Wealthy Irish racehorse trainer and businessman Luke Comer is readying one of his newest recruits for a make-or-break summer that takes in assignments on both sides of the Atlantic. Raa Atoll was a relative bargain buy at 30,000 Guineas from previous owners the China Horse Club during the Tattersalls Autumn Sales and has since moved across the Irish Sea to Comer’s stables from the John Gosden yard.
Sired by Sea The Stars, this colt won two of his first three starts for his previous handler, before finishing a fine fourth to Old Persian in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. When you consider that race is often the next step for British and Irish thoroughbreds that contested the Epsom Derby, it was a big effort to go down by less than three lengths.
After trailing in last of seven in another Group 2 over one-and-a-half miles at Newmarket – Gosden’s local track – the owners were prepared to part with Raa Atoll. But Comer then made a successful bid to bring him to his Kilternan stables in the foothills of the picturesque Wicklow Mountains, south of Dublin.
Raa Atoll paid immediate dividends. Belying an absence of 304 days from the track, he stepped up in distance to 3,200 meters for the Group 2 Oleander-Rennen at Hoppegarten in Germany on his return to action in May and stayed on strongly to win by over a length.
While Comer was essentially winning his own money as his company, Comer Group International, sponsored the race, the first prize was just over £54,000 and well worth having. His horse prevailed over hot favorite Thomas Hobson, a relative veteran of the staying division and often among accumulator tips for Cup races in recent years.
Assistant trainer Jim Gorman has confirmed the next target for Raa Atoll is the $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup over a similar distance at Belmont Park, just outside the New York city limits, on June 7. Although he wasn’t fancied for a win in Germany when returned a +3200 outsider, the four-year-old is trading between odds of +550 and +1000 with British and Irish sportsbooks for this invitational race.
Oddsmakers aren’t underestimating Raa Atoll again, and using some horse racing free bets on him at Belmont Park to place or show in his transatlantic mission is well worth considering. The Belmont Gold Cup was won by Queen Elizabeth II-owned Call To Mind, trained by William Haggas.
Provided he comes out well from the Grade II contest in The Big Apple, Raa Atoll will then be supplemented for the Ascot Gold Cup. That historic and prestigious race over two-and-a-half miles, run this year on Thursday, 20 June, is part of the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million series.
As Raa Atoll won the Oleander-Rennen, he is one of seven horses that have qualified for a £1,000,000 bonus awarded by those sponsors. All he has to do to earn Comer that money is win the Ascot Gold Cup, then the Goodwood Cup and later the Lonsdale Cup at the Ebor Festival in York. Raa Atoll will have to best Gosden’s champion stayer Stradivarius, who is unbeaten in his last six and won the WH Stayers’ Million bonus last year, among others.