Although not all races can be run in the middle of summer with huge crowds and top prize money, some of the lower grade wins can give you satisfaction comparable to that. All horses have their grade and so to get a win is just the same if it is a seller or Group 1 as the horse is fulfilling it’s potential. Foxy Lady was gaining her second win at Wolverhampton when she took the 1m 1/2f Follow Sun Racing On Twitter Selling Handicap for horses rated 0-65.
It took the 4 yr old 14 runs before the elusive maiden win came her way and that was at Wolverhampton. She had shown some decent form earlier on in her career but had hit the crossbar before then failing to follow it up with another good effort. It was clear that the filly had ability to win races and with her mark hovering around 60, it seemed as though he found her grade. An in and out season on the turf caused Kevin to give Foxy Lady a break of 4 months. It proved just the tonic as Foxy Lady returned in November a fresh filly and duly shed her maiden tag, taking a 0-60 handicap. Unfortunately she didn’t back this up, finishing down the field on two subsequent runs. Kevin felt that maybe she was a filly who would run best fresh and so left her alone for a few weeks.
With the New Year rolling round there were plenty of races available to the now 4 year old but Kevin waited. It was 7 weeks between her runs and Foxy Lady arrived at Wolverhampton rejuvenated for the selling handicap. Shane Gray has spent the winter months in America honing his riding skills but was back to take his first ride of 2019 for Kevin. Due to the disappointment of her last coupe of runs, Foxy lady was allowed to go off at 14/1 in the 12 runner race.
Drawn in stall 2, Foxy jumped well and Shane was keen to go forward. Unfortunately she didn’t quite have the early pace to match a few of her rivals who moved forward to set the early pace. Favourite Mans Not Trot took the overall lead and set a nice even gallop. Along the rail Shane settled around fifth position just a few lengths from the leaders who he had in his eye line. The field past the winning post for the first time and through the first 1 1/2f to hit the bend which would take them into the back straight.
Little would change when they straightened up inside the final 6f. It was a nice pace and all the jockeys seemed happy with their position. Foxy Lady travelled well in behind and maintained her position throughout. The back straight would take the runners past the halfway point and down towards the home bend. With the fav still setting the fractions the rest of the field were waiting to see how the race might develop. Shane was happy with his position and his mount was going well as they bared down on the bend.
Swinging around the bend the pace picked up as the leader started to quicken and attempt to stretch the field. Moving inside the 3f marker and the race was now on with many of the jockeys getting into their drive, readying their challenge. Shane started to niggle away and Foxy Lady responded by quickening up and maintaining her position. Taking the shortest route possible, Foxy moved up along the rail and put herself into a great position to strike down the straight.
Entering the straight and the favourite had kicked into a clear length advantage but the pursuers were nowhere near beaten. Racing down towards the final furlong the chasing pack were baring down on the front runner and Foxy Lady was the one travelling best. With the runners fanning out off the bend Shane waited for the gaps to appear and he got his wish. He sent Foxy after the leader and immediately ate into the advantage.
Having closed down the favourite, Foxy Lady snatched the lead away moving into the final furlong. Shane was asking for everything and Foxy was driving all the way to the finish. Although passed the fav was still plugging on but it was Lord Murphy who was finishing with a real flourish. Having been held up he was rattling home and it seemed as though momentum was on his side. Foxy Lady looked to be a sitting duck to the fast finish but she was digging deep. As her rival got within touching distance of her she needed top find something more to repel the challenge. With Shane driving for the line his mount responded to every urging. Sticking her head down Foxy Lady bravely battled on holding off her rival and finding a little it more. Crossing the line she had earned her second win with a narrow neck victory.
It was a good performance from Foxy Lady who travelled well and then showed tenacity in the finish. It does seem as though she enjoys a little bit of time in between her races but then again it is always nice to strike when horses are in form. The handicapper won’t do too much due to the narrow winning margin so there will be plenty more options in the near future. Whether she steps into handicap company or stays in selling/claiming races will depend on how she comes out of this run.
Excitement builds this time of year as the new flat season is just weeks away. Although you can’t wait to see the older horses back in action, it is now that the juveniles start to take shape. As their work builds up you begin to get an idea of who might be an early type and which ones will be the first to hit the track. Metal Exchange was one of those last year who looked all out an earlier sprinting type but it didn’t quite work out. Thankfully she made up for lost time when taking the 5f Ladbrokes Novice Stakes at Newcastle, on her debut run.
Two year olds are funny animals as they are just babies. This means they can change from day to day and sometimes make you seem as though you are foolish. Metal Exchange, a daughter of Helmet, looked like a real sharp, speedy type who would be hitting the track as one of Kevin’s first 2 yr old runners last year. All seemed to be going to plan and a run looked just around the corner. Like many, many horses before her, Metal Exchange’s work then dipped. Clear signs came to light that she was immature and as time went on she was too weak to do herself justice. Although looking like a real 2 yr old she just didn’t have the frame to carry her. Time was the only option for the filly moving forward and thankfully she had an owner, Mr T A Rahman, who was more than happy to do that.
2018’s turf season came and went so Kevin needed to decide what he would like to do with the filly. Having got her back into work and seeing that she was steadily progressing, there looked to be a chance that Exchange could be ready around the New Year. Sharpening and strengthening with each piece of work, that deadline looked perfect so when 2019 rolled round Kevin decided that the entry book needed studying. The AW is great but some of the tracks can be very difficult for debutantes, with the tight turns and the style of racing. Luckily Newcastle is just down the road and probably the best track to introduce a newcomer so the 5f Novice race was the obvious choice.
On paper the race didn’t look too strong but there was some in form runners due to line up. From what we knew on form it would take a run of around the 70 mark to take the win, based on the handicap ratings of her rivals. Andrew (Midge) Mullen was booked for the ride, looking to make a plan once they jumped from the stalls.
Metal Exchange was slowly away giving Midge immediate work to do. Low in the saddle he bustled her into stride and the filly woke up to latch onto the main body of the field. racing alongside the favourite there was very little to separate all the 8 runners with a very even gallop going on up front. Although slowly away Exchange ended up racing just a few lengths from the leaders through the first furlong.
Inexperience was clear throughout the first couple of furlongs. Metal Exchange wasn’t quite sure what leg to lead on and this caused her to just roll around underneath Midge. She travelled well enough and maintained her position but it was very much a case of learning on the job. The leaders took the field past the 3f marker and still all the runners were within touching distance as the pace just started to wind up. Gently increasing the pace the front trio started to attempt to stretch the race. Passing halfway the tempo change caught Exchange off guard and again she was changing legs as she came under pressure. Midge had to get hold of her to try and get the filly balanced and moving in the right direction.
Passing the 2f marker and now the race really started to heat up. Those on the front end began to lay down their challenges and kicked for the winning post. Exchange maintained her position but inexperience was showing as she was unable to get any closer to the front. Midge had to go for the stick to keep the filly straight but once he gave her a couple of reminders she got back on to the correct lead and woke up to the task in hand. The favourite had raced alongside Exchange throughout the contest but found nothing from the 2f marker, dropping back to the back markers who were also struggling to make an impression. The race split into two and Exchange was kind of stranded between the two groups. Midge was working hard on board, educating and getting his filly in a position to finish the race. She started to get to grips with things and slowly made headway, although she had a good few lengths to find to the leaders.
Moving into the final furlong and it was the second fav, Olympic Spirit who had come out the stronger of the leading trio, forging ahead. Metal Exchange was now picking up a bit stronger and suddenly started to look like she could finish the are well. Picking up one then two of her rivals, the filly grew in confidence passing horses. Midge now realised he could gain the win and went for the stick once more. This helped Exchange to find extra in the final 100 yards. Eating into the leaders advantage, she was beginning to really fly at the death down the centre of the track. It was going to be on the line where the race was decided and it looked as though momentum was on Exchange’s side. In a head bobbing drive Metal Exchange got to the leader in the final strides, sweeping past to take her debut win by just a head.
Metal Exchange has had to wait for her debut run but it proved to be worth it as she overcame inexperience to win. It was evident from the start that she was very green but she recovered well and was always in a position to strike. She showed a very willing attitude, responding to everything that Midge asked of her. It would have been very easy for the filly to be fazed by everything but she stuck to the task and eventually finished the race very well. The stiff 5f was really to her liking although this was only her first run and she will improve for the experience. It is always nice to get the Orange silks of Mr T A Rahman into the winner’s circle and hopefully this is just the start of a promising future.
There is plenty of action at the sales when a top class flat horse is on offer and the National Hunt owners and trainers battle it out to try and secure a potential star for their code. Horses rated 90+ over 1m2f are the real jewels and Kevin may have just unearthed one himself without the trouble of searching. Erik The Red switched codes to tackle hurdles for the first time and he made a perfect start when taking the 2m William Hill Leading Racecourse Bookmaker Novices’ Hurdle at Kelso.
Now 7 years old, Erik has enjoyed the last few seasons competing in the top 1m2f and 1m4f handicaps. Having reached a career high of 100, he has won 4 times on the flat whilst also finishing in the frame in some top handicaps, including the November handicap. Last season he didn’t quite reach those same heights and although he did run well, there was just a little spark missing. Knowing that the horse still had his class, Kevin went about finding a way to bring back his spark and recapture the form he undoubtedly had in the tank. As always a schooling session was the obvious choice and Brian Hughes was called in to teach the gelding. After impressing on a few occasions it was clear that a crack at the new code was in order and so the entry book was opened and races searched.
Kevin tends to introduce any jumpers at the same type of tracks. Kelso has always been a happy hunting ground and it was the Scottish track that offered the ideal starting point. Obviously there is always a question mark over flat horses taking on the obstacles. Will they stay, will their jumping hold up, will they take to the different style of racing. Erik had these same doubts but if he could answer them then he had the class that should see him too good for the 7 rivals due to line up. The punters agreed and when the biggest danger, Elvis Mail, was withdrawn Erik’s price dropped into 4/6 fav.
As the tape released and the field were on their way, there was very little pace on. Brian was keen to drop Erik in and get him settled but the slow gallop was not to the gelding’s liking. Dropped in towards the rear, Erik took a keen hold through the early stages fighting Brian for his head. This tussle continued down to the first flight and although he was over safely it wasn’t his most clean jump. The crawl up front continued and so too did Erik’s unwillingness to settle. Again he headed into the next flight giving Brian a bit of a handful and again he was at his best. Safely jumping over again, this time he leapt to his left but was quickly away on the other side.
Finally Erik settled and got into a nice rhythm before galloping down towards the 3rd flight. This time he was well over and again quickly into stride after the hurdle. The field passed the winning post for the first time as they hit the turn and headed into final circuit. The pace remained very steady and all of the 8 runners were well bunched up sweeping around the bend. Brian was still happy to watch on from the back and his mount was now travelling easily as they bared down towards the fourth hurdle. Kept wide, Erik had a clear sight of the jump and took it very well once again. His jumping was standing up to the test and now Erik was showing his skill at taking his hurdles. There was just one more to jump down the back straight and Erik took it very well, taking a couple of lengths out of his rivals. As they left the back straight he had moved closer to the lead, still travelling strongly.
Jumping the 6th flight Erik again took lengths out of the field and put himself into contention by jumping up to third. That took the runners towards the home bend and now the first bit of pace was injected into the race. The leader was trying to quicken up which had a knock on effect. Brian didn’t need to worry as Erik moved powerfully up on the outside and was cruising into the home straight. Well inside the final 1/2 mile and heading towards 2 1/2f from home he had almost taken the lead. Erik was cantering on the bridle whilst his rivals were hard at work to try and challenge. Still coming to challenge on the outside, Erik headed to 2 out with the lead seemingly at his mercy. The 7th flight was taken with ease and now it looked as though favourite backers were ready to cash out, although there was one obstacle remaining.
Edging into the lead, Erik held a length advantage with Brian yet to move. There was nothing finishing with a flourish so his biggest danger would come from the second fav Northern Soul. His rival was staying on at the same pace so it seemed as though all that was needed was one spring heeled leap. Brian continued to let Erik just stride on and he met the last on a perfect stride. Swiftly over he then quickened away from the hurdle and immediately asserted his dominance. Drawing clear with ease Erik The Red ran out a smooth 3 length winner and announced himself as a potentially nice prospect for the sphere.
It was all about whether Erik could transfer his class from the flat and he did just that. The steady gallop was not ideal through the early stages which was why he didn’t settle immediately. Once Brian got him to drop the bit Erik travelled well and then his jumping was near faultless. Although it was a race that offered a good opportunity, especially with the biggest threat on paper being withdrawn, Erik won in convincing fashion. Owner Frank Gillespie has enjoyed some big days in both codes and he looks like he has a horse who could give him a few more in the future.
January 1st resets the statistics all the winners and prize money is in the record books and begins again at zero. It’s the time of the year where the turf season is slowly coming into view and most yards are in their pre season preparations. We still have the all-weather going and that is where Giacomo Casanova shed his maiden tag when taking the 5f Ladbrokes Handicap at Newcastle.
The son of Es Que Love had made his debut at the same track back in June and from there slowly began to learn the job. His first couple of runs were on the AW and when switched to turf, Casanova seeped up to 6f in the process. With a fair mark of 62 he ran ok in his first handicap foray, finishing mid-division. Having looked like he may appreciate an extra furlong, he then tried 7f. Failing to stay the trip the handicapper gave him some leeway and in October the then 2 yr old tackled a 6f Nursery of just 56. The colt had shown enough to suggest this mark was beneath him and for much of the 6f at Newcastle it looked like he would prove that. Weakening in the final furlong he went on to finish fourth but Kevin felt that he now knew what trip would suit best.
It was almost three months between runs as Kevin waited for the most suitable 5f handicap. Newcastle again would be the destination as a stiff 5f looked ideal with the 0-65 handicap for 3yo only. On paper it didn’t look the strongest race in the world and could prove a good opportunity for a fresh Casanova. Andrew Mullen was booked for the ride and was looking for a strong gallop to latch on to from the start.
Drawn nearest the stand side rail, Casanova was away well and thankfully was away from the awkward Hanakotoba who jumped severely left leaving the stalls. Despite that start he was quickly pushed forward to take on Global Myth who cut out the early running as the field edged towards the centre of the track. This was perfect for Andrew who tracked the leaders through sitting just over a length off the pace. Global Myth had the overall lead and Casanova was sat in his slipstream throughout the first furlong.
There was no change in the order through the first half of the race and the strong gallop ensured they headed towards the 2f marker in good time. Global Myth had set the fractions throughout and having not seen another rival was set to kick from the front. As the leader wound it up his move was quickly matched form Hanakotoba and those in behind. Moving past the 2f marker the leader’s advantage was narrowing with each stride as the challenges were starting to come. Casanova moved closer with ease and as he got stronger Andrew just had to move into a clearing with the leader seemingly a sitting duck. Hanakotoba took the lead 1 1/2f from home and immediately set sail to secure the race. Once Andrew saw this he reacted by sending Casanova in pursuit. The colt responded well and clawed back the deficit which was around 1 length.
Little was coming form off the pace and as the leader moved into the final furlong only Casanova was in place to challenge. Hot on the heels of the leader, Casanova moved up to lay down his challenge and quickly took over and took charge. As his rival remained at the same pace, Casanova found an extra gear and started to forge clear. The rest were left in his wake and were battling out for the placings. Casanova forged clear, opening up with relative ease. with every stride he moved further clear and took his first career win by a comfortable 2 1/2 lengths.
It was a nice performance form Giacomo Casanova and shows that he may have just found his feet now. Obviously it wasn’t the greatest race and the colt was winning of a lowly mark of 55. He has tried a few different trips and tactics in his races so tis may just be a sign that he has matured now. The winning margin was impressive and there is no reason to think that he couldn’t go on from here. With improvement likely, Casanova will be out again soon and a similar race looks likely to aimed for.
Having finished second and first on just two starts last year as a juvenile, Gold Stone looked set for a big year in 2018. There has been flashes of form but the winners enclosure has eluded the filly. She made amends for all of that with a stunning turn of foot, coming from last to first and taking the 5f Betway Sprint Handicap at Lingfield.
With just 2 runs to her name coming into the new season, Gold Stone had to start in Novice company. Her seasonal return was full of promising, finishing fourth in a very good race. When she followed that up with a 2nd on handicap debut it seemed as though wins would soon be following. That never materialised and the resulting three runs were well below par. After her run at Beverley, Kevin was convinced something must be holding her back as her form was not matching her work.
Small wind operations are very common and Gold Stone had one done after a check resulted in an issue being found. Now down to 69, Kevin was confident that she could quickly improve from that now the issue was sorted. The only problem was that after recovery the races would be on the AW and options were a little limited. She had already proved that she handled the artificial surface so there were no fears there but it was a waiting game for the correct race.
Lingfield is a good trip from Hambleton Lodge but with good prize money on offer it seemed the best option as Kevin sent two runners on the long journey. The race attracted 10 runners and it was a real mix of ages. With her recent wind op Gold Stone probably was the one in the field who was least exposed and likely improver. With the talented young Thomas Greatrex booked for the ride, Gold Stone was getting 5lb taken off although the pair were stuck with the worst draw, 10 of 10.
The filly jumped well from the stalls but there were some real trail blazers in the field. King Crimson was away quickly and set a furious gallop immediately, taking along those around him. The pace was break neck and as Thomas tracked over from his draw, Gold Stone found herself towards the rear. The field blasted through the first furlong and Stone found just one behind her and already struggled to go the early gallop. They start entering a bend so after completing the first furlong the field entered the back straight for just another furlong.
It was a crazy pace being set up front and this had the field well strung out. Thomas was already niggling away, trying to keep tabs with the rest of the field as they headed towards the home bend. King Crimson was not holding back and already had them moving into the second half of the race. By the time Gold Stone hit the bend the leader was almost halfway round.
Swinging off the bend the leader entered the home straight and kicked for home. It became clear that the pace was going to take its toll now as King Crimson couldn’t shake off those in pursuit. Thomas was low in the saddle as his filly straightened up for home and now he was getting a response. Although still well off the lead, Gold Stone was beginning to shift through the gears and did make up a bit of ground.
With 1 1/2f to run the lead had yet to change hands but it was obviously coming and those coming from off the pace were looking the most dangerous. Staying out of trouble, Thomas had decided to try and slingshot around the field and set his route down the centre of the track. Angel Of The South was the one who was making eye catching headway as those in front began to stall. Gold Stone was eyeing that rival but had about 3 lengths to find on that and even more to the front. That being said she was now starting to really pick up but it looked as though the task just might be too much to ask.
Entering the final King Crimson folded as Meerpat took the lead along the rail. Although there was just 200 yards to run that lead looked in danger with Angel Of The South still rattling home. Gold Stone was hitting top gear but the deficit was still looking impossible to overturn. They raced passed the 1/2f marker and now Angel Of The South snatched the lead and dived for the line. Thomas was asking for everything from his filly and Gold Stone was responding. Gold Stone was finding more and more and now was really flying home down the outside. With just 75 yards to run she still had 3 lengths to find but was full of momentum. Every stride taken was eating into the lead and as the post loomed Gold Stone was within inches of the lead. With one fell swoop she passed all of them and grabbed the lead in the dying strides, taking the win by a neck.
It was a very impressive performance from Gold Stone who was earning her second career win. She looked a filly who was well handicapped but there was plenty going against her here. Although a wind op was going to help sometimes the recovery and time between races can take its toll. She was also given the worst draw to overcome. Obviously the race was run to suit those held up but Gold Stone had so much ground to make up and did so very impressively. She will definitely come on for the run so this could be a precursor to more success. All will depend on what the handicapper does but she may well stay on the AW for the meantime and try to pick up some more wins, which certainly looks well within her grasp.
Consistency has proven to be his Achilles heel and trying to catch Tagur on a “going” day has been the key. Ability is there, as proven by his 4 previous career wins but the form reads like a sequence of good then bad. Having won easily last time out Tagur had no issues backing that up with another comfortable win when running away with the 1 mile Follow Sun Racing On Twitter Handicap at Southwell.
Having won twice on the spin earlier in the year, Tagur had gone up to a career high of 67. That didn’t seem an issue with the chestnut in good form, he looked to be finding a new level. Unfortunately he couldn’t maintain this and a few poor efforts forced Kevin to have a think about what to do. Ground was though to be one issue so therefore he decided to wait for until the autumn months with softer going and AW available.
Newcastle provided a positive step back into the right direction with a solid 3rd. Again that good performance was backed up by a poor effort when he went to Ayr next time out. Connections were scratching their head a littl with that run so it was suggested that Tagur should be freshened right up and wait for his ideal conditions. Kevin found a seller at Redcar with the aim of a confidence booster for the gelding. It proved to be just that when Tagur made all and bolted up winning by 3 1/2 lengths, although it could have been as far as he liked.
No bid came for him following that win, just as none had at the sales previous. Back on song it was time to go back up in grade. The turf season finished so it was on to the AW and Southwell, the track where his last win came at. The 0-65 mile handicap would be exactly the same contest that he won back in March. Being rated 2lb higher meant he would be carrying top weight so Kevin booked the up and coming Thomas Greatrex to utilise his 5lb claim.
Tagur loves to go forward but the widest draw of 11 would give Thomas a little headache early on. Southwell always sees a strong pace set and this was true once again as the stalls opened. Tagur was a little bit sluggish in the early stages, jumping a stride slow and not really into his stride. With a trio looking to push on, Thomas had to work his mount into the bridle. Tagur got the message and moved up to chase the leaders.
Racing down the back straight they headed into the first bend with Tagur now moving up challenge for the lead. Thomas had inched closer to the inside but would enter the bend racing still 4/5 wide. Having raced through the first few furlongs the bend is a long sweep which would take the field past halfway and into the business end of the race. Having raced wide Tagur surrendered his lead to those inside of him, although it was only by a nose. Sooqaan moved up along the rail, the shortest route possible, to now make four vying for the lead.
Thomas was being very positive throughout the contest and made sure he was giving no ground away despite having to go the furthest was around. It was Tagur and Sooqaan who started to edge away as they made their way inside the 3f and headed towards the home straight. The pair who split them now came under pressure to maitain their position but were not going as well. Sooqaan moved into a length lead and this took Tagur along too, matching his rival stride for stride as they swung off the bend. The pair were now clear of their nearest pursuers and looking back through the field there was very little coming from behind.
With the lead between them and no pressure coming the leading pair now made the best of their way home heading into the final 2f. Sooqaan has travelled as well as Tagur to this point but it was the chestnut who quickly took the lead when asked. Thomas continued with his positive approach and kicked for home. Tagur answered his jockey by moving into a 1/2 length then length lead. Sooqaan couldn’t match the new leader and Tagur started to pour it on once he saw clear daylight.
It was clear before he entered the final furlong that the race was done so it was up to Tagur how far the winning margin would be. Thomas kept him up to his work and the lead extended with every stride. Tagur was enjoying himself and galloped powerfully through the final 150 yards. Having opened up an unassailable lead Thomas sat up with the winning post in sight and allowed to coast in. Passing the line there was a 2 1/2 length lead over Sooqaan with a distance to the rest who were all strung out like chasers.
Tagur is in great order and proved once again that he is far superior in this level. Consistency is the biggest factor with him and if he can start stringing together good runs than he can easily improve into better grades. He loves to bowl along with give underfoot so the AW is ideal for him. This win was off a career high 67 and the handicapper will pile on some more pounds now. It could be maturity at the age of 4 that may well be helping Tagur and it would be no surprise to see the gelding continue his rise over the next few months.
Last weekend we were finishing the flat season and celebrating a winner on the flat. Fast forward a week and it was another winner being led in for the team although this time in a different sphere. Kajaki had made a winning debut over hurdles a month earlier at Sedgefield and took his perfect record to 2/2 when winning the 2m Biggest Ever Jumps Season On RacingUK Introductory Hurdle at Wetherby.
Having proven effective on the flat, Kajaki took to hurdling like a duck to water. He had schooled very well at home so it was no surprise to see him make a great start to his jumping career. For most of the way he was foot perfect, only getting the last slightly wrong when losing a bit of concentration. He ran out a ready winner and immediately following that win Brian Hughes suggested the race at Wetherby.
With the flat out of the way now, attention really turns to the NH scene. There were some big meetings around Britain and Ireland, including Cheltenham’s November meeting. This saw the race cut up quite a bit with just 5 runners opting to go to post. On paper Kajaki held the strongest form with his maiden win looking better than fellow winner Tight Call. The pair would have to carry a penalty to the other fancied runner, a bumper winner making his debut, Skandiburg. This trio were looking the obvious winners, with the other two set to start at 20/1 or bigger. With seemingly the best form, Kajaki would go off the 11/10fav.
Brian had been summoned to Cheltenham so Henry Brooke, who used to work for Kevin in his youth, would deputise in the saddle. Lining up by the tape, it was Tight Call who was closest to it and as it went up you could see why. Jumping off into the lead he quickly went 3 lengths clear of Kajaki who settled in second. Skandiburg was another couple of lengths in third whilst the outsiders were in a pair at the rear of the field. Initially it was a good gallop set but once the leader realised that he had no pressure it was settled down to a nice even gallop. Racing into the first Kajaki had clear sight but got in a little tight. Although awkward over it he made the adjustment, landing back in stride.
The first 3 flights took the field down past the stands and onto the final circuit. Hurdles 2 and 3 were taken well by all the 5 runners which offered little change as they continued to race in their original starting positions. Kajaki was happily racing on his own with a few lengths either side of him. Passing the post for the first time Tight Call slowed the pace a little, allowing the gap to close as he rounded the bend and headed up the back straight.
As they raced back away from the stands they would face another 3 hurdles in their journey. All the field were still travelling well and seemed content with the leader’s fractions in front. Henry allowed Kajaki to travel within himself, wherever the grey was happy to do so. Heading into the fourth flight the lead opened up again to the 3 length margin. They were all over it safely and bared down on the fifth, passing the halfway point of the race. Both the leader and Kajaki were a little untidy over this, nothing major and it didn’t stop either in their tracks. The final hurdle in the back straight saw both of the first two make amends and get back to their smooth jumping.
Now the race began to heat up a little as Tight Call took the field along into the final bend. There was a distinct injection of pace which Kajaki and Skandiburg both matched. The two outsiders now just came under pressure to try and stay with the fancied trio.
Entering the home straight the first three had now gained a break and it was clear, barring any major errors, that the winner would come from these. Moving inside the final 4f they were racing to the 7th flight. Here Kajaki was clean over and quicker away than the leader, halving the lead in the process. This caused Tight Call to come under the drive as Henry sat motionless on Kajaki. Skandiburg made a mistake which handed the initiative to the leading pair and more or less ruined his chances. The race looked like it had come down to two.
Bounding down to 2 out and Kajaki had loomed up on Tight Call, travelling much the better. Both horses made a mistake at the hurdle but Kajaki’s was less untidy and he landed much the better. Quicker away he allowed Henry to maitain his patience as his rival came under strong pressure. There was little between the pair heading down to the final flight. Again both horses made amends for their previous mistakes and took the final flight together. Kajaki had shown himself to be quicker away than Tight Call and did so once again. He pulled into a 1 1/2 length lead inside the final furlong. Tight Call was proving a tough nut to crack and was responding to pressure. Henry had to keep Kajaki up to his work as Tight Call began to close again. Although the lead was being eaten into, Kajaki was always doing enough in front and held on to win by a much narrower margin than it could have been, 1/2 length.
Kajaki has really enjoyed his hurdling, from schooling to racing. He is a fluent jumper and clever enough to adjust when he does make a slight error in judgement. Although he has plenty more to think about over hurdles than the flat, he does still hold the trait of thinking he has done enough. Kajaki is a smooth traveller and jumps well which will always put him into a good position but he can get complacent towards the end of his race. The small error he made 2 out was due to the ease he had got into a winning position and then the final furlong was Kajaki believing he had done enough. Owner Frank Gillespie enjoys both codes of racing so it is great to have a horse who can do both. Kajaki looks a lovely prospect and it could be that a better grade of race will see him improve more. This could really help with his concentration which in turn could see an even better performance. Kajaki is certainly one to look forward to.