2020 was the year of Hello Youmzain as the sprint star took Group 1 and Royal Ascot glory. That win was all the more important for his stallion prospects and was a fantastic result for the partnership of Hara d’Etreham and Cambridge Stud. When the star sprinter was shipped off for his second career, it would be impossible to replace him but thankfully the partnership remained with Kevin following a Book 1 purchase. It has taken time but patience has paid off as Franz made a winning debut at Haydock in the 1m Casumo Horse Racing And Sports Betting EBF Novice Stakes.
Champion 3yo colt in 2016, Almanzor was retired to stud and took up stallion duties at Haras d’Etreham. The French stud had bred the champion and in partnership with New Zealand outfit, Cambridge Stud would enjoy a joint venture. It was the same plan with Hello Youmzain and they decided that whilst having the breeding partnership, they should keep the racing one too. With an order of finding an Almanzor yearling, Kevin headed to Book 1 keen to see what the offspring were like. The selection process proved to be very easy as all of the progeny were fantastic yearlings and ticked the boxes required, selecting the best would prove to be the hard part. Thankfully Nicolas De Chambure, of Haras d’Etreham, was in full agreement with one colt and secured the athletic son for 100,000 gns.
Out of a Galileo mare, the pedigree did suggest that a bit of time may be in order and that proved true with Franz. Having done all his early work it did become clear that Franz was going to grow and patience was the correct call. It took a while and Kevin was waiting for the colt to show him signs that he was ready. Franz suddenly started to come to hand and thrived, showing all the right signs for a debut run.
It was only a few weeks before his run that Franz started to say he was ready but at this time of year there are plenty of options for later juveniles. Haydock is a lovely track to introduce 2yr olds at so the 1m contest was ideal for a big, athletic colt. Kevin Stott donned the silks for the ride as 9 runners lined up for the race.
First day at school, it is quite difficult to work out just how they will take everything. Franz has always been a very straight forward horse at home and would prove to be on the track, although this is not always the case. Professional before the race he jumped on terms too when the stalls opened, leaving himself in midfield through the early stages. It was experience to the fore which allowed Kevin to just tuck in and track the pace. The pace was fair as they raced down the back straight and towards the left handed bend.
Kevin wanted to let his mount stride out, using his long, fluid action. As the favourite took them along, the field did stretch out a little which was ideal for Franz. The colt had settled into a lovely rhythm as they began to swing the long home bend. Haydock offers juveniles plenty of time as the straight is well over 4f. As the field came into the home straight the jockeys just started to space out, ready for a run when the time came.
Injecting some pace heading down towards the 3f marker, the favourite was trying to turn it into a test. Kevin measured this move and just loosened his grip, letting Franz stride out. The colt moved forward and just closed the gap a little, moving into fourth spot passing the 3f marker. Although not fully throwing down a challenge the race did heat up and Kevin got to work asking Franz to shift through the gears, lengthen and gain some momentum.
Rain softened ground would really make this 1m testing enough so with the field getting racing early, stamina would be essential. Inside the 2f pole the favourite was still out in front and chased hard by his nearest market rival. They had opened a bit of a gap and it was Franz, along with his stablemate Ravenswing, who were the closest pursuers, albeit a couple of lengths down. Inexperience was showing here and Kevin just had to get a little more serious to show his colt what he wanted from him.
The field were well strung out entering the final furlong with the two leaders battling it out. Franz was the one catching the eye as he began to get to grips with what was required. Now beginning to hit top gear the colt was cutting into the deficit as his stride ate up the ground. Picking up the leaders 1/2f from home, Franz was staying on powerfully the further they went. As he surged to the front he realised it was the first time he had been in this position and wasn’t quite sure what to do. Pricking his ears he had opened up enough of a lead to allow a bit of an inexperience to kick in. Franz crossed the line to secure a winning debut by 1/2 length.
Everything this year was going to be a bonus and connections were never quite sure just how things may go with Franz. He has always been a lovely colt but looked sure to be a better 3yr old. Even with late maturing horses Kevin feels it is important to get experience into them as a juvenile. Although ability was clear, everyone felt that a nice positive display would put Franz in the right position moving forward. For him to go and win was a huge positive and shows that there is certainly an engine underneath. That run will be enough for him now and he will go away for the winter, allowing him to develop. Everything about the horse says he will be a better 3yr old so it is an exciting prospect to look forward to for all involved.
There are many aspects in racing that can lead to a horse winning or hitting form. The great thing about British racing is that it has so many variables with a multitude of tracks that can ride differently each day. One deciding factor can be ground and Aleezdancer has shown this year that when he gets his favoured conditions he is a very talented individual. Taking his third win of a productive juvenile season, Aleezdancer won the 6f Napoleons Casino Nursery Handicap at Pontefract.
With two wins form his first three starts, Aleezdancer had put himself in a position to have a crack at some top prizes. He was impressive when winning twice on slower ground and it would be interesting to see how he would fair against stronger opposition and quicker going. Group 2 followed by a couple of highly competitive sales races were the races next in line. Although failing to challenge in those he did run far better than the bare result and it was quite clear that ground was the big difference.
Sights were lowered for his penultimate start when Aleezdancer dropped into Nursery company for the first time. Despite it being in September, Ayr was unusually warm and again he would come up against unfavourable ground. With that in mind, the juvenile ran a great race to finish fourth and suggest that he would soon be winning once again. Weather looked to be changing and softer ground would be around the corner so he could be back. out again soon enough.
Pontefract offered the next chance and fit Aleezdancer perfectly, being a similar stiff finishing track like where he won earlier in the season. Rain had ensured the ground would be soft with 10 runners lining up for the nursery. Kevin Stott has been the only jockey to achieve success on the gelding and he was back in the saddle.
Stall 8 is usually a tricky proposition at Pontefract but that does differ when the ground becomes testing. This meant that Kevin was in no rush leaving the stalls. There was a quick dash for the lead and Kevin stayed out of the early pressure, settling Aleezdancer in midfield but on the outer of the group.
Quickly down through he first couple of furlongs the field would enter the bend going at a strong gallop considering conditions. It was clear that there was only one thing on the leaders mind as they swung left handed. Edging away from the rail the field immediately darted over to other side of the track. Kevin had been positioned ideally for this move and followed suit, heading over to the stands side. With the field all moving over there was going to be a quick reshuffle and Kevin was keen to get caught up in any hard luck stories.
As they entered the final 2f Kevin kicked Aleezdancer through a gap along the rail and the gelding quickened up to though down his challenge. The conditions were proving too much for some of the field but Aleezdancer was gliding through the ground. With momentum on his side and hitting top gear, Aleezdancer came scorching through down the near side. Taking the lead at the furlong pole Kevin was hard at work as the track rises up for a stiff finish.
Aleezdancer stuck his head in front passing the 1f marker and was staying on powerfully. In his favoured ground Aleezdancer was proving far too strong for his rivals, many of whom were toiling in behind. Although he did edge off a straight line, which could be forgiven, there was no stopping the leader. He kicked clear and offered Kevin the chance to ease down toward the line. Aleezdancer earned his third win by a comfortable 1 1/2 lengths.
Aleezdancer has been a real star this year and has proven to be a very talented individual when the conditions get tough. Winning off 85 here, the handicapper will certainly be giving him a hike in the weights and could well push him north of 90. Depending on what options are left for the 2yr old Aleezdancer could have one last run before the end of the season, especially as he could get conditions to suit.
Winning an historic race at a local track for the first time will go down as a season highlight. Justanotherbottle showed his rivals a clean set of heels to take the Great St Wilifred handicap at Ripon. He returned to the track just a month later and put in a carbon copy performance to take down the 6f Ripon Cathedral City Of The Dales Handicap.
Although Justanotherbottle is probably heading towards the twilight of his career, at 7yrs old he has found another level in his form. The current handicap mark is still shy of his best but the form book reads very well. Taking down the St Wilfred was a fantastic effort and he then backed that up with a fine second in pattern company. Showing good speed again, Justanotherbottle was runner up in the 5f listed Beverley Bullet. It was his first foray into pattern company and he did everyone proud.
Recently an addition of blinkers has seemed to help Justanotherbottle regain his zest during races. With two good runs in the bag the option at Ripon came along and was clearly ideal for the St Wilfred winner. The race came at a time when there were plenty of top sprint handicaps so it was a relatively small field of 8 lining up. Field size had a knock on affect with the weights as there was an 18lb spread. Justanotherbottle would have to carry top weight for the contest as Kevin Stott took the leg up for the ride.
Drawn in stall 1 at Ripon can be a hindrance but the smaller field meant he wasn’t stranded out in the centre of the track. Out quickly, Justanotherbottle was immediately to the fore and Kevin kept everything simple, sticking to his draw. There was plenty of pace towards the stands rail but it was the chestnut who held the overall advantage towards the centre. It was strong gallop but Justanotherbottle was showing his usual early speed and his rivals needed to make their mind up about who they wanted to track. Despite the small number of runners there was a split with two groups formed through the first couple of furlongs.
Heading to halfway the field all fanned out as the jockeys were looking for their racing lines. Still leading, Justanotherbottle was joined at the front but this had no affect as Stott just maintained the rhythm they had. As the race began to warm up there were chances all across the track. Justanotherbottle was still travelling powerfully down the centre and took Kevin to the 2f marker.
Running in his hands, Justanotherbottle moved inside the the final 2f on the bridle. Kevin began to loosen his grip on the reins and allowed his mount to stride on. Justanotherbottle extended and edged a little further clear with ease. Those who had raced around the gelding couldn’t go with him and the main dangers were against the stands side. It was at the 1 1/2f that Kevin pressed the go button and went for home.
Under pressure Justanotherbottle kicked clear but had nothing to run with. Passing the 1f he just edged over towards the rail where his rivals were trying to throw down their challenges. The Great St Wilfred winner knew his way home from here but did just continue to lug left. Holding a couple of lengths advantage meant that he was far enough clear to avoid his rivals and his dominance was clear. With 100 yards to run it looked as though the race was at Justanotherbottle’s mercy and that is what it proved to be. The 7yr old maintained his gallop all the way to the line, winning for the second time at Ripon this year by 1 length.
Justanotherbottle is in the form of his life at present and the blinkers really look as though have helped him. He shows great natural speed but is able to maintain that gallop and is just as powerful at the line as any point in the race. Simplicity is one of the best traits Justanotherbottle has with his running style. This win was off a mark of 97 and the handicapper will be reassessing him once more. It will be interesting to see how he judges this performance but a triple figure mark looks very likely. Justanotherbottle has already proven himself at this level so a potential step up in grade may be order. Owners Steve Ryan and Martin Tedham have enjoyed a great 6 week spell with Justanotherbottle and hopefully it can continue for the rest of the season.
Time can be a positive in racing but the occasions when it isn’t is when you are awaiting another win. Soaring Star had quite a consistent season last year and it looked as though he could continue on that upwards trajectory. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case this season but he finally got his head back in front after 13 months when winning the 1m Cazoo Handicap at Newcastle.
Having started this season off with a promising return to action Soaring Star fails to build on that and had largely cut a frustrating figure. Differing trips and tactics were installed but still the key to victory eluded the gelding. On his penultimate start at Thirsk, Soaring Star had gotten a little too far back but ran better than the bare result. This run certainly made a decision moving forward that next time out a more positive ride would be in order.
Soaring Star had tried the Tapeta surface before but it would be his first trip to Newcastle. There were 11 runners declared for the 1 mile contest and Shane Gray was booked for the ride. Instilling the positive approach Soaring Star was well away and tracked the early leader with the field racing just the far side of centre. The field were quickly strung out with a brisk pace being set but Soaring Star was in the slipstream of the leader from the off.
Through the first half of the race the filed elected to race more towards the far side of the track. With the 11 runners running in pairs there was a long train chasing the leader and well over 7-8 lengths would have separated first to last. Although a good gallop it was a fair one and the entire field seemed to have settled into a good rhythm through the first half of there contest. Newcastle has no bias to running styles so usually there is very few hard luck stories and this looks no different.
Coming down to the 3f marker was the first injection of pace. The leader tried to stretch the field and just lengthened from the front. Although it didn’t get anybody in real trouble, this increase ensured that everyone was on their toes for when the challenges began to unwind. Shane edged his mount out to get a clear run and allowed Soaring Star just to move up as he inched closer to the leader galloping down towards the final 2f.
Passing the 2f marker the race began to unfold. Soaring Star was travelling strongest of all and Shane had the gelding alongside the leader who now cam under a ride. Pressing the button he asked Soaring Star to go and quicken which saw the pair hit the front. Little by little he began to pull away from the long time leader and held a 1 1/2 length advantage coming into the final furlong. Apart from Soaring Star, those who had raced toward the rear pf the field were the ones doing best. The favourite was picking up and proved to be the biggest danger with just 150 yards to run. Having broken through the ranks he was hunting down Soaring Star who had set sail. Shane was in full drive and had a willing partner underneath him. With every stride the gap was diminishing and although he was trying hard, Soaring Star was just starting to shorten his stride. The favourite, along with a fast finisher, gave it one last dive at the line as the trio dashed past the line as one. Initial reactions were that Soaring Star may just have held on and it didn’t take long before the announcer could confirm the result. Soaring Star had gained his win by just a nose but had done it the hard way.
This result was a long time coming but the nature in which Soaring Star won shows that he still has the fight in him. He travelled well throughout the contest and dug deep when he had to. Although the winning margin was narrow it could prove to be a big victory in the long run. Horses like this sometimes just need that feeling of getting past the post first again to really boost their confidence. Hambleton Racing have enjoyed another fine season and it is always nice to add to the tally for their many loyal owners. If this win does just give Soaring Star a little more zest and enjoyment in his races then there is no reason why he cannot go on from this and put up some more wins next to his name.
Marcelo Bielsa is well know for being an astute tactician on the football pitch. Well his equine namesake delivered a masterstroke himself with the help of Kevin Stott to bring home a fifth Ayr Gold Cup for the team at Hambleton Lodge.
The Ayr Gold Cup is race that is very special for Kevin and planning for it starts months beforehand. Having such a record in the race, there are a few traits that seem to tick the correct boxes for finding the winner. As the standard has increased over the years, class could be the number one factor and Bielsa was never short on that. Very lightly raced, for his age, Bielsa had made up into a smart sprinter in a very short space of time. Quickly developing into a handicapper rated over 100, the very best sprint handicaps were in order. Bielsa has been tackling the best races on offer over the past two seasons and had always threatened to win a big one.
Excuses are not something that Kevin likes to use too often but Bielsa certainly hadn’t had the rub of the green when it came to draws. When he did get a favourable draw the draw wasn’t right and vice versa. It is easy to say but Bielsa had never had everything land right for him and this is difficult to compete with in such competitive handicaps.
Ayr had been the target form the beginning of the year, especially after Bielsa ran a good race in the same contest last season. With the race developing away from him, Bielsa stuck on well to finish 9th but only beaten 3 lengths. All roads would lead back to Scotland and all in all he had had a consistent year without gaining a win. Runner up twice, he had most recently run a huge race in the Stewards Cup prior to Ayr. With there being a big draw bias, meaning you had to up the stands side, Bielsa went solo down the centre of the track finishing 6th only beaten 2 1/2 lengths. Following that fine effort it was straight on to Ayr.
With 6 weeks between the contests, Bielsa was nicely freshened up and arrived in great order. Drawn in stall 25 there was no telling how the draw would pan out. That all changed just an hour before the off when the Silver Cup winner charged straight up the far side rail which caught the attention of all connections. Suddenly it seemed that Bielsa could be the one out of luck again with him on the opposite side of the track. Kevin Stott has been the only jockey to win on Bielsa and was back on board the 6yr old. The draw didn’t look to bother the two Kevin’s as they devised a plan to just keep it simple, stick to his side where the ground had been untouched and possibly fresher.
Pre-race had revolved around one horse, despite the talented 25 runners field, as recent listed winner Great Ambassador was a strong 3-1f. The nerves of draw bias seemed to subside just before the off as there was late support for Bielsa, although only a handful of people knew what the two Kevin’s had in mind. The cavalry charge was released from the stalls and immediately there was a distinct move towards the far side rail. Those drawn low edged across whilst those higher would form a second group towards the centre of the track. One lonesome runner had darted across to the stands side rail and the plan became clear as Kevin kept Bielsa alone.
Unsurprisingly a good gallop was set as the pace seemed to be with the centre group. Holding the overall advantage it was quite difficult to judge where Bielsa was through the early stages. It did feel as though he was around midfield but it wouldn’t be until the business end of the race where things would become far clearer. The favourite couldn’t have been drawn further away so it trying to keep an eye on him would not be possible, Kevin would really have to set his own fractions and use all his experience.
Charging through the first half of the race the centre group had held sway but the strong pace would have them get racing from halfway. As horses tried to get into the contest the field fanned out and would see the two groups begin to converge. Kevin was happy to be a loner down the near side and Bielsa had travelled nicely to this point. It was here, for the first time, you got to see that Bielsa was in a good position and headed towards the 2f marker not too far away. Whilst his rival were well grouped, Bielsa wouldn’t have anyone to race with so both he and Kevin were relying on each other.
Passing the 2f the race had really started to unfold. The fav burst through on the far side looking full of running and would quicken up to take the lead. Bielsa had travelled just as well and looked to be alongside or possibly in front but with nothing to run with it was hard to get a visual marker. The field were now really stretched across the track and the race had now split with maybe a third of the runners in with a real chance of winning. All eyes were attracted to the favourite who had kicked clear of those around him. That move did look impressive but Bielsa looked to be on terms and quickening just as well as Stott got serious. Neither himself or the horse could see their rivals so it was now all guns blazing for the line. His nearest visual would have been Mr Wagyu who was pulling away in the centre but was definitely down on Bielsa.
As they entered the final furlong the complexion of the race finally became clear. This ultra competitive 25 runner handicap was down to 2, possibly 3 barring any disasters. Far side, Great Ambassador, centre Mr Wagyu, near side Bielsa. It was either rail where the momentum lay and it was Bielsa who had the lead. The gelding had travelled well throughout and was quickening up all the time. As the camera angle changed and it panned round to more of a side on view Bielsa’s advantage grew. He was in top gear, motoring along the rail and was proving strongest of all. The final 100 yards was the best of his race as he continued to pull clear and it was only now that Kevin got a visual guide of where he was. Looking over his left shoulder, the Danish rider saw daylight. He knew he was in front, he knew he was clear, he knew he was the winner. Bielsa had opened up enough of an advantage that it allowed Kevin the time to celebrate, pumping the air and letting out a roar that was matched by those who had backed Bielsa. For a race that had been so difficult to watch and weigh up throughout, the finish was the easiest as Bielsa secured Scotland’s top race by a convincing 2 1/4 lengths.
Kevin Stott’s celebrations tell you everything you need to know about the Ayr Gold Cup. It is one of British racing’s most historic handicaps and is always a privilege to win. The quality has increased so much over the years that now you are looking at a mark of around 96/97 just to get a run. Bielsa had been threatening to do this in a big handicap so it was very pleasing for the horse to finally get his head in front. Both he and Kevin stuck to their guns and it does take bravery to plough a lone furrow. Kevin got he fractions spot on and had a very willing partner underneath him. Bielsa is owned by King Power Racing, who have become a huge supporter of racing in recent years. They have shown great patience with the horse so it is extra special to deliver a winner of this nature. Bielsa has always been a horse which Kevin has had great faith in and he will now be tasked with tackling pattern company. Win number 5 was just as sweet as the first one and hopefully Bielsa can go on to bigger and better things like those who preceded him.
Always known for having a Midas touch with the 2 yr olds, Kevin has enjoyed one of his best seasons with the juveniles this year. This year saw a large team of youngsters and they have done the yard proud. With the third highest number of individual winners in British racing, Green Team made it 30 wins for the juvenile team when taking the 7f British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes at Ayr.
Wootton Bassett was breaking news last year when he was purchased to join the Coolmore ranks after a blistering start to his stallion career. With this big transfer it looked as though Kevin could have made an astute purchase when he signed for a colt at GoffsUK for £55,000. Potentially he could be a cheap horse, especially when the sire’s new stud fee was released.
Owner Ahmad Al Shaikh has enjoyed success with Kevin over the past 10 years and rekindled the partnership with this colt. Carrying the name Green Team, which is the banner his horses run under, the colt was an exciting prospect for the year ahead. Despite being bred to get further in time, Green Team made his debut over 6f. Showing good speed he just weakened late on, showing signs of inexperience and immaturity.
Kevin took his time with Green Team and aimed the colt at Ayr with a step up in trip. It is a race that always attracts some nice types and is usually very competitive. This year was no different and there was a field of 13 set to line up. Shane Gray was booked for the ride and set out to be positive form the off.
The break between races had freshened Green Team up nicely and it showed through the early stages with him just taking a keen hold after leaving the gates. There was plenty of pace on so Shane was offered the opportunity to take a lead. As the field settled down to find their positions, Green Team was able to tuck in from his wider draw and sat just on the girths of the leader. He was still racing enthusiastically as they headed towards the bend.
Although Green Team was quite on the correct lead he handled the bend ok and with the leader looking to edge away from the rail he looked to be in the ideal position. There was well over 3f to run as they moved over to race down the centre of the track and they did get racing a long way out. The 7f would prove to be a stern enough test with the strong pace already shown and Shane had to begin working on his mount to get the colt lengthening.
Those who had raced towards the front were proving hard to peg back and as they entered the final couple of furlongs they still held sway. Shane had been cajoling Green Team and he was responding but couldn’t quite get on terms with the leader. It was the two market leaders who were vying for the lead as Green Team looked to just be falling backwards a little. It was at this point that Shane now got a bit more serious and with that the colt understood what was required. The half length deficit was maintained and Green Team looked to be finding once again.
Moving into the final furlong Green Team finally got past the long time leader who he had been looking at all race. Unfortunately that still meant he had yet to hit the front as the favourite had come through on the other side. Green Team was really understanding what was being asked of him and he had all the momentum moving forward. He quickly pulled up alongside the favourite and stuck his nose to the front with 100 yards to run. The race was done from that point as he strode out from there to win by a comfortable 1 length advantage.
It was a very pleasing win with Green Team who looks like a colt that should improve with time and develop into a nice 3yr old. He saw this trip out really well and certainly looks to matching his pedigree which has stamina through it. Stepping up to 1 mile looks like it should be no problems and he could be horse to get a little further again next year. Discussions will be had with connections regarding the rest of the season but whatever happens Green Team looks like he has a nice future ahead of him.
It is a week that many northern trainers look forward to, the Ayr Gold Cup meeting. Attracting plenty of owners and trainers the whole week has a feel good atmosphere. Winners are always well received so with Ventura Rascal at Ayr and Esken Rose at Pontefract the meeting kicked off in the best way possible.
Hootenanny will always be remembered as a very fast juvenile that Wesley Ward sent over to win at Royal Ascot. His first crop are now racing and Esken Rose took the honour of becoming her sire’s first winner when making all in the 6f Northern Commercials – Service, Sales & Parts Novice Stakes at Pontefract.
Having come through the breeze ups circuit it was clear that the American bred filly was able to gallop. The Goresbridge sale had to move location so it didn’t take place until June 3rd. Although the filly looked the part during her breeze, Esken Rose would have to wait a while for her debut run.
Progressing at home and getting the sales prep out of her system Esken Rose began to show the right signs during her work. Coming to hand and looking ready to run, the filly had the unusual disadvantage of not being EBF qualified. This meant that many races were not open to Esken Rose and Pontefract proved to be the earliest opportunity.
The stiff track was a question mark for Esken Rose but she headed to Pontefract taking on 8 rivals. Tom Eaves was in the saddle and when his filly was quickly away the jockey aimed to get over to the rail from his middle draw. Despite her inexperience Esken Rose showed a very professional attitude early and led the field along. Immediately it was clear that the filly was relaxed as she settled lovely in front and showed good speed whilst not doing too much.
The first half of the race took the field along the back straight. Esken Rose was pricking her ears in front, enjoying the freedom. It was a good pace being set which became clear as they headed towards the left handed bend. Esken Rose edged a little further clear as they entered the bend and applied the pressure to her rivals. Whilst Tom remained quiet on board his colleagues were getting to work. There was only two left travelling on the bridle, Esken Rose and the favourite.
Entering the home straight took the field past the 2f marker and Esken Rose held a couple of lengths advantage. Off the bend Tom asked his filly to quicken and she did just that, although the favourite matched her. Although the finish stiffens up the race did seem as though it was between the front two. Esken Rose was going the better but her main rival was not going away.
Moving inside the final furlong the lead had been eaten in to with the fav gaining ground. It was now just a length between the pair but Tom was yet to really ask for everything. She began to dig deep and a length was as close as it would get. Responding to pressure Esken Rose continued gallop out powerfully and repelled her rival. Showing a great attitude, Esken Rose earned a debut win by 1 length.
Hambleton Racing have enjoyed another good season and the 2 yr olds have really been the highlight. Esken Rose settled lovely through the race and showed plenty of natural speed. Despite going a good gallop she was able to quicken off that pace but also seeing out the trip well up the stiff finish. Connections will sit down and decide what comes next but Esken Rose has already made a big impression.
The Ayr western meeting is 3 days which build up to the main event of the Ayr Gold Cup. It is always nice to get on the scoreboard early as it can just take some of the pressure off. Ventura Rascal stepped up and delivered when winning on the opening day in the 1m Luxury Breaks At Western House Hotel Handicap.
Consistency is a great trait to have and Ventura Rascal certainly has that. Tough and consistent make him a tough cookie which is shown in his record. This season has seen the 4yr old continue to improve and he had only finished out of the places on one occasion. Having run a career best when finishing fourth in an optional claiming handicap, Ventura Rascal was aimed at Ayr immediately after that run.
Dropping in grade was a big plus for Ventura Rascal but he had not won a handicap off a mark as high as his current one of 75. Although the gelding has done the majority of his racing utilising front running tactics. Despite that being his preferred method it is no the be all and with plenty of pace in the race there was a chance he could take a lead. Kevin Stott would be making his mind up once the race started.
Jumping well, like always, Ventura Rascal was immediately at the front and led the 10 runners. There was pressure from the outside and with the early fractions being strong there was a decision to be made. Kevin felt that he was happy with his pace so took a little pull, allowing Irreverant to go on. With one other rival wanting to go on, Ventura Rascal settled in third spot.
The leader kicked on once they were allowed to go and opened up a huge lead alongside his sole rival. Third was daylight as there was well over 5 lengths back to Ventura Rascal. Kevin was full of confidence and decided that he was riding his own race. An early move like this really opened up the race and it was very difficult to read as they swung around the bend.
Coming into the home straight the leader continued to stride on moving into the second half of the race. The gap back to Ventura Rascal was still lengths back but Kevin remained motionless in the saddle. Passing the 3f marker and it was still unclear who was going best but with Stott unwilling to commit it seemed as though his confidence was still strong.
Moments later the entire complexion of the race changed. Passing the 2f pole Ventura Rascal was shaken up and responded in style. The leader was beginning to toil and suddenly Rascal shot into contention. The deficit was cut within strides and as Ventura Rascal took the lead Stott went for everything. Now into full drive, Kevin went to put the race to bed. The long time leader was backtracking now and it was another closer who was set to chase down Ventura Rascal.
Moving into the final furlong with a couple of lengths lead, Ventura Rascal was seeing the trip out well and had all but one of his rivals beaten. The fav was finishing well and was closing in. The lengths shortened to three quarters and then a half. There was only a matter of strides left but Ventura Rascal had to pull out all the stops and the brave 4yr old did just that. A strange race came to a conclusion with a thrilling finish as Ventura Rascal clung on to a head victory.
Ventura Rascal has been a really fun horse this year and deserved another win on his record. Travelling well through, he quickened up smartly before having to battle it out late on. This was a very good performance from both horse and jockey, being able to judge it so well with the race being torn apart. Ventura Rascal is a very tough and genuine horse so although he will get a new career high mark, it would be no surprise to see him in the winners’ enclosure again.
Mehmas is a young stallion making giant strides and has certainly passed on his speed genes. After a sparkling start to his second career Mehmas has now found many of his progeny being brought to Hambleton Lodge as Kevin has quickly become a fan. Lady Raeburn was another to deliver for the team as she earned a first career win in the 5f IRE Incentive Scheme At Irish Sales EBF Restricted Maiden Stakes at Beverley.
The 2yr old filly was a late addition to the team due to going through the sales ring in June, with the Goresbridge Breeze Up sales moving to Newmarket. It was clear that the filly could gallop and having come through the breeze up system there wasn’t a long wait to see here in action. Only a month later and she made her racecourse debut at Hamilton. Running a 94 rated filly close on her first run, Lady Raeburn looked like a winner waiting to happen but unfortunately it took a little longer than was first expected. With two lesser efforts to follow up, Lady Raeburn had failed to build on her cracking start. Having received a handicap mark of 77, the filly was open eligible for nurseries now but connections opted to stay with the maiden/novice route.
Looking as though a step up to 6f may be suitable going forward, the stiff 5f looked as though it should be ideal. With Kevin Stott in the saddle the filly would line up against 8 rivals. Backed into favouritism Lady Raeburn jumped ok but Kevin was in no rush with the filly as she had possibly gone too quick last time out. Nestled in behind runners, Lady Raeburn raced in midfield through the early stages. Racing downhill and left handed the field were going a good clip.
Quickly through the first couple of furlongs they raced past the round course to bare down on the home straight. As the pace quickened entering the second half of the race, Kevin just had to niggle his filly to get her quickening with the others. Although there was no panic from Kevin, Lady Raeburn did just get a little bit outpaced and shuffled back slightly in the pack.
As the field galloped past the 2f and on towards the final furlong the ground rises up. Kevin was quietly working away and began to manoeuvre his filly out towards the centre of the track. The speed was holding up and still Lady Raeburn had ground to make up but she was beginning to shift through the gears. Edging all the way out Lady Raeburn found a clear run as they passed the 1f marker and began to make some headway.
Stamina began to play a part as the race unfolded and it was Lady Raeburn who started to look strongest. Quickening up the hill she was closing in on the leader who was stable mate Cotai West. Powering up the hill Lady Raeburn took the lead with 100 yards to run and had all the momentum. Although she chased along by her market rival it was Lady Raeburn who was strongest and earned a first career win with a comfortable 1/2 length margin.
Lady Raeburn was due a win and she duly delivered for her owners, Nick Bradley Racing. The filly looked as though a step up in trip could be the key to a success and she did need every yard of the stiff finish to get on top. Once Lady Raeburn got going she was well in charge and won with a bit of ease in the end. Her opening mark looked fair and Lady Raeburn can build on this success. It is likely that she will step up in trip next time out and she is a filly with a future.
Owner Mr Jaber Abdullah has enjoyed some great success throughout the years and this has led to some beautiful broodmares. Hello Zabeel is by a champion and out of a champion so he had quite a bit to live up to and it has taken time for him to really come to the fore. He was given a fantastic opportunity at Carlisle and Hello Zabeel duly grasped it with two hands when comfortably winning the 7f Watch Racing TV Maiden Stakes.
The Son of Frankel comes from a very quick family but Hello Zabeel shaped as though pure speed may not be his forte. He had to wait until this year to make his debut but it seemed as though it was worth the time. Starting over 7f, Hello Zabeel made a lovely debut to finish 2nd. Unfortunately his next start did not go to plan but two further runner up spots showed plenty of promise. With a mark of 77 Kevin could have easily stuck with the handicap route but when the Maiden came up in the entry book it did feel like a race that offered a good opportunity to get off the mark.
With all respect, once the declarations were made it looks as though the race was between two, possibly three horses. Obviously form can be thrown out of the window but it was clear that if the market leaders ran anywhere near their best then they would be hard to beat. Hello Zabeel was to be sent off the odds on favourite but he was actually rated 1lb lower than market rival Red Gensis.
Although Hello Zabeel was stepping back up to 7f Kevin Stott, who was in the saddle, took a positive approach. Jumping from a wide draw Hello Zabeel was well away and immediately to the fore. Tracking over he sat on the leader’s girth and had the perfect position as they raced down towards the bend. His market rival was situated on the outside and couldn’t find a way to tuck in, although he was just on Zabeel’s tail.
It was a fair gallop that was set as the field raced around the bend and down towards halfway. Passing the 3f marker if seemed as though Hello Zabeel’s job was made easier with Red Genesis coming under pressure. The majority of the field were being pushed along as they straightened up for home and were left with 2 1/2f to run. Kevin was sat confidently on board the fav and breezed his way into the lead.
Winning the race looked a formality as Hello Zabeel was cantering on the front end whilst his rivals were not really making any headway. Kevin loosened his grip as they passed the 2f marker and the pair skipped a length clear. With Hello Zabeel quickening up the race was put to bed but Kevin wanted to keep his colt up work. The final 1 1/2f was all hands and heels from Stott as Hello Zabeel put distance between himself and the rest. Never in danger the 3yo won by 5 1/2 lengths, gaining a first career win.
There is no such thing as a easy opportunity but it did feel as though Hello Zabeel should be winning if he ran to form. The task was made easier as his main rival was under pressure a long way from home but it could be due to trying to hang on to Hello Zabeel. Kevin was positive from the off and Hello Zabeel saw the trip out very well. He does look a nice handicapping prospect moving forward and may well get a little further in time.
How do you celebrate a Group 1 winner?? Keep the good times going with another big day out. York racecourse is just on the doorstep and is Kevin’s favourite track. Not only do you top class racing but a fantastic Yorkshire welcome and the owners love having runners there. Angie Bailey and Peter Tingey have had some amazing days on the Knavesmire but the past few years have been a bit lean. Bergerac made up for lost time with a career best win taking the 6f John And Judith Marshall Memorial Handicap at York.
Careers stats for Bergerac make for very positive reading, with just one run failing to produce a placed effort. Despite that fact, it took the now 3yo quite a while to get off the mark. Having made a very positive start to his racing career, Bergerac failed to score at 2. Maturing over the winter, he looked the type who would improve for his 3yo season and that seemed the case when he returned with another fine second placed effort. He finally got off the mark when running away with a handicap off a mark of 77. Thanks to a 6 length victory, the handicapper took no chances with the 3yo and lumped 10lbs on to his handicap mark.
Bergerac proved that he was well up to his new assessment and put up two very good efforts when runner up off a career high 87. With one further pound added, there was one clear race to aim for. The 6f contest at York attracted a competitive 11 runner field with some fast improving 3yr olds. Bergerac fit the profile for this type of race but it would require another career best run. Kevin Stott was booked for the ride and looked to be positive with his tactics.
There was a little scare as the stalls opened with Bergerac just stumbling coming out and pitching slightly. Kevin remained balanced and quickly adjusted everything to get his mount finding his feet. Despite this small scare, Bergerac showed good speed to be prominent through the first furlong. As to be expected there was a good gallop set, which is usual on a fast track like York.
They scorched through the first half of the race and had all converged to race down the centre of the track. Bergerac had been to the fore throughout but at the 3f marker he just got shuffled back a little. It was only for a couple of strides but it meant that Kevin just had to nudge him along to get back into his rhythm. As they bared down on the final 2f Bergerac then did the opposite and was travelling hard on the bridle, pulling his way to the front and vying for the lead.
Bergerac had won on a stiff track at Pontefract so once to the fore it was obvious he would see the trip out well. Kevin got lower in the saddle but the response was not quite as sudden as his rival to the far side. Having hit the front, Bergerac was now headed but only just and there was still 1 1/2f to run. That being said the other rivals were not going anywhere and more were actually getting involved. It was a vision that the handicapper would have love, with 8 runners almost in a line coming to the final furlong in with a chance of winning.
Having been headed, Bergerac seemed to get the kick up the backside and he began to find more for pressure. It was hard to find a leader, so the race was there to be won, it was just who wanted it. That answer was Bergerac who was digging deep and finding more. Kevin was in full drive and everything he asked he got answered. It took until the final 100 yards but Bergerac got his nose back to the lead and now he hit full flight. The extra resolve, stamina and class started to pay off and the gelding began to edge away. Although his rivals were brave in behind, they just couldn’t match the leader. Staying on through the line, Bergerac recorded a very game 1/2 length win.
This was not only a career best performance but one that really shows Bergerac has got a nice future ahead of him. Showing up for most of the race he did seem to get a little outpaced by halfway but once he found top gear he had the race sewn up. The really sharp 6f of York may not be ideal and a stiffer test could see him to his most effective. He is in the Ayr Gold Cup but it would be doubtful that Bergerac would get in so the Silver is an option. One thing is for sure, next season with another winter on his back, Bergerac will be targeting those big Saturday handicaps.