With the sun beginning to shine and replacing the wet weather it seems to have heated up the team at Hambleton Lodge. This week has seen winners flying in all over the country and already yielded a double at the Dante festival. Another was added to the tally as Maharba The Champ made a winning return to action before Jungle Mate won on debut at Hamilton.
Owner and breeder Mr Jaber Abdullah has been a big supporter of the yard over the years and has a breeding program that produces quality year after year. With his famous blue silks carried to multiple Group 1’s success, it is easy to see how he has built up a fine breeding program. Maharba The Champ arrived with a pedigree to die for, being by the great Galileo and out of the Group 1 placed mare Lady Of The Desert. Maharba The Champ has been a slow burner but proved his class when taking the 1m2f Knights Solicitors Handicap at York.
Very lightly raced, Maharba The Champ had recorded his sole victory last year when winning a handicap of 84. Impressive that day, it looked as though he was a colt that could really take off. Unfortunately very soft ground proved to be his downfall and also curtailed his season as October would not provide him with suitable conditions.
With a wind op during the pre-season and further strengthening physically, Maharba The Champ came into 2023 with real potential to move through the grades. Delay after delay occurred due to the Great British spring, with Kevin waiting for the ground to dry out. Fortunately it did do for the Dante meeting, although on Raceday there was threat of heavy showers. With them not materialising, Maharba The Champ lined up in a typically competitive York handicap with William Buick taking the ride.
Throughout the week there had been quite a different approach to races on the round track. This time there was plenty of pace on and it was a strong gallop, allowing William to get a nice lead. Settled into a nice rhythm, Maharba The Champ was positioned in midfield as a handful of rivals wanted to get on with things.
There was never any time to think or even get run a breather as the pace held up throughout the contest. They swung around the bend and into the home straight with Maharba The Champ still poised in midfield. York is a very fair track due to the wide open, flat nature of the run in and once they entered the home straight the jockeys began to fan out and look for their runs.
Moving inside the 3f pole the leader continued to pour it on and had a few of his rivals in trouble a long way out. William had been positioned one the outer which pushed him towards the stands side once they raced down the straight. He began to wind up his mount from this point and Maharba The Champ responded well, moving up a couple of places.
Maharba The Champ was gaining momentum but entering the final couple of furlongs, there was still plenty of work to do. The long time leader went on and now ensured that whoever was going to catch him would have to really put the work in. Maharba The Champ continued to find for pressure but he wasn’t passing rivals just yet as he began to find top gear.
Entering the final furlong saw Maharba The Champ hit his stride. Now he had the momentum and now he began to eat into the ground. William sensed the win was there and asked his mount for maximum effort. Moving into second place he just had the tough front runner to reel in but that was proving a tough task. Maharba The Champ stuck his head down and in the last strides of the race collared the leader. Once he did, he stuck his head out and took the lead, stretching out to a neck margin as they flashed past the winning post.
It was a great effort from Maharba The Champ to win on his seasonal return. The race was competitive and there was no hiding place with the pace set up front. He is a horse who has always shown plenty of ability but just needed a little time to really thrive. Ground is important to him and he will not be running on testing conditions again. There are some top handicaps coming up and he will be aimed for those throughout the season. It would be no surprise to see him getting a touch further and Maharba The Champ can make his mark in some more top meetings throughout this season.
Patience is proving beneficial with the juveniles this season. it took a while for them to hit the track sue to the ground but once they have, they are proving to be a lovely bunch. With 2 debutante winners already this week, Kevin has made a fine start with his juveniles. Jungle Mate looked unlikely to add to that tally but he certainly learnt on the job as he flew home to win the 5f British #Mentalhealthawarenessweek Restr’d Maiden Stakes at Hamilton.
Thunder Moor was a rapid 2yo last year and shed his maiden tag this week last year. His 1/2 brother, Jungle Mate is certainly a different model, being a bigger version which maybe attributes to his sire Bungleinthejungle. He had shown ability at home but Kevin was always thinking that 6f may be his trip. With options quite limited he decided that the colt needed to run and so headed to Hamilton, hoping that he should be able to finish up the hill, maybe negating the need for 6f.
Shane Gray has enjoyed a good start to the season, especially north of the border. He took the ride and had to patient as Jungle Mate was slowly into stride and outpaced from the off. The downhill run ensured that the gallop was strong but Shane never panicked and gave the colt plenty of time to find his feet. Detached at the rear, Jungle Mate got himself gathered up and into a rhythm through the first furlong.
There was no let up in front as the experienced runners charged along. Shane just had to niggle away to keep tabs on the field and you could see that Jungle Mate was begging to get to grips with things. The field blasted through halfway and would soon hit the rising ground for the finish.
To some it may have looked as though the leaders would be hard to rein in but Hamilton can see races change in a matter of strides up the hill. Jungle Mate began to make headway around the 2f marker, with Shane just switching out to the centre of the track. The leaders nabbed their rail and he wanted to give the colt some daylight, allowing him to finish the race. this ignited Jungle Mate and he began to lengthen, making some interesting headway.
When the penny drops you can see the confidence it breaths into horses, especially juveniles. Jungle Mate was relishing the stiffer finish and entering the final furlong he swept down the outside. With rivals passed he suddenly found himself vying for the lead. He saw the leader on the rial and moved across to join him. Now he looked the most likely winner and despite again showing inexperience, he knuckled down to the task. Staying on well, Jungle Mate stretched out and took the win by a neck, coming form last to first.
It was an impressive debut from Jungle Mate who had to overcome adversity to win. Outpaced he stayed on very and showed a good attitude to not get disheartened through the early stages. He could easily have quickened clear but once he hit the front, there were signs of greeness. It is clear that 6f will suit him better and it would not be a surprise to see him step up in trip straight away. Shane gave the colt a lovely ride, educating him throughout the contest. He will improve for this experience so it was even more impressive to see him do this on debut.