Sleepless in Lambourn – Kenzai Warrior’s 2,000 Guineas bid keeps Roger Teal awake at night

Horse Racing Kenzai Warrior Horris Hill
Kenzai Warrior (left): Horris Hill winner carries Roger Teal’s hopes in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas.
Photo: Roger Teal Racing

By Jon Lees

GB: Roger Teal is struggling to contain his excitement as he approaches the biggest weekend of his training career, featuring the appearance of Kenzai Warrior in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas.

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Over four days, Lambourn-based Teal will send out the four best horses in his yard in handicap, Listed and Group races.

Progressive handicapper Bear Force One will start the ball rolling at Newmarket on Thursday, Portland winner Oxted will contest the G3 Abernant Stakes on Friday, while Tip Two Win, runner-up in the 2018 2,000 Guineas, will head to Haydock on Sunday for the Listed Spring Trophy. 

Yet the highpoint will be on Saturday at Newmarket where the unbeaten colt Kenzai Warrior will line up in the season’s first Classic, the 2,000 Guineas, in a field that contains the outstanding two-year-old champion Pinatubo.

Teal, 52, said: “I don’t know how much sleep I am going to be getting this week, but it’s exciting, that’s for sure. I keep waking up in the middle of the night thinking about these horses.

“We know what we are up against; we know it’s the 2,000 Guineas and if Pinatubo has trained on, then he’s a superstar. We’ve got to try to get close to him if we want to win the race. 

“But we like our horse,” the trainer added. “Kenzai Warrior has not let me down. He’s a horse that never stopped growing last year and he seems to have wintered well. He is working nicely, so we are hopeful of a big run. I wouldn’t be running him if I didn’t believe in him.”

Teal has been in this position before. He firmly believed in 50-1 shot Tip Two Win before the colt split Saxon Warrior and subsequent Derby winner Masar in the Newmarket Classic two years ago. Roaring Lion and Expert Eye were also behind him in that field.

Kenzai Warrior, the mount of Jason Watson, boasts a stronger profile on paper having followed up a debut win at Salisbury with victory in the G3 Horris Hill Stakes – a race that was moved from Newbury to Newmarket and thus provided vital experience of the Rowley Mile.

“Tip Two Win was a pocket rocket with a real electric turn of foot whereas Kenzai Warrior is more of a big, rangy galloper,” said Teal. “They both have a lot of guts and a good attitude for racing.

“When he won at Salisbury he did it the hard way from the front and at Newmarket the conditions were really heavy yet he knuckled down and gave everything. Jack Mitchell said he hated the ground. “

Teal served a long apprenticeship as an amateur jockey and then as assistant to Philip Mitchell in Epsom, when he travelled the world with the millionaire Running Stag. 

He trained in Epsom himself for nine seasons before relocating to the Lambourn area, first in Great Shefford and, since December, from the heart of the racing village at Windsor House Stables, previously occupied by Harry Dunlop, at the end of a campaign that yielded a personal-best 19 wins.

“It was a massive move for us,” said Teal. “We took a punt on a bigger yard, better facilities. We have our big guns out this week to put us in the shop window.

“The yard at Shefford did me very well but it was a small yard and we didn’t have room for expansion. We used to box horses into Lambourn from there to use the gallops; now they are on our doorstep.”

Of the rest of the Teal armoury, Oxted seeks to build on a progressive 2019 campaign in which he became the first three-year-old since 2000 to land the St Leger meeting’s signature sprint handicap.

“He was a shell of a horse last year,” said Teal. “He just progressed from a great start when he won at Salisbury and finished second in a Listed race at Newbury. He won the Portland in style. He is very exciting and runs in Group races now. 

He added: “Tip Two Win has done really well at home and he is showing all his old appetite again. Bear Force One, another improving horse from last year, runs Thursday in a 0-95 handicap and could run well if he handles the track.”

Even when he was training from Epsom, Teal found Newmarket a happy hunting ground for his stable’s first flagbearer Steele Tango. “Newmarket has been a good track for me, so fingers crossed we can keep that going,” said Teal.

“I want to keep my feet on the floor.” he added. “I’m excited and I’m trying not to get over-excited. I want to get Kenzai Warrior to the 2,000 Guineas as fit and well as possible and then what will be, will be.

“I only know what I’ve got – I don’t know what anyone else has got. If they have better, then good luck to them. But I wouldn’t swap him.”

Qipco 2,000 Guineas betting

Coral: 5-6 Pinatubo, 6 Arizona, 7 Kameko, 10 Wichita, 12 Kinross, 16 Military March, 20 Kenzai Warrior, 25 Royal Dornoch, 33 Mums Tipple, 50 Juan Elcano, 66 Cepheus, New World Tapestry, Starcat, 80 Persuasion.

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