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Tuesday 9 July 2019

La Cucaracha Wins Nunthorpe Stakes (Group 1)

Embed from Getty Images Foaled on March 26, 2001, La Cucaracha – Spanish for ‘Cockroach’ – was a daughter of high-class sprinter Piccolo, who finished second, beaten 1½ lengths, behind Blue Siren in the Nunthorpe Stakes in 1994, but was awarded the race in the stewards’ room. La Cucaracha would win the Nunthorpe Stakes, too, as a four-year-old, in 2005, but the fact that she was still in training at that stage of her career, never mind winning a Group One race, owed much to the skill of her trainer, Barry Hills. 

Bred and owned by the late Guy Reed, in whose recognisable colours –gold and black check, pink sleeves and cap – she raced, La Cucaracha was, like many of the progeny of Piccolo, a fast, precocious juvenile. She made her racecourse debut in a lowly median auction maiden stakes race, over 5 furlongs, at Leicester in April, 2003, which she won, easily, by 5 lengths, from the odds-on favourite Fine Silver. Stepped up in class in a fillies’ conditions stakes race at Newbury, also over the minimum trip, the following month she comfortably landed odds of 1/2. 

Thereafter, though, her career was plagued by injury and she wasn’t seen again until 347 days later in April, 2004. Indeed, her entire three-year-old campaign consisted of just three starts in Listed company in April and May – on all of which she ran well, without winning – before she was off the course again, for a further 313 days, until April, 2005. 

However, despite being restricted to three starts in the better part of two calendar years, she made a winning reappearance in the Cammidge Trophy, over 6 furlongs, at Doncaster. The following month, La Cucaracha was stepped up to Group company for the first time in the Duke of York Stakes, again over 6 furlongs, at York. On her one and only outing on soft going, she weakened well over a furlong out, eventually finishing ninth of 11, beaten 5 lengths, behind The Kiddykid, whom she’d beaten half a length, on 2lb better terms, in the Cammidge Trophy. 

Nevertheless, La Cucaracha won her first Group race, the Ballyogan Stakes at the Curragh, on her very next start and, although subsequently only second in the Summer Stakes at York, she also won the Sky Bet Dash, over the same 6 furlongs on the Knavesmire, off top weight of 9st 10lb. Now rated 110, having officially improved by 12lb since the start of the season, she faced her toughest task so far, the Nunthorpe Stakes, over the fast, flat 5-furlong course at York. 

Despite tackling Group One opposition for the first time and her three wins that season having come over 6 furlongs, she was sent off 7/1 fourth-favourite behind Chineur, who had won the King’s Stand Stakes – run over the same course and distance as the Nunthorpe Stakes that year, during the redevelopment of Ascot Racecourse – on his most recent outing in June. Drawn in stall eight of 16, La Cucaracha was held up in midfield before quickening to lead inside the final and holding on for a narrow victory. At the line, just a neck separated her from The Tatling, whose task was made no easier by a slipping saddle, with Majestic Missile, who was hampered close home, a further length away in third. Her victory, albeit narrow, was the first at Group One level for prolific owner-breeder Guy Reed, after nearly 40 years’ involvement in British horse racing.