2024 Belmont Stakes Probable Contender: Get To Know Sierra Leone

As the excitement builds for the 2024 Belmont Stakes, horse racing enthusiasts are keenly observing the emerging contenders. Among them, one name is generating considerable buzz: Sierra Leone.

This remarkable thoroughbred has been showcasing an impressive trajectory in the lead-up to one of the most prestigious races in the sport. With a combination of speed, stamina, and an innate racing intelligence, Sierra Leone appears poised to capture the attention of both seasoned bettors and casual fans alike.

Join us as we delve into this promising contender’s background, training regimen, and what makes Sierra Leone a standout in the field of hopefuls for the 2024 Belmont Stakes.

Early Career And Training

The initial stages of a racehorse’s career and training are crucial for its future success and longevity. The groundwork established during these formative years shapes the horse’s athletic abilities and psychological resilience, preparing it for the competitive racing environment. Effective training programs from a young age are vital for building stamina, speed, and overall physical fitness.

Additionally, early exposure to the racetrack helps horses become accustomed to the sights and sounds they experience during races, minimizing anxiety and enhancing performance.

This early groundwork was essential for his achievements in major races, making him a strong contender for events like the 2024 Belmont Stakes. Gamblers aiming to make savvy 2024 Belmont bets should pay attention to horses like Thunderbolt, whose rigorous early training sets them apart.

Sierra Leone debuted on November 4 in a maiden special weight event over a mile at Aqueduct Racetrack. Starting from post 5, he stumbled at the beginning but was urged three wide on the turn and moved five wide into the upper stretch, ultimately winning comfortably under Manuel Franco by one and one-quarter lengths, with a time of 1:36.94.

In his subsequent race on December 2, Sierra Leone competed in the Grade II Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack, a prep event for the Road to the Kentucky Derby over 1 1/8 miles. After dropping back between horses at the start, he made a strong five-wide rally from last place in a field of 10.

As the horses entered the stretch, Sierra Leone briefly took the lead from Dornoch a furlong out, but Dornoch fought back and narrowly won by a nose, finishing the race in 1:50.30 on a muddy, sealed track.

Racing Highlights

Throughout his early career, Sierra Leone accumulated several notable victories. Below, let’s explore the highlights of his racing career.

2024 Risen Star (G2)

With a sluggish start working against him, Sierra Leone staged an impressive late surge to overtake Track Phantom and clinch victory by a head in the 52nd edition of the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

2024 Blue Grass Stakes (G1)

Highly regarded Sierra Leone was reluctant to enter the April 6 Blue Grass Stakes (G1) starting gate at Keeneland, causing a brief delay. However, once the race began, the skilled colt showed no hesitation, charging from ninth place to overtake Just a Touch in the final stretch and secure a 1 1/2-length victory in the $995,782 Blue Grass.

Sierra Leone completed the 1 1/8 mile race in a decent time of 1:50.08. The brisk early fractions of 23.15, 46.48, and 1:10.83, determined by Sierra Leone’s running partner Top Conor and followed closely by Just a Touch, set the stage for his final surge.

Pedigree and Lineage

Sierra Leone’s pedigree speaks volumes about his potential and quality. As a progeny of two highly distinguished thoroughbreds, he carries the legacy of his sire, Gun Runner, and his dam, Heavenly Love.

Gun Runner, renowned for his exceptional racing career, was a powerhouse with multiple Grade 1 wins, including the prestigious Breeders’ Cup Classic. His remarkable speed and endurance have made him a sought-after sire.

On the other hand, Heavenly Love adds a layer of finesse to Sierra Leone’s lineage. Known for her impressive track performances, Heavenly Love blends agility and grace into Sierra Leone’s genetic makeup. Her victories, notably in the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades Stakes, underline her competitive spirit and innate talent.

The combination of Gun Runner’s robust legacy and Heavenly Love’s illustrious record positions Sierra Leone as a horse with both the heritage and the aptitude to excel in the racing world. This extraordinary lineage raises expectations and promises an exciting future for Sierra Leone on the racetrack.

Sierra Leone’s Trainer

Chad Brown, a formidable horse training and racing name, has left an indelible mark on Sierra Leone’s equestrian landscape. Known for his unparalleled expertise and commitment to excellence, Brown has trained some of the most successful racehorses in the industry.

His journey, filled with dedication, hard work, and an innate understanding of horses, has propelled him to the pinnacle of his career.

Brown’s strategic approach to training, combining traditional methods with modern techniques, has consistently produced top-tier performances. His ability to understand and communicate with horses more deeply sets him apart from his peers. This unique skill has brought him numerous accolades and cemented his reputation as a leading trainer in Sierra Leone.

In 2001, Chad earned a degree in animal husbandry from Cornell University. He began his career in racing by working for Racing Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey during his college summers and the year after he graduated.

Conclusion

As the 2024 Belmont Stakes draws nearer, excitement continues to mount around Sierra Leone. He is a strong contender for the title with a solid track record, impressive pedigree, and dedicated training. Fans and bettors will watch closely to see if Sierra Leone can live up to the expectations and make a lasting mark in Belmont Stakes history.

Tickets for The Showcase at Cheltenham Racecourse on sale soon

The next major horse race meeting at Cheltenham Racecourse is The Showcase at the end of October. The two-day event is scheduled for Friday 25th and Saturday 26th October. As ever, The Jockey Club has dubbed it the “return of jumps racing” and the general curtain-raiser for the 2024/25 Cheltenham calendar. Tickets are set to go on sale imminently for adults, with all under-18s allowed free, ticketless entry to The Showcase.

The Showcase is also unique as it provides a peak behind the curtain into the world of racehorse ownership. There’s a host of experiences for racegoers, including Q&A sessions with some of the greats of National Hunt racing. All of which helps to whet the appetite for the 2024/25 jumps season.

National Hunt trainers dedicate their lives to preparing the finest hurdlers and steeplechasers for owners up and down the country. Being a racehorse owner is a hugely fulfilling pastime, especially when the hard work of training pays off on a race day. It’s easier than some may think to become a racehorse owner. It’s even possible to purchase shares in a racehorse gift voucher, which allows recipients to select the horse they are interested in. Whether it’s to celebrate a birthday or a landmark anniversary, there’s no barrier to entering the world of horseracing these days.

What to expect from The Showcase meeting

Both days of racing have already been pencilled in, according to The Jockey Club’s official website. Friday’s race card features seven compelling races, one of which is a Grade 2 feature race, the Sky Bet Novices’ Hurdle. Last time out, the Novices’ Hurdle was landed by Lookaway, trained by Neil King. In addition, the Class 2 Novices’ Steeple Chase and Novices’ Hurdle Race were both landed by thoroughbreds trained by Gavin Cromwell, who enjoyed a stunning start to the 2023/24 jumps season.

On Saturday, the second and final day of The Showcase meeting, the EPIC Jumps Season at the William Hill Handicap Steeple Chase is the feature race. In 2023/24, this race was comfortably won by Henry De Bromhead’s Whacker Clan. Meanwhile two-time Cheltenham Festival winner, Flooring Porter, also made a triumphant return to the circuit to win the William Hill Lengthen Your Odds Novices’ Steeple Chase. There’ll likely be more seasoned festival runners entered into this year’s Showcase meeting.

If you want to be notified when tickets formally go on sale, it’s best to sign up for The Jockey Club newsletter, which alerts all subscribers to early-bird windows and potential ticket discounts in advance.

Any readers thinking of making use of The Showcase as an opportunity to celebrate a special occasion should note that hospitality packages will soon be made available for October. Private boxes are available for most race meetings at Cheltenham, catering for a minimum of ten guests per box. With a four-course meal, as well as an additional afternoon tea and private bar facility, not to mention your own official betting services, it’s as VIP as it gets for racehorse-goers at Cheltenham.

The Brocklesby Stakes

 

If you enjoy two-year-old horse racing then you must have heard of the Brocklesby Stakes. Predominantly it has been the first juvenile race of the Flat season. I say predominantly because there have been a few years where one or two races took place on the all-weather, which I found irritating because it undermined the whole tradition of the Brocklesby. It has been and should be the starting point of two-year-old horse racing season. To me, that is important and something to be protected.

Too many traditions have been eroded by someone with a ‘good’ idea.

I remember the Cherry Hinton. A race established in 1947. A Group 3 race upgraded to Group 2 status in 1996. And then in 2013 renamed to the Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes (in honour of Catherine Dutchess of Cambridge). I can’t tell you how irritated that name change made me feel. I know I’m not alone with that thought. I wonder who had the ‘bright idea’ for change?

Anyway, enough of me being, still, annoyed how the Brocklesby could have been usurped.

I don’t think that will be happening again!

Good news, the Brocklesby Stakes 2024 will be taking place on the 23rd March at 13.50.

A sprint (5f) at Doncaster Racecourse on the same card as The Lincoln Handicap.

The first race on the card.

The Brocklesby Stakes has been won by many exceptional horses. In fact, in recent years (2022), we saw the Richard-Hannon trained Persian Force cruise to an ‘impressive’ four-and-three-quarter length victory. He went on to win the July Stakes (Group 2), runner-up in the Prix Morny (Group 1), placed in the Middle Park Stakes (Group 1). His season and racing career finishing when fourth place in the Keeneland Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. Total prize winnings £289,012. This son of Mehmas, racing in the familiar silks of Amo Racing Ltd, raced just 8 times. He now stands as a stallion (8,000 Euros) at Tally Ho Stud, Ireland.

Over the years a number of classy two-year-old colts and fillies have won this race.

Some of my favourites include Jack Berry’s Mind Games (1994), Hearts Of Fire (2009) trained by Pat Eddery, who took the Group 1 Gran Criterium at San Siro (Italy). Every inch a mudlark, he was a great talent and probably one of the best horses trained by the former high-profile jockey. Other legends include the outstanding Provideo (1984), trained by Bill O’Gorman. He set a British record winning 16 of his 24 races as a two-year-old. To think his journey started by winning the Brocklesby. Bill Turner, who for so many years won this great race, has struggled to capture those glory days. The likes of The Lord, Spoof Master & Mick’s Yer Man are all reminders of why the Brocklesby is so special for trainers big and small. Other horses I remember with joy are the ill-fated Santry (2017). We can only imagine what he could have achieved. The Last Lion (2016) trained by Mark Johnston who went on to win the Middle Park Stakes (Group 1).

I wonder which Brocklesby winners are your favourites?

I love the Brocklesby Stakes. It’s a starting point. The beginning of a journey. A story that will be carved in stone. The winner will follow in the hoof prints of famous thoroughbred racehorses. Perhaps, even, pattern-class winners.

For many, this race will come and go without reflection. Horse racing is, for me, more than the next race. Horse breeder, Nellie Cox, said: ‘There’s a story behind every horse’ and that is worth considering. For me, it helps add to the understanding of something special. Each and every life is important and we are lesser people if ignoring this fact.

This year we have even more reason to look forward to the Brocklesby Stakes. The British Stallions Stud (EBF) is increasing the total prize money to £40,000 which means the winner should receive a prize of £20,000+. This will help bolster the standard of the Brocklesby Stakes as it’s sure to be in the minds of trainers looking to start their season with a bang.

The Brocklesby Stakes is a Class 2 race. It has seen good and bad years with differing levels of talent.

Back in 1996 Indian Spark won the Brocklesby Stakes by four lengths for horse trainer Bill Turner. Little did they realise it would be the first of 143 race career.

 

A Quick Guide to Cheltenham Festival 2023

We’re all a little bit excited about the arrival of Cheltenham 2023 – one of the biggest and best racing events on the calendar. However, if you don’t know much about horse racing and are new to this kind of event, then fear not – we have put together this quick guide of all you need to know to get started…

 

Dress Code

If you are heading over for some actual real-life action, then you may want to dress the part. Although there isn’t an official dress code for the festival, this is certainly a dress-to-impress kind of event. Most women will be wearing bright-coloured dresses, hats and heels, whereas men will likely be suited and booted. But don’t forget to dress for the weather… We live in Britain and it can be very unpredictable!

Betting at Cheltenham

One of the best parts about Cheltenham, whether you watch it from home or have a track-side seat, is all the betting action. It is no wonder that millions of pounds are spent betting on the assortment of races over the four festival days. There are hugely generous Cheltenham betting offers available such as boosted odds, extra place deals and all sorts. You’ll also find plenty of expert tips up for grabs. If you’re new to horse racing betting, this is the time to get started.

The Major Races

There are 7 races per day over the four days, meaning 28 races in total. If you want to cherry-pick the ones you want to watch or bet on, here are the key races…

Tuesday at 15.30: Champion Hurdle

The big race of the first day is the Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy. This is run over 2 miles and ½ a furlong. It is race number four – right in the heart of the day’s action and has produced some very famous winners including two-time champion Buveur d’Air, who won in both 2017 and 2018.

 

Trainers to look out for this year include 4-time winners Wille Mullins and Nicky Henderson. You may also want to look for horses owned by JP McManus – who has produced 5 winners in the last 10 years – including the last 3 winners.

 

Wednesday at 15.30: Queen Mother Chase

Heading into day 2 we have the Queen Mother Champion Steeplechase, run over 2 miles. Again, this is right in the middle of the day’s action and offers the biggest purse – of £400,000. In the last few years, it has been dominated by two-time champion, Altior.

 

In terms of betting, one trainer you may want to look out for is Nicky Henderson who has trained 5 of the past 10 winners… including 3 of the last 4 winners. Other names worth checking out include Paul Nicholls and Henry de Bromhead who also have decent track records in this event.

 

Thursday at 15.30: The Stayers’ Hurdle

On day 3, there are two big races – the Ryanair Steeplechase at 14:50 being a good one. However, the biggest race of the day is the 3-mile-long Stayers’ Hurdle at 15:30. This race has brought us some of the sport’s most legendary horses – such as Big Bucks who won it four years consecutively between 2009 and 2012. No one has matched this record ever since.

 

The most successful trainer in recent years is Wille Mullins, who won it in 2017 and 2018, with different jockeys, horses and owners.

 

Friday at 15.30: The Cheltenham Gold Cup

This is just the biggest race of the day, this is the biggest race of the festival… the pinnacle of four days of racing. As such, it has the biggest purse – £625,000 and this is the race every trainer and jockey wants to win. There is only one trainer who has won it more than once in the past decade and that’s Nicky Henderson. Willie Mullins has won it just once with the 7-year-old runner Al Boum Photo.

 

There are no dominant horses, owners, jockeys or trainers – this is all about the best on the day… which makes it the best race of the festival and some even argue, the best of the year.

Melbourne Cup vs. Cox Plate: Which Would You Choose For Your Star Horse?

Ask any casual racing fan to name the most prestigious horse racing event in Australia, and they’d almost certainly say the Melbourne Cup. And with good reason, too, as it’s not just the most famous racing event from Australia – it is one of the world’s greatest sporting and cultural events.

But the showcase at the most famous Australian horse racing racecourse, Flemington Park, does have competition from other events. These include the new super-rich events like The Everest, which carries one of the world’s largest racing purses.

And yet, there is also some debate as to whether the W.S. Cox Plate is the superior race. Yes, the Melbourne Cup is the one that brings the nation together, and the one that gets all the international attention. But for racing purists, and that means many trainers and jockeys, the one they want to win is the Cox Plate.

Both races steeped in history

The Cox Plate is in its 100th year in 2022, whereas the Melbourne Cup has been held since 1861. So, it’s fair to say that both races are steeped in history. Both offer huge financial incentives to owners, but the Melbourne Cup has the bigger purse at $AUD 8 million, whereas the Cox Plate offers $AUD 5 million (still a huge amount).

Nonetheless, we aren’t talking about history, money, or even prestige here, it’s more about the mechanics of the race. And some feel that the slog of the big handicaps like the Melbourne Cup becomes something like a war of attrition, not necessarily rewarding the best horse in the race due to the handicap system.

In contrast, the Cox Plate, with its shorter distance and ‘weight for age’ system is more of a fair system in the eyes of some racing fans. Horses will carry some weight because of their age, but it’s not like the handicap system where the best horses are punished to carry the most weight due to their perceived excellence. The Cox Plate has a better record of favourites winning, and it’s clear punters enjoy that element.

Everyone will have their personal favourite

Of course, some of this comes down to the question of handicaps versus other races. Detractors believe that forcing the best horses to carry heavier weights is the equivalent of asking a Real Madrid to play a football match with nine men against a team of 11 just because the Spanish team has had more success. Proponents of handicaps, however, believe that it’s simply part of the contest. Indeed, many punters enjoy their battle of wits against the handicapper.

We might ask – why not try to win both the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup? Despite the close proximity of the two race dates, it has been done in the past – seven times, in fact. Most recently, the double has been achieved by Makybe Diva (2005).

But the demands of modern racing – and welfare concerns – mean that fewer elite horses are trying to achieve the double. Verry Elleegant entered both in 2021, coming 3rd in the Cox Plate and winning the Melbourne Cup. So it is still very possible.

It’s always going to be a subjective opinion to say one is better than the other. And every jockey, trainer, owner and, indeed, punter is going to have their favourite. Maybe it’s the Melbourne Cup or the Cox Plate; perhaps it’s the All-Star Mile or the Caulfield Cup. Racing is a broad church, consisting of multiple disciplines; claiming one is the best is akin to claiming there is a best Olympic sport. And any horse with a Cox Plate or Melbourne Cup on its resume is going to be a special horse indeed – regardless of which one they win.

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