Balance Play takes another step up ladder with convincing success

Horse Racing | Press Article 17/04/24

Progressive three-year-old Balance Play (7/2JF) posted a comfortable victory in the concluding 11-furlong Coral Handicap, completing a double on the card for trainer Ralph Beckett.

A winner at Chester on his previous start, the son of Lope De Vega picked up nicely under Hector Crouch approaching the final furlong and went clear to score by a length and three-quarters. True Legend (10/1) emerged from the pack to finish second, half a length ahead of third-placed Dancing In Paris (13/2).

With three wins on the board alongside John Quinn, Beckett now sits top of the 2023 Qatar Goodwood Festival trainer standings by virtue of more seconds.

He said: “I am very pleased. It has been a good day. Balance Play was very immature throughout most of his life. He learnt a lot at Epsom on Derby day, and at Chester we had to cut our cloth to fit – it was not the plan to make the running that day and it ended up like that.

"Today, he was a little bit timid in amongst horses, and still quite green. He learnt a lot. We will see what to do next, but we will go a mile and a half now and he might get a bit further. There is plenty of mileage in him. He was a rig and that hampered progress for him as a younger horse but it is all coming right now.

"We are very lucky. Valmont [owner] have sent me a good number of this type over the last couple of years. I am glad to have them, it is great!

"Lope De Vega is a sire I get asked a lot about. He has been very good to me, although why I am not quite sure. They come in all shapes and sizes, and you have to treat them as individuals a little bit. We have had a great three or four years with them.”

Crouch, who had hit the crossbar a couple of times this week, said: “If I had a cat, it would have probably been kicked, definitely last night. It is relief more than anything. I thought we had a very good chance in this, it was a good fit for the horse.

"I had a couple of seconds at Epsom, and La Isla Mujeres did not quite get home here as well. John Quinn's stone well-in handicapper Lord Riddiford beat me on Existent – trainer Stuart Williams was probably kicking his cat that evening! It was certainly turning out to be one of those weeks, so it’s nice to get one on the board."

Of this race, he said: "I was struggling a little bit through the middle bit of the race. It is the first time he has been in tight, surrounded by other horses, and he wasn't enjoying it. He is a bit timid.

"I managed to get him to a bit of space on the outside and he finished off really well, coming good once he had a bit of daylight.

"He has learnt so much from Epsom to Chester to here, and he is only going to keep improving. He is far from the finished article."

5.20pm Coral Handicap
1 Balance Play (Valmont) Ralph Beckett 3-9-08 Hector Crouch 7/2JF
2 True Legend (Tim Bunting – Osborne House Iv) Sir Mark Prescott 3-9-01 Luke Morris 10/1
3 Dancing In Paris (Joseph Smith) Ian Williams 3-8-12 Richard Kingscote 13/2
12 ran 7/2JF Nader King (11th)

Ralph Beckett – 12th Qatar Goodwood Festival winner
Hector Crouch – 2nd Qatar Goodwood Festival winner