later than anybody expected, he has the excitement of riding a leading fancy in the second Classic of the season.
“This is always the image you’d keep in your head during the difficult times,” he adds. “Riding in big races on big days; riding horses like her [Quadrilateral], horses in that league, they give you confidence.”
1,000 Guineas betting
Ladbrokes: 3 Quadrilateral, 8 Love, 11 Millisle, 14 Daahyeh, 16 Albigna, Khayzaraan, 20 bar.
• Find out more about Roger Charlton’s Beckhampton team at his stable website