Sometimes there is a race that comes along which may just have a little added meaning. David Barker was a very good friend of Kevin’s and sadly passed away. He trained some cracking sprinters and one of those was Mr Wolf who really became a Pontefract specialist. Due to his exploits they have named a competitive 3yo sprint after him and this year Roulston Scar ran away with the 6f Mr Wolf Handicap.
Last year was full of promise for Roulston Scar and so far this season has been about him building and fulfilling that promise. Although a maiden he had some good form in the book so his return was something to look forward to. He had raced over 5f and 6f so there were plenty of options for him heading into this season. Kevin plumped for a 5 1/2f handicap at Wetherby for Scar’s first run, a race he had won with Elnadim Star in 2018. Roulston Scar made no mistake in getting off the mark impressively, leading from start to finish and powering clear to break his maiden.
The form of his win was franked with the 3rd placed horse winning next time up. Kevin decided to go to York with Scar for a competitive 5f handicap at the Dante meeting. It was another bold show, with Roulston Scar finishing 3rd, finding the 5f on quick ground just too sharp. With two solid runs under the belt it was clear that there was plenty of improvement left in the tank.
With lots of options moving forward Kevin plumped for the Mr Wolf handicap at Pontefract, stepping up to 6f for the first time this season. Tom Eaves had enjoyed victory on the 3yo and was back on board for the contest. Rain had fallen for a few days so the ground was soft as 9 runners were declared to go to post.
Drawn in stall 3 Roulston Scar got a good start, jumping quickly and into stride. There was an early push for the lead from a few of the runners but Roulston proved too quick and shuffled over to the rail to take control. Running over the undulations the pace was fairly strong as the field settled down in behind the gelding. With his mount in full flow, Tom allowed him to go on as his rivals now were happy to take the lead. Racing through the first couple of furlongs the trip took them down towards the bend with Roulston taking the field along.
As they moved towards the bend it looked as though the pace was generous with those towards the rear of the field being niggled along. Roulston was happily setting the fractions in front and opened up a clear 1 1/2 length advantage. Swinging left handed and they entered the second half of the race with Roulston travelling well on the front. As he led them a merry dance his rivals were one by one coming off the bridle. The field were beginning to race well over 2 1/2f from home, trying to contain the leader. Roulston Scar just continued to pour it on from the front and with him travelling so well, Tom was happy to let him get on with things. By the time they hit the 2f marker Roulston had a clear advantage.
Swinging off the bend and now inside the final 2f Tom began to wind up his mount, pumping him along through the gears. The rest were now hard at it and nothing had managed to get close to the leader yet. Tom opted to stay away form the far side rail and allowed Roulston to drift into the middle of the track, looking to find the better ground. They were still going well and with a clear lead it was a matter of when Tom would ask for his final kick. Despite going well there was the final furlong to contend with, an uphill finish that would test any stamina reserves.
Staring down on the 1f marker Tom afforded himself a quick look over the shoulder. What he saw was pleasing and now he asked Roulston to kick on and win his race. The gelding continued to power forward and despite not seeing a rival he kept up to the task. Triple Distilled had been the one to give chase for much of the straight and although he was pulling away from the rest he couldn’t match the leader. Roulston Scar maintained his run and his lead, staying on up the hill and winning by a comfortable 2 lengths.
This performance was impressive from start to finish. Roulston took control of the race and never looked back. Despite setting a good pace he kicked in the straight and managed to see out every yard of the trip, being as strong at the finish as he was from the get go. He is on an upward curve and looks a nice 3yo for the season ahead. This will warrant another rise form the handicapper and whatever he does will decide where the gelding goes next.
Arguably the sprinting division is the most competitive in racing, throwing up differing results when the same horses take each other on. Why is this, well one mistake can cost you the race. It is a helter skelter ride lasting around 60 secs, a wrong move or unlucky break and the race is over. So when Pennsylvania Dutch completed an early season hat-trick everyone was over the moon to see him back to form. He showed that he is far from finished with his winning and made it victory number 4 this season when taking the 6f Ed Chamberlin Classic Golf Day Handicap at Goodwood.
What a difference 12 months make. Last year Dutch was proving difficult to win with, hitting the woodwork but then throwing in below par efforts. This year he is thriving and there looks no end to his improvement. Having been bought back in 2017 at the October HIT sales as a potential improver, Pennsylvania Dutch is really starting to show the kind of form that he has always threatened to show.
Having completed a hat-trick in the space of 16 days, Dutch saw his handicap mark rise from 70 to 85. This meant he took a step up in grade last time out but failed to maintain his winning streak. People were quick to question him, saying the handicapper may have caught up but one below par effort does not right the script for the rest of the season. Kevin got the 5yo back, looked to freshen him up and find the right race to follow. Whatever he did next would give the answers.
Goodwood was the chosen venue and the race offered a slight step down in grade. Having seen Dutch jumping slowly in his last couple of runs Kevin decided to take off the eye-shields that had worked so well through the early season. Sometimes horses get cute to these things and there was a feeling that the headgear was now having the opposite affect of what was wanted. Sean Davis has enjoyed a fine start to the season and 2 of his wins have come on board Pennsylvania Dutch so he was booked again for the ride as the pair took on 9 rivals.
On his best behaviour Pennsylvania Dutch jumped well and was immediately on terms. Goodwood is a very quick track and quite a few of the runners were keen to move forward to make the running. This led to a strong early pace, so Sean let Dutch find his feet and travel where he was happy. As the field made a beeline for the rail it left Dutch to race 3/4 of the way down the field but only around 4 lengths off the lead, although running more towards the centre of the track.
Running downhill the field were quickly through the first half of the race and moving past the 3f marker. Even this far out there were some of the jockeys beginning to work and one was Sean. Pennsylvania Dutch is a big, long striding sprinting so you cannot go from 1st gear to 6th gear. Knowing the horse Sean wanted to get him wound up and so although he was off the bridle, it was not something unusual to see. They began to race between the 2f and 3f pole which would suit Dutch if he was good enough on the day.
Racing down the centre Dutch had moved through but those towards the stands side were not weakening. Although in with a chance he was still down by a couple of lengths and the final 1 1/2f would call for a strong finish. It was hard to call a winner at this point with the majority of the field looking like they were in with a chance. They were now spread across the track and a blanket could be thrown over the entire field.
Sean was in full drive moving inside the final furlong and his mount had taken to the front. The race had quickly changed with 4 of the runners just edging away from the rest. Pennsylvania Dutch probably just held the advantage from Fantasy Keeper but he was closely pursued down the centre. One thing for sure was that he was certainly giving it his all and everything Sean asked for he was getting. It was set for a real ding dong battle as Dutch looked to fend them all off. Fantasy Keeper now shifted over and Iconic Knight was finishing fast to join Dutch, Blaine and Youkan down the centre. Pennsylvania Dutch stuck his neck out and was not for passing. Having taken the lead he was not surrendering it and even edged to 1/2 length lead. There was no time for a response from his rivals and this move even allowed Sean to ease down in the final few strides, shortening the winning margin to just a neck.
What can you say about Pennsylvania Dutch this season. Some horses never manage four wins in their career never mind in the space of 2 months. It was clear that he was talented and coming into this season he was dangerously well handicapped. There was always a feeling that if he could straighten out his little quirks then a winning sequence could easily be on the cards. All the headgear was removed this time and he showed a very willing attitude throughout the race. Winning off a mark of 84 Pennsylvania Dutch may well run under a penalty before the handicapper has chance to change his mark. He has been a star this season and there is no reason to think that the improvement is over just yet.
The horses are in great form at present and the juveniles are now starting to hit the track thick and fast. Kevin has already sent out 3 debutante winners and each one was impressive in their own right. The famous yellow colours of Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum have been carried to victory by Repartee and Rhea, impressive winners at the first time of asking and their stable mate continued that trend. Juan Elcano took to the track at Haydock and flew home to win the 7f British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes.
Frankel made headlines as a champion racehorse and he’s doing the same as a stallion. When Kevin snapped up the chestnut son who’s Dam was a 1/2 sister to a Chesham winner there was plenty in the pedigree to suggest that the colt was bred to be useful. Although he was impressive from an early stage it was clear that Juan Elcano would need a bit of a trip so therefore the early stages of the season were obviously not on the radar. As soon as the 7f races began, Kevin was into the entry book looking for the ideal race.
Haydock has always been a track that Kevin has favoured starting 2 yr olds at. A lovely, galloping track it offers a perfect introduction for youngsters, although you do need a nice one as it attracts plenty of good juveniles. The novice race selected attracted 6 declarations with just one of the runners with previous experience. That said the market principals would offer some good breeding to suggest that it could be a decent contest.
Holding the largest price tag and with Kevin’s juveniles hitting their stride, Juan Elcano was fancied by the punters to make a winning debut. The weather had not been too kind to these 2 yo’s as the ground was softened to heavy going, which would be a real test. Andrea Atzeni is Sheikh Obaid’s retained jockey but he had to be elsewhere so Kevin Stott stepped in for the ride.
Slowly away, Juan Elcano gave the field a start as the raced Mellad and Subjectivist took the lead and set the pace. Kevin squeezed Elcano into his stride and the chestnut moved up to tag on to the back of the field. They were quickly through the first furlong and into the bend at which point the lead was Mellad’s who proved a little keen, increasing the pace. Juan Elcano was proving green through the early stages but had a decent enough position to race from.
With a good gallop being set up front it wasn’t long before the field were around the bend and entering the home straight. Still a good 1/2 mile from home but there was no let up in front. Juan Elcano again just ran a bit green and hit a little flat spot which caused Kevin to just niggle him along for a few strides to maintain their position and keep tabs with the field. The leading pair were seemingly travelling fine but the other quartet were running a little bit in snatches and showing their inexperience.
Moving on down to the 3f marker and Elcano was demoted to last position but Kevin had to move him out as in turn he past a rival. Mellad now tried to turn the screw from the front and did start to stretch them although Subjectivist was able to shadow this move. Kevin was working to try and get his mount to lengthen and Elcano did respond, slowly starting to get to grips with the task at hand.
The leading pair had been in that position from the get go but passing the 2f marker it was Subjectivist who suddenly took control, travelling powerfully. Juan Elcano had moved up to battle for 3rd spot and was learning with every yard. The new leader kicked clear by a couple of lengths which increased to 4/5 lengths to Elcano. With well over 1 1/2f to run the leader had set sail for home leaving Juan Elcano a good margin to try and close. With Mellad beginning to toil, the leader looked good with a strong advantage. Kevin had got Elcano balanced and moving forward with the pair passing a couple of rivals to be the one left giving chase to the leader. Although now really beginning to lengthen the gap was still a wide one and it would take a big effort to overcome the deficit.
Passing the 1f marker and Juan Elcano found another gear taking a length out of the lead. Although closing on the leader, Subjectivist was not stopping and the line was looming large. With his mount starting to really find his feet Kevin asked for one last effort to see if he could pick up the leader in the latter strides. With a couple of reminders Elcano changed his leg and hit top gear. There was only 100 yards to run and a couple of lengths to make up but it was clear that the chestnut was really starting to motor. The race would be decided in the dying strides but now momentum was with Elcano. With a flying finish he ate into the deficit, clawing back the ground with every stride. Within the final few strides he nabbed the leader, passing him with his next step and pulling into a neck advantage when they hit the line.
Juan Elcano not only had to overcome his inexperience but also testing conditions and a very brave, tenacious rival. All these factors show that this debut performance was impressive and the colt will improve a lot for the experience. He has always shown ability at home and is the type to thrive on the racecourse, willing to give everything. Showing a good turn of foot, Elcano quickened up once the penny dropped but he was also very powerful through the line which gives the impression that he could get further in time. Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum has enjoyed a good start to the season and it is a honour to be having winners for him in his famous silks. Juan Elcano is his third debutante winner and looks like another one who could be set for a bright future.
There are many days when you are heading to the track fancying your chances of a big day. How many times it doesn’t work is the most frustrating thing with racing yet it is what drives all trainers on to try and find that success next time. On Thursday Kevin sent out 6 runners with 3 of them taking the win and given the yard an across the card treble.
Finding the right races can prove to be a bit of a headache at times and this has proven the case with Last Empire. Having only made one start as a juvenile she was eligible for the novice or maiden races. It seemed as though everything conspired against her as when the ground was right there were no races and vice versa. Thankfully patience was rewarded when everything came together and the filly could really perform to her best when she powered home to win the 6f MacRoberts Solicitors LLP Novice Stakes at Hamilton.
The daughter of Pivotal was sent to Kevin by owner Steve Parkin, of Clipper Logistics, and immediately you saw the attraction. She was a typical Pivotal and looked exactly how you would expect the progeny to look. Last Empire had the physique of a colt which showed there was plenty to work with but also meant that connections may have to be patient and let her fill out into her strong frame.
Time was taken, despite some praising signs at home, and Last Empire made her debut in October last season. It was a pleasing first run but showed her inexperience and connections immediately decided that a winter break would do the filly the world of good. Coming back this year, Last Empire had thrived and strengthened up which was exactly what Kevin hoped she would do.
Ready to rock and roll the entry book conspired against Last Empire. There were very few options available or the ones that were, were not the right races. Once the races began to come then Mother Nature decided to put a halt to things. Being by Pivotal it was always clear that Last Empire would not appreciate fast ground. The sun baked the ground so for a good few weeks firm ground was all that you could race on. Finally everything came together and the 6f Novice at Hamilton was the perfect race to return to action.
The race attracted 13 declarations and it looked an interesting contest on paper. There were 3 winners in the field, 1 being a duel winner, and others with decent levels of form sent up from powerful southern yards. The ground was drenched with rain which turned it very soft, heavy in some places. This led to the favourite being withdrawn but it still left a decent contest. Danny Tudhope took the ride as retained jockey, having been unavailable on debut.
With once raced horses tactics are really quite simple and even more so with talented jockeys like Danny. Drawn on the far side in stall 1, Last Empire was smartly away and quick into stride allowing Danny to just drop his hands onto her withers. Keeping it very simple Last Empire just went straight, sticking to her draw and was followed down the centre of the track by the favourite Puerto Banus. The other 9 runners made a beeline towards the stands side rail which meant that punters were certainly going to get an interesting view on where the best ground may be, if there was any difference.
All the main contenders were to the fore but the stands side runners held the advantage racing through the first half go the race. Hurtling downhill the camera panned round at the halfway point and it was clear that Last Empire was a good few lengths down. She travelled very well and looked to be thriving on the soft ground. Between the 3f and 2f marker the race started to really heat up and even this far out the jockeys were beginning to race. Danny was started to pump along in the saddle but it was easier than it looked and he was just asking the filly to lengthen.
Passing the 2f marker and Last Empire had begun to move up down the centre to press the overall lead. Her companion, Puerto Banus had likewise closed the gap although still had a length to make up on Empire. All the fancied runners were still at the head of affairs and little had managed to get into the race. Last Empire was really beginning to eat into the ground and was shifting through the gears. The uphill finish was coming and this would find out any chink in the armour, especially on the testing ground.
Having taken the lead, Last Empire started to increase her advantage heading inside the final furlong. Whilst her rivals weren’t stopping, they weren’t thriving as much as Last Empire. Danny know had to get a little serious to ensure the filly kept up to her work. Having opened up an advantage she hit the rising ground and this was going to be a test. Whilst the others maintained or began to slow, Last Empire powered up the hill. With just a couple of flicks and pushed out to the line Last Empire opened up a clear 2 1/2 length advantage, proving to be the strongest and galloping through the line to take her first career win.
Last Empire always looked the part on paper and she certainly looked the part on the track too. Being by Pivotal she was likely to enjoy the ground and she did handle it very well. Although she won on it there will no doubt that any ground with a little ease will be fine, as long as it isn’t very quick. This was only her second start and Empire showed a very professional attitude, travelling well down the hill before staying powerfully. She saw it out very well but showed plenty of early speed so at present the trip looks ideal although she may possibly get a little further in time. Whatever the plan is Last Empire is definitely an exciting filly to look forward to this year.
It’s not often you turn up on a Thursday at Hamilton to witness Group horses taking each other on. Well Brando, Sands Of Mali and Donjuan Triumphant all showed up for the feature 6f British Stallion Studs Clyde EBF Conditions Stakes providing the crowd with a fantastic race. Brando was the one to come out on top and did so in decisive fashion.
Group 1 winner, multiple Group 1 placed, Ayr Gold Cup winner and a stalwart of the sprinting division, Brando has been a great servant for connections. Carrying the yellow and purple of Angie Bailey and Peter Tingey, Brando has taken on the best throughout the last few seasons. Amazingly people have been quick to right him off this season as possibly a has been, too old too tackle the group races. Brando had other ideas and made a statement as he looks forward to the summer targets.
Having gone agonisingly close last year in both the July Cup and Haycock sprint he came back into training this year as well as ever. The plan was simple, follow the same plan as last year. Starting out at Newmarket, looking for his 3rd Abernant, the 7yo finished a very close third, getting nabbed on the line. He followed that up with a decent effort in the Duke Of York where he was cantering at the 2f maker before the race developed away from him. Both runs showed that he retained all his ability but maybe the quick ground was now a factor that he didn’t like. Another year on his back and possibly it was now a case of him needing to get that little bit of ease to help him perform.
Royal Ascot was never on the cards so he would need a run before heading to the July Cup. Last year he headed to Ireland in between but this time he didn’t get an entry. The race that stuck out was the conditions event at Hamilton. For some reason he thrives on downhill tracks, holding group form on both the Newmarket tracks and Hamilton is close to them in regards of characteristics. Now you wouldn’t expect a top class sprint to take place on a Thursday at Hamilton but the 6f race attracted two Gr 1 winners and a multiple group/listed winner. Sands Of Mali (118) and Donjuan Triumphant (111) would line up alongside Brando and 3 other rivals fo the contest. Although it is never right to ignore any horses, it did look likely to be between the main three, as the rest had way over 20lb to find on official ratings.
As always Tom Eaves was in the saddle and tactics were set to be a little more patient, having changed to race closer to the pace last time out. It would be interesting to see who would go on and as the gates opened it was Lomu who blasted off down the centre of the track. Sands Of Mali decided to make a beeline for the stands side rail which allowed Tom to track over and take a lead off him. The pace was strong but the 6 runners had split to race quite wide apart, although it was the group 1 winners who galloped alongside each other.
There was no holding back as the leader blasted away up front and had a good break over the rest. Brando was anchored at the rear of the field with the favourite firmly in his sights. Soon they were past the halfway point and here there was the first signs of moves being made. Donjuan Triumphant was beginning to get rousted along to try and close in on the leader. Sands Of Mali and Brando were both travelling smoothly and now started to edge back towards the main body of the field. Although the leader was yet to start feeling the pressure, he had gone a strong gallop and still had well over 2f to try and fend off some classy rivals.
Moving to the 2f marker and the big three began to move forward to make their challenges. The lead had been cut and now it seemed clear that Lomu was a sitting duck. Donjuan Triumphant had been niggled along for a while but now Sands Of Mali and Brando were set to come through. Tom was the last one to go for his mount, hoping to wait as long as possible. Having tracked Sands Of Mali throughout he was hoping that the favourite could take him as far as possible. This tactic began to unwind about 1 1/2f from home as the fav failed to really respond to pressure. Tom now had no option but to go and Brando responded by moving past his Gr 1 rival.
The long time leader was proving to be very game but couldn’t repel them any longer and as he began to weaken forced Donjuan Triumphant to switch around. Brando had picked up leaving the favourite in his wake and took the lead with just under a furlong to run. The uphill finish was proving no issue for the chestnut as he began to pull away from Donjuan Triumphant and the pair putting distance tot he rest. Kept up to his work, Brando strode out and proved too powerful for his rivals. The race was now in the bag and the only unknown was the winning margin. Galloping all the way through the line, Brando picked up his first win of the season by a cosy 1 3/4 lengths.
This was Brando’s first step out of group class since his win in the 2016 Ayr Gold Cup. He is a real star and has been such a great servant. People were quick to question the chestnut after not quite hitting his usual heights so far this year, many making an issue of his age. There were no such concerns from connections as his home work was as good as ever and it might just be that now he doesn’t want fast ground. Although 7 yrs old, Brando still has very limited miles on the clock for a sprinter and he showed that he retains all of his ability. He pulled clear of two smart rivals and this is the ideal set up for a third tilt at the July Cup, a race which he has finished 3rd and 2nd in for the past two seasons. Brando is a star and will continue to shine at the top level.
When two winners have already come in then it shows the horses are obviously in fine fettle. North of the border the double was already complete but closer to home it was actually the horse who arguably had the best chance of the day. Magical Spirit took a well deserved win and completed the treble when he took the 6f VML Jan Norton Happy Birthday Handicap at Ripon.
Having rounded his juvenile season off with a win, this year was an exciting not to look forward to for the now 3yo who looked open to plenty of improvement. Starting the season with a mark of 71 it did feel as though that would be on the low side after he impressed in his pre season work. The son of Zebedee always looked the type to improve with racing and time, so when he returned with a strong show at Newcastle to finish second it looked as though connections wouldn’t have to wait long for win number two.
Kevin waited to run the chestnut again and stepped the gelding up to 6f for the first time when going to Redcar. He lined up in a very competitive handicap and had everything beat bar the favourite. Unfortunately he just bumped into one that day but showed another step up in form and was no surely a winner waiting to happen. Having gone close to a seemingly well handicapped rival, Spirit was given a 4lb hike in the handicap. He already held a few entries so with that in mind he was declared at Ripon, 4lb well in.
Andrew Mullen was booked for the ride and with the feeling that he would be on the best horse in the race the tactics were simple. There were 9 runners for the 6f contest so being drawn towards the centre wasn’t ideal but Spirit could still get a good position from stall 2. The only real concern was the track with Ripon offering some tricky characteristics but if he handled them then he deserved his place at the head of the market.
Jumping well, Magical Spirit was immediately into stride and he was allowed to move forward. His market rival was drawn on his outer and jumped on terms but those inside of Spirit didn’t really want to go forward. This allowed Andrew to track over from the centre of the track to race closer to the stands rail. After the first furlong they had made it across to press for the lead and set a nice gallop.
Those around Magical Spirit couldn’t handle the pace or the track and dropped into midfield, handing the initiative to Spirit who now spearheaded the field. Although holding the lead baring down on the halfway point, Spirit wasn’t striding out like he can do. Travelling well he would then start to climb a little and was showing at this early stage that the track was far from ideal.
Although not fluent, Magical Spirit had shown good speed and held a length lead. With this advantage Andrew was able to hold his mount together, helping him to handle the tricky undulations. Closing in on the final 1/4 mile the lead had been cut but only the two market leaders were left on the bridle whilst the rest were under pressure. It was Queen Of Burgundy who was the first to lay down the challenge and came under a drive. Andrew was still pretty motionless, just trying to keep his mount balanced and moving forward. Still holding the lead he was able to be patient.
Moving into the final furlong and the ground levels out which was exactly what Andrew had been waiting for. Spirit held a 1/2 length advantage and now he was asked to go and put the race to bed. He picked up and and started to hit top gear. Queen Of Burgundy was trying hard but couldn’t keep tabs on Spirit who was now on an even keel and quickening away. Having pulled a length clear once again he was now pushed out hands and heels by Andrew. Under the easiest drive, Magical Spirit quickened clear to gain his first win of 2019 by a comfortable 1 1/2 lengths.
This win was impressive but more so with Magical Spirit not handling the track at all. Andrew gave him brilliant ride, patiently allowing him to find his feet but it was the gelding’s class that brought him through. The son of Zebedee is a typical one of his progeny who seems to be very straight forward and improve with every run. The handicapper will certainly assess this performance again as he was due to go up 4lb and a similar rise may well be on the cards. He is a 3yo going in the right direction and is sure to give his owners plenty of fun throughout this year.
Yellow and Purple is know renowned in the north with top sprinters thanks to the exploits of Group 1 winners Astaire and Brando. Now it’s quite harsh on horses to expect them to live up to those standards but owners Peter Tingey and Angie Bailey may just have unearthed another sprinting gem. Rathbone couldn’t win at 2yrs old but he has quickly made up for that and took his second win of the season when winning the 6f Victoria Park Handicap at Leicester.
From the moment he started to work Kevin had no problem in saying that Rathbone was a smart horse. Emaraaty Ana and Hello Youmzain were both Group 2 winners at 2yo and Rathbone was held in the same kind of esteem as his stable mates. Unfortunately it just never happened, probably suggesting that he was still weak last year. Although he couldn’t match what his stable mates did on the track he could at home and this is why the faith was well and truly intact despite no returns just yet. Kevin decided that gelding the son of Foxwedge would be the best idea to try and help him fill his frame and this is exactly what he did through the winter. Coming back Rathbone looked a far stronger and more mature horse.
There was one benefit of not winning last season and that was that Rathbone would still be eligible for any maidens or could race without any penalties in novice company. Kevin decided that he would utilise this and sent the gelding to Pontefract for for his return to action. Rathbone was well in with his rivals on the terms and he duly obliged with the minimum of fuss and got his first win by 2 1/2 lengths. This win saw him only raised 1lb so options were still wide open moving forward although there were some bigger plans down the line.
With plenty of big handicaps coming thick and fast the race at Leicester didn’t attract a lot of runners although it was a good small field line up. Three of the runners had tackled decent handicaps whilst one was making his return to action after contesting group contests last season. Little departed the 5 runners and this was shown in the betting with punters barely able to separate them all. Tom Eaves went down for the ride.
Drawn alongside the rail Rathbone jumped well but rather than get the hustle up Tom elected to sit steady, wanting to take a lead. Thankfully Good Luck Fox went on which allowed Tom to tuck in behind and sit at the rear of the 5 runners. Rathbone actually moved up into 4th place after a furlong with Intuitive struggling to go the early pace. With 3 pushing forward it was a brisk gallop set but Good Luck Fox held the advantage next to the rail.
Tom had to work a little earlier than he would have liked as they moved to the halfway stage. The leader was not hanging about and the strong gallop was really asking questions of the field. All the field were still in with chances but it would be a real test when they hit the stiff finish after tracking the strong pace. Having been bustled along for a few strides Rathbone moved onto the heels of the leading trio as Tom began to angle off the rail. This move came heading towards the 2f marker and it was clear that the there would be no gaps forthcoming if he stayed along the rail. Moving into the final couple of furlongs the 5 runners were separated by only around 2 lengths and had fanned out to race side but side.
The favourite weakened very quickly and so too did the long time leader who both seem to pay for forcing the issue. Rathbone burst through now to chase Blown By Wind who had snapped up the lead left to him. The two had moved through to take control of the race but there was still plenty of ground left to cover. Rathbone was responding to the pressure coming from the saddle and loomed alongside the leader. It was difficult to choose a winner at this stage but it seemed as though it was going to be a tussle between the front two with only Intuitive finishing, although not as well.
Heading into the final furlong Rathbone inched past Blown By Wind and looked as though he was slightly the stronger passing the 1f pole. Now the ground rises up and would provide a stern test for the runners having raced at break neck speed. The two could hardly be separated but Rathbone was really responding to pressure. Both jockeys were giving it their all and their mouths were doing just the same. Rathbone moved forward to take a 1/2 length advantage. He only had 100yards left to hold on but then he left the door open. Feeling like he had done just about enough the stride shortened. With a sniff of victory, Blown By Wind rallied and thrust back once more. He was going to have one last go at Rathbone and edged closer in the dying strides. The margin halved and Rathbone needed to pull out all the stops but with Tom in no mood to surrender the gelding held on to a narrow head victory.
Rathbone looks an exciting sprinting prospect moving forward and could really set his sights on bigger things. He looks as though he sees out the trip very well which is important when stepping up to the top handicaps. Obviously he did let the runner up have one last crack but he was probably always going to do enough and could be worth a little more than the bare result. Pete and Ange love York so the obvious step would be to tackle the big 3yr old handicap there in the next couple of weeks. It will be a step up in grade for Rathbone but he certainly looks up to it and could well be a smart horse moving forward.
You can never be afraid of one horse. In racing there is no such thing as certainties but racing fans though they would have one on Saturday when the unbeaten star Calyx was unleashed in the Sandy Lane. It was seen as a penalty kick and more people were willing to guess the winning distance rather who could possibly beat him. Well there was a couple who didn’t quite read the script and quite literally tore it up. Hello Youmzain bolted up in the Group 2 Armstrong Aggregates Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock.
The strapping colt, by crack sire Kodiac, had always been an imposing a powerful sort. It took a bit of time for the colt to find his feet and strengthen into his frame but once he did he really did his talking on the track. Comfortably making a winning debut at Carlisle, Youmzain then finished a narrow 2nd when trying to defy a penalty. Following that run he took his form to another level when winning the Group 2 Criterium De Maissons-Lafitte. That comfortable win had put him in plenty of notebooks and gave connections a lovely winter dreaming of what could be in 2019.
Classics are a one time only race. They are only open to 3yo and only offer a very limited number of horses the opportunity to win and make history. Hello Youmzain might have been sired by Kodiac but he had plenty of stamina in the dam’s side so Kevin had to see whether he would stay the Guineas trip or whether he would be a sprinter for the future. The 7f Greenham was the trial chosen and answered all the questions. Youmzain ran a great race but it was clear he didn’t stay, although it proved that he was still a smart home. Immediately the obvious race was the Sandy Lane at Haydock and it was confirmed to be the plan.
Kevin Stott had enjoyed the biggest win of his young career aboard Hello Youmzain and was back on board. The race has fast become the best trial for the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot but with Calyx confirmed to run there were very few contenders willing to take on the unbeaten colt. This race had always been the plan and it didn’t matter who turned up Hello Youmzain would need to take them on and find out just where he lay in the packing order. Despite all the hype around Calyx, there was confidence that Youmzain would run well back at a trip more suitable trip to his attributes and be the one to give Calyx his biggest test to date.
Only 4 runners went to post for the 6f contest and the punters basically suggested the result was already done. Calyx was sent off 2-13 fav with Hello Youmzain a 5-1 shot, whilst the other two were well over 20-1. With a small field tactics could be crucial but Royal Intervention did look the one who may go on and set a true gallop. The filly duly took up front running tactics leaving the stalls, closely followed on the stands side by Hello Youmzain whilst Calyx raced the far side of the filly and True Mason made up the diamond at the back of the field. It was a nice gallop through the early stages and Kevin got his mount into a nice rhythm.
There was never going to be too much excitement through the early stages with such a small field and the quartet raced in the same formation throughout the first half of the contest. Although the leader had jumped left on leaving the stalls the field ended up racing down the centre of the track. With little to split the four runners it was too soon to say who was going best although both Calyx and Hello Youmzain seemed to travelling just fine.
Moving past the 3f marker it was clear that the tactics of the leader was to hopefully catch the rest on their heels and try to quicken early on. Royal Intervention began to get the hurry up over 2 1/2f from home and although she injected pace into the contest the move did nothing to worry her 3 rivals. As they bared down on the 2f marker both Calyx and Hello Youmzain edged out to ready their challenge looming large either side of the leader. Kevin began to work first winding Youmzain up as Calyx came to the fore on the far side. True Mason had travelled well to this point but couldn’t go with the two leading contenders and the leader was looking a sitting duck.
This was the moment Calyx would quicken up and put the field in their place. Although it didn’t happen and it was Youmzain who suddenly looked the stronger. Havlin, on board Calyx, now sensed danger and immediately got serious. With 1 1/2f to go Youmzain hit the front and you could hear a pin drop. Calyx lugged left and so to did Hello Youmzain but the latter was now a length up. Moving into the final furlong and Youmzain had the race at his mercy. He was clear and just looking stronger with every stride. Although all could suddenly go wrong there just didn’t seem to be an answer from Calyx. Kevin pulled his stick through to his left hand to straighten his mount up and drover for home. Youmzain was more than will and his giant stride ate up the ground. He powered clear opening up with every yard galloped and pulled clear to win by 3 1/4 lengths.
Shock? Yes but not as huge as others may think. Hello Youmzain has always shown he was a smart individual and is a lovely sprinter going forward. Of course only a fool would right off a star like Calyx but on the day Youmzain won comfortably and he will only continue to improve. He is a giant of a horse and will continue to learn with his racing, especially now he has his trip. Owner Mr Jaber Abdullah has enjoyed some world class horses and this fella may just be the next one. The best thing British racing did was to create a programme for 3yr old sprinters as now we are seeing the benefits of it. Since the Commonwealth Cup was introduced owners and trainers have been able to keep their sprinting stars and campaign them correctly. The benefits have shown with the likes of Muhaarar and Quiet Reflection becoming champion sprinters whilst Sands Of Mali took this race before winning the Champions Sprint. Hello Youzain is a very nice horse and if everyone is in agreement the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot would be the next logical step. It would be a fascinating race should he renew his rivalry with Calyx and then throw in Ten Sovereigns to the equation. That would be a mouth watering trio to do battle and something that anybody could get excited about.
Kevin has always been known as somewhat of a dab hand with juveniles and every season he is one of the leading trainers with the number of winners he has with them. Different types of horses were bought this year which left the team with very few 5f juveniles which meant that the yard would need to wait to really unleash the 2 yr olds. It has been worth the wait so far with a couple of very smart winners and Rhea added her name to that list when winning at the first time of asking in the 7f George Formby Birthday Fillies’ Novice Stakes at Haydock.
Bought from Tattersalls Book 1, the daughter of Siyouni had taken the eye from the moment she left her box to be shown to Kevin and Steve Hillen. Snapped up for 130,000gns she was one who was added to the team for Sheikh Obaid Mohammed Al Maktoum. It was clear early on in her work that the filly was nice and she thrived through her work. Unfortunately it did look as though she would appreciate a bit of a stamina test so it meant that connections would need to be patient and wait for the correct novice races to begin.
Kevin had taken the very first 6f Novice event of the season for Sheikh Obaid when Repartee bolted up at York. The combination were looking for another fast start to 7f races as Rhea lined up for the first one of the year. Although there was only one filly in the contest who had the benefit of a run, the race looked a hot contest with nice breeding on show. Haydock is a lovely course to introduce juveniles and therefore it does attract nice horses. Rhea would be up against 8 rivals.
With plenty of racing around the country Andrea Atzeni, retained jockey, was away at Goodwood for Sheikh Obaid so David Egan took the ride. With so much inexperience in the race it would be a case of “see how you jump” before deciding where and how to ride the filly. Having been a little nervous at home in the stalls, Craig Witherford, the stalls expert, had worked with her and was on hand to load her. Thankfully she was very well behaved and loaded with little fuss, allowing the filly to jump well once the gates opened.
Experience was straight to fore as the only filly with a run was Perfect Rose who shot straight to lead. The two leading fancies were a little tardily away and positioned themselves at the rear of the field whilst Rhea had settled nicely just tracking the leader. They were quickly into the bend and after a little bit of a tussle for positions Perfect rose held a narrow lead, with Rhea just behind on the rail in 3rd/4th position. The pace was strong and had the field well strung out swinging around the bend.
There was little time for these fillies to draw breath and they were soon entering the home straight, passing the 4f marker and moving into the second half of the race. Perfect Rose had handled everything best, using her experience and moved into a lengths lead. David over Rhea just off the rail, giving her daylight but also sensing that the leader would either be going to well or if she started to weaken then it would fall straight back into him. This gave the 2nd Fav Byzantia the chance to move up on the inner and press the chestnut.
Between the 3f and 2f marker the race began to take shape as the fancied runners came to the fore. The leader was trying to press on and wind it up from the front. Favourite Scared Dance was starting to make a run down the outer but it was Rhea who was making the most eye catching progress. David just let her lengthen her stride and she moved forward travelling well. Rhea moved up to leader’s girths inside the final 2f but it was here that Perfect Rose now kicked again and tried to kick clear. Having travelled smoothly and been given the time to find her feet, Rhea was now squeezed on to try and go past the leader.
Passing the 1f pole Perfect Rose still held sway in front but the advantage was only 1/2 length now. Rhea was proving to be green once asked but she was beginning to learn her task with every yard they went. The favourite was still on the scene down the outer but not responding the same as Rhea. David was doing all he could to get his filly to find and she was picking up with every urging. She snatched the lead with 100 yards to run and now she just had to kick moving forward. David changed his hands and gave the filly a quick back hander to keep her straight. Rhea responded and started to assert. The lead opened up and Rhea galloped all the way to the line, scoring by 3/4 length but looking worth more than the bare result.
It was a lovely debut from Rhea who won despite showing inexperience. Travelling well throughout the contest it was once she was asked where she just took time to understand things. It didn’t take long for her to work out what David was asking and in the end she finished very powerfully to win with a bit in hand. The result is even more impressive as it was pretty much a hands and heels ride from David. He gave her a beautiful ride, showing plenty of patience and educating the filly through the race. It does look as though she will get further in time and Rhea could prove a smart filly moving forward. No plans are in place yet but this performance has certainly got connections excited for the future.
Kingman is one of the most promising stallions at the minute, already producing top quality horses in his short career. The yearlings were well sought after and sold very well in the first offerings from the sire. When Kevin and Hambleton Racing managed to snap one up for just £35,000 it looked like a good deal all round. The owners had to wait but Wild Hope got off the mark with a first career win when he decisively took the 7f Wreay Handicap at Carlisle.
Although his work was good last as a juvenile it was always felt that Wild Hope would do better with time and racing. Everything seemed to suggest that he would appreciate up to a mile but he had enough speed to see the track early on and contested a couple of 6f Novice races. Two good runs in decent races suggested that a win was not far off but unfortunately it didn’t quite work out when stepped up in trip. Despite not winning it was clear there was an engine there and he would come back a stronger horse as a 3yr old.
Returning on a mark of 74 it looked as though Wild Hope have improvement in him for the season ahead. The comeback run at Leicester was full of promise, finishing third he would improve for the run and looked sure to break his maiden very shortly. Somehow the handicapper didn’t see it as such and actually dropped Wild Hope 2lb, which made his job a little easier and did open up more options moving forward.
Carlisle was chosen for Wild Hope’s next run and he would line up against 9 rivals. Kevin Stott was reunited with the gelding after missing out on his last run. Looking like an improver the money came for Wild Hope and he was eventually sent off the 5-2 joint fav.
Drawn in stall 8 Wild Hope was quickly away and into stride allowing Kevin to track over towards the rail from the outside. There were a couple of runners drawn lower who wanted to go on so Wild Hope settled into third as they were soon into the right handed bend. Having been into a good rhythm from the off, Hope was swinging around the turn on the right lead and took it with ease, chasing a strong pace. The leader stayed away from the rail so Kevin did like wise, rather than knocking his mount off stride.
Keeping towards the centre of the track proved to be right call as they swung into the home straight and past halfway. The leader stayed away from the rail and drifted towards the middle of the track which the others followed suit. Having raced on the outer, Wild Hope was now well placed as he had less ground to give away and would eventual get the rail on the stands side to race alongside.
Having taken a keen hold throughout the contest the leader was caught moving inside the 2f marker. Wild Hope cruised up his inner and quickly took charge with Kevin yet to pose any questions. Whilst his rivals were hard under the drive, Wild Hope had moved through with ease and now looked to have control of the race. Not wanting to disappoint his mount, Kevin got lower in the saddle to squeeze him on. The response was ok but it wasn’t a devastating turn of foot. The lead began to creep wider as the gelding began to lengthen.
Heading to the final furlong, Wild Hope held just over a length lead but it was here that he thrived. Now in top gear Wild Hope started to power on and stretched his margin. The further they went the bigger the advantage was becoming and Wild Hope turned the race into a precession. Nobody had an answer and looked one paced compared to the winner. Kevin kept him up to his work and the pair took the the win by a comfortable 4 lengths, although it could have been wider.
It is lovely to see Wild Hope off the mark and reward all his owners in Hambleton Racing. Having shown plenty of promise last year he had already shown that he had a workable mark and he improved from that return to win at Carlisle. He has always looked like a horse who would get a little further and the way he won suggests that he could be better over a mile. Having travelled very well, Wild Hope stayed very strongly and in truth could have won by further. He will be reassessed by the handicapper but he looks the type to continue his upward curve of improvement.