Red Hot Form Continues

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.

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Dante Double Sparks A Royal Visit

York is a special track but even more so for those who train in and around the Knavesmire. We are lucky to have one of the best tracks in the world right on our doorstep. Along with great racing, friendly atmosphere, the track has one of the best infrastructures for owners thanks to William Derby. Price money seems to increase year on year and all these lead to a very special place to have runners. The Dante meeting is one that everybody in the north looks forward to and this year saw the team kick off with a double courtesy of Bielsa and Mon Na Slieve.

Bielsa became a hero in Yorkshire thanks to his management of Leeds United and his equine namesake seems to be building his own following. The 2021 Ayr Gold Cup winner has always shown he is a class act but had been winless since that fine effort. He made up for the time between wins when he gave Yorkshire their first winner of the year on the Knavesmire by taking the 6f Churchill Tyres Handicap.

When it comes to the top handicap sprints, Bielsa has seen it all. He has bagged a Gold Cup and been to all the top meetings. York has always been a track where Bielsa has run well but never quite got the luck he deserved. On his previous 3 visits the Gedling has gone well but been drawn away from the action or found a bit of trouble.

Although Bielsa turned 8 yrs old this year, there are very few miles on the clock. With only 26 runs to his name, there was plenty of reasons to believe that 2023 could provide another fruitful year. When he returned to action at Redcar, Bielsa proved this by finishing runner up and showing plenty of promise for the season ahead. Having run in the same race for the previous two seasons, Bielsa was immediately aimed at York.

Oisin Murphy was boekt for the ride and lined up against 20 rivals who know each other inside and out, racing against each other throughout the years. The usual cavalry charge ensued when the gates flew open. The field split into three groups, but they were not spread too far apart. Bielsa just tracked the pace towards the near side and got a lovely sit through the early stages.

The groups meted into one as the field charged through the first half of the race. Clocking 43 mph, the 21 runners were actually well bunched, with the far side runners tucking in to to create one group. Bielsa was always in a good spot and tracked the pace quite comfortably.

Moving down towards the 2f marker the race began to develop and quickly found a few of the competition out. Oisin angled Bielsa out for a run as the leaders just began to struggle and give way. Gaining daylight, Oisin moved through and went for his run inside the 2f pole. Within a few strides Bielsa had hit the front and now had his sights on the finishing line.

York is a fair, flat track but whenever you hit the front the line always seems to be a lot further away. Bielsa had moved to the front and held a neck advantage over a rival half his age. Nothing else was getting into the picture so the pair settled down to battle for the win. Inside the final furlong Bielsa continued to find for pressure and the advantage he had taken was being maintained. Although he was made o work for it, Bielsa was always doing enough and hit the line well, securing a neck win.

It was great to see Bielsa back and he thoroughly deserved this win. He has always been a class act and whilst it is hard to be consistent in these big races, he is always a big player. King Power  Racing have owned Bielsa for the previous 3 seasons and it is great to have a winner in their colours. It is even more so at the big meetings where their support deserves to get them. Bielsa will be doing his usual this year and all the top handicaps will be his aim.

Whilst one stable star, and favourite, was returning to winning ways, there was a younger potential star making his debut. Mon Na Slieve was seeing the racetrack for the first time and he impressed by comfortably taking the 5f British EBF 40th Anniversary Novice Stakes.

The Craven breeze up sales has been a huge source of success. With this the prices do reflect it and you must have support to try and get the future stars. The chestnut son of Exceed And Excel impressed when he breezed, clocked a good time and then matched up when viewed as a physical. Kevin didn’t want to leave him behind and thankfully Mr Brendan Macdonald backed him, securing Mon Na Slieve for 190,000gns.

It is all well and good making plans but then the horse has to go and do it. Mon Na Slieve was bought as a potential Royal Ascot horse. He had proved it at the breeze but could he do it when the real racing started. After continuing to impress at home, Kevin turned his attention to York for the colt to make his debut.

Everybody knows that Kevin sends good juveniles to York. The reason for that is you have to have a good one, as your rivals will be doing likewise. The 5f Novice attracted just 7 runners but it was a very interesting line up. There were plenty of talking horses with some big yards, fancy pedigrees and the one experienced runner coming in with good form. It was a race that would take some winning.

Tom Eaves took the ride and with Mon Na Slieve jumping well he went to the fore. The colt showed blistering speed early on but it was very natural and took Tom there. As they settled down Mon Na Slieve held the early advantage as the rest filtered in behind.

Despite travelling at around 42 mph, the 7 runners were well bunched up. Mon Na Slieve was going great guns in front as he was stalked by the market leaders. They charged through the first half of the race and were quickly on to the business end. Tom began to nudge his mount along as they passed the 2f marker, ensuring he kept his advantage.

Mon Na Slieve was lengthening, he was striding out and starting to find top gear. With his rivals travelling well in behind they suddenly came under pressure thanks to Mon Na Slieve. He began to pull away and entering the final furlong he held a length lead. Nothing could match the leader and Mon Na Slieve was not for stopping. He powered through the final furlong, stretching clear to win by 1 3/4 lengths.

It was a very impressive debut from Mon Na Slieve and was done with the minimum of fuss. He showed great speed, was very professional and then managed to quicken off a strong pace. Tom barely had to do anything and it was a hand’s and heels ride. Royal Ascot was the agenda and this performance guaranteed that. He is a very fast horse and the 5f juvenile races will be his target.

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Double Sparks Interest in Bigger Targets

With summer just weeks away the nights are drawing out which has allowed the evening racing to begin. There was success at opposite ends of the country as Room Service and Captain Winters provided a smart double.

There have only been a limited number of 2yo runners so far this season, with many not wanting the minimum trip and ground scuppering others from making their debut. From the ones who have run, they have performed well and Room Service provided an impressive win when taking the 5 1/2f Maiden Stakes at Wetherby.

Bought from Book 2 of the Tatts yearling sales, the son of Kodi Bear was signed for by Timmy and Demi O’Byrne. Set to run in the colours of the O’Byrne family, Room Service showed ability from an early stage in his training. Although he came to hand quite early, it was clear that the colt would want a little further than the bare 5f.

Wetherby provided the perfect start with the extended 5f. Whilst the trip looked ideal, the level of competition would be rather stiff with the leading players bringing a good level of form. Although there was only 9 set to line up, Room Service was judged to be a 20-1 shot, showing the level he would need tor un up to.

Tom Eaves took the ride and got the colt away well, moving up prominently on the outer of the group. It was experience to the fore but Room Service jumped well and managed to track the pace on the outer of the group. They were going a clip as the field raced down towards the left handed bend. Showing a professional attitude, Room Service travelled well throughout the contest.

Entering the straight, the field had over 3f to run but already the race was starting to take shape. With the track having a cutaway, the runners fanned out which left plenty of room for the inexperienced runner to make their challenge. Room Service moved up towards the centre of the track, getting closer to the leader who was in danger from the favourite. As they headed towards the final couple of furlongs, it was the fav who moved through to challenge and take the lead. Looking towards the outer Room Service was moving impressively as Tom still sat motionless, looking to have plenty of horse underneath him.

Once Tom asked the colt to go and quicken he did just that and laid down his challenge to the fav. As the pair began to battle it out, they dragged each other along and started to pull away from the rest of the field. Matching strides, the pair were quickening clear but passing the 1f pole Room Service edged to the front. He was showing some signs of inexperience but was galloping out strongly. Hitting top gear, it was the final 1/2f where the colt really started to assert his dominance and under a hands and heels ride Room Service pulled away from his rival, scoring by an impressive 1 1/4 lengths.

First time out is always about experience for juveniles, first and foremost they need to have a good day which they can take forward. For any 2yo to win first time is difficult, especially against rivals who have had the benefit of a run. Room Service had always shown ability at home and he thrived on the track. Travelling well he did it very professionally and looks like a very nice prospect. He will get further in time and it showed here as he didn’t really hit his stride until the final 1/2f.

Reem Three has been a super mare for Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum, producing quality year on year. The last two progeny have race from Hambleton Lodge and Captain Winters continued the family trend of gaining pattern success when he won the 1m Listed Heron Stakes at Sandown.

Last season proved fruitful for the colt who took a few runs before getting off the mark. Once he did, Captain Winters immediately stepped up to pattern company. Having picked up black type by finishing third, he couldn’t quite go on in his final run as a 2yo. It was quite a low key return to action for Captain Winters this year when he went to Musselburgh for a 3yo handicap. Although he ran well, he could get no nearer than fourth. Despite this result Kevin would step the colt back up in grade when he went to Sandown.

Only four runners lined up for the listed event and Captain Winters was the outsider, having to reverse form with Finn’s Charm who beat him just 38 days earlier. Neil Callan took the ride and as they left the stalls he managed to take a lead, with the fours runner quickly manoeuvring into single file. With such a small field the pace was never going to be crazy and the leader just set a pretty sedate pace.

Little would change throughout the contest as the market leaders sat behind their rivals. As they raced around the home bend and into the straight, the four runners would then begin to fan out readying themselves for the finish. Moving towards the 3f marker there was an increase in the tempo for the first time. Suddenly Neil found himself vying for the lead and as his mount was rolling, he decided he would have to commit. Getting lower in the saddle he asked Captain Winters to go and quicken.

The talking horse, odds on favourite, looked in trouble as they moved into the final 2f. On the front end Captain Winters had taken the lead and was really shifting through the gears. He began to stride away from his rivals and the race was blown apart as Captain Winters was turning the screw. The final furlong is a stiff finish but with momentum, the colt was ready to tackle the rising ground. Having kicked a couple of lengths clear, Captain Winters just started to shorten his stride. Second place began to rally and the clear advantage began to shrink. From looking like a clear winner, Captain Winters now looked in danger. Callan was asking for everything and trying to keep hi mount going. In the dying strides of the line the front pair joined up once more and flashed past the post as one. It didn’t take long for the photograph to be called and thankfully Captain Winters had stuck his nose out to grab the win.

Obviously it was big step up on his reappearance run but Captain Winters looked very well in himself. Grabbing a listed win was very important for both the colt himself and his mother. He travelled well into the race and battled on well up the stiff finish. It may be that a sharper mile or even 7f could be ideal and a step up in grade will be in order. Pattern success is secured so the colt can now look for other opportunities, with races at home and abroad to suit. Possibly something like the Jersey stakes at Royal Ascot may be a good one to aim at or travel over to France.

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Quintus Arrius Cruises To Victory

The Sunday series has been a huge success since its inception into the racing calendar. Offering very good prize money, trainers and owners have been very keen to support the series. The second meeting of this year headed back up to Scotland to Hamilton Park. Quintus Arrius had been slowly progressing and put in another career best performance when taking the 6f Race To A Cure For MND 3YO Sprint Handicap.

Having shed his maiden tag on the all-weather, Quintus Arrius returned to turf at Pontefract for his handicap debut. Beginning off a mark of 75 seemed fair and the 3yo ran a great race to finish second having been carried off line by the winner. It was an unfortunate event and probably cost the colt the win. Having been raised 4lb following this performance, Hamilton was immediately pencilled in for the next race.

Attracting 12 runners, the race looked quite an interesting contest. Arguably Quintus Arrius brought the best form to the table but he would not quite make favouritism. Tom Eaves took the ride and would have very little to do through much of the race. Breaking away from the stalls, the field were spread out across the track. Quintus Arrius was drawn in stall 3 which meant he would be forced to race towards the far side. Quickly into stride he tracked the early pace, sitting just behind the early leaders.

Racing downhill the field charged through the first half of the race. There was little to separate all 12 runners as they began to move towards the rising ground. Charging past the 2f marker the race heated up but a glance over to the far side saw Tom motionless. He had given his mount a squeeze and with an immediate reaction, Quintus Arrius quickened up to throw down his challenge. Whilst his rivals came under pressure, Quintus Arrius moved through dangerously and with ease.

They hit the rising ground and bared down on the final furlong. Quintus Arrius moved through to take the lead as he was chased along by a rival moving through quickly from the rear. As the pair moved into the final furlong they went eyeball to eyeball and now Tom asked some serious questions. It was great battle running up the hill and neither was giving an inch. The pair were pulling each other along which put distance to the rest of the field. Neither of the leaders could get on top but with 1/2 to run, Quintus Arrius edged his nose to the front. There was no response back from his rival and now Quintus Arrius began to get on top. There wasn’t far to run but the colt broke the deadlock and inched away from his rival. Crossing the line, Quintus Arrius gained a neck victory in impressive fashion.

The manner in which Quintus Arrius travelled throughout this race shows that he is a colt who could have more to come. He cruised through and had plenty in the tank when required. There is a feeling as he might be even better with slightly better ground with the way he travels and quickens up. The handicapper will put him up once again but there could be plenty of room to manoeuvre. Some of the top 3yo handicaps may be ideal for the colt in the coming runs.

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Leap Year Lad Is A Worthy Winner

After a string of placed efforts, would Leap Year Lad ever secure that elusive first career victory? It was clear the ability was there to get his head in front but what would be the key to doing it. With a small change of tactics and a different track, Leap Year Lad won the 1m 1/2f Elegance By Robyn Health & Beauty Wishaw Handicap at Hamilton.

The son of Havana Grey has been a bit of a slow burner but since being gelded over the winter, he has put a string of consistent runs together. There were a couple of runner up efforts which could and maybe should have led to a win but it was clear he was a winner waiting to happen. Unfortunately last time out he bumped into a dangerously well handicapped rival who has gone on to be 27lb better off.

Racing a little keenly in recent runs, Kevin opted for Hamilton as the downhill straight allows them to free wheel along. Shane (Gray) took the ride and was mindful of this when taking on 5 rivals. From the off he got the tactics perfect as Leap Year Lad tried to pull his way forward. Shane quickly positioned him in behind a rival who wanted to go on and make it. With this cover, the grey gelding relaxed into his stride as they raced around the loop.

Entering the straight the ground begins to run away from the field. This increased the tempo of the race as they begin to free wheel along. Leap Year Lad travelled nicely in second place as he kept tabs on the leader. They began to race from the 3f pole, as one by one they came under a ride to try and lay down a challenge.

Shane played the writing game and whilst his rivals were hard at it, he was able to make smooth progress. Moving through to join the leader, Leap Year Lad looked full of running as they moved into the final couple of furlongs. Now he was asked to quicken up, which he began to do and lengthened.

There were a few chances as the field began to hit the rising ground. Leap Year Lad was moving through the gears but once he entered the final furlong,m he really started to stretch out. Now he had his head in front, Leap Year Lad began to assert and with every stride, put a little more distance between himself and the rest. With just over 1/2 furlong to run he had the race put to bed and it even allowed Shane the chance to ease up on his mount. Securing his first career win by a comfortable 1 1/4 lengths.

He deserved this win and win the end it was fairly comfortable performance. Leap Year Lad settled well when he had covered and was always travelling the best. He hit the line well and hopefully this can be a nice confidence boost, which could lead on to more success in the future. My Vein Clinic Syndicate have enjoyed some good runs this year but this win means so much more. They have had to be patient but it has paid off and hopefully they’ll be able to cheer on more wins in the future.

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Almighty Effort From Hi Royal In The 2000 Guineas

There are certain times when running a career best feels like you won. The classics are the pinnacle of racing and you only get one crack at them. When Hi Royal lined up in the 2000 Guineas he was not seen as a danger but just 100 seconds later he had announced himself to the racing public.

Owned and bred by Mr Jaber Abdullah, the son of Kodiac had a light campaign last year as a 2yo. Beginning in the ultra competitive Convivial Maiden at York, Hi Royal flew home from off the pace to finish third on debut. He followed that by winning at Ayr with consummate ease, which signed him off for the winter.

Always highly regarded, Hi Royal held big entries in most of the classics. connections have always thought he could be horse to get further than the 1m he won over, so it was interesting to see where he would start off. It would at the Craven meeting, tackling the 7f conditions race. Wary of not giving him a very hard race in one of the bigger trials, Hi Royal ran well for a long way before finding the dead ground and trip against him. Although many wrote him off, Hi Royal was given the green light to line up in the season’s first classic.

Oisin Murphy was booked for the ride as the pair lined up against 13 of the best 3yo colts around. It’s very hard to set out tactics in a race of this nature but it was important for Oisin to use his mounts stride. So jumping well from the stalls, Hi Royal was allowed to move forward and quickly headed the classic field.

Early on the race got quite messy with a few racing keen. Hi Royal was in the perfect spot in front, striding out on the rain softened ground. Tracked along by Chaldean, the second fav, Hi Royal cut out a decent gallop and ensured that it would be a true run race despite conditions.

Racing down the centre of the track, the field charged through the first half of the race at a strong 38 mph. Oisin was happy to let his mount use himself. The race begun to develop around the 3f marker as there was an increase in the pace. This had a domino affect throughout the field as they had to match the leader’s pace.

With the field starting the race, Hi Royal suddenly had a few of them in trouble. Once they passed the 2f the cracks started to show and it was the fav who was first to fold. Hi Royal was travelling like a dream and once Oisin asked him, the colt quickened and set sail for home. Only Chaldean could go with him but this move quickly had him off the bridle too. Unfortunately Hi Royal hung left but did still hold the advantage as the leading pair pulled away.

Moving into the final furlong the field had been completely split apart and it looked as though the race was between the front two. Hi Royal surrendered his lead when he once again hung left, this time more severely. Chaldean inched the lead and kicked on. Once Oisin got his mount balanced he kept on again to chase home the winner and hold on to his runner up spot.

You cannot be anything than proud of Hi Royal and whilst many might claim it was a fluke, there was no surprise to connections., Hi Royal has always been a smart horse and whilst he didn’t the profile to do what he did, he has always shaped like a class horse. At the start of the season Kevin felt that Hi Royal could stay 10f so his next step will be discussed with connections. He holds entries in the Dante, Irish Guineas and the Prix Du Jockey Club. Whatever is decided, Hi Royal is a very exciting colt and the future looks very bright.


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2 From 2 For The Cookstown Cafu

Starting the season with 2 wins from his first 2 runs, The Cookstown Cafu has proven he is a horse on the up. Kicking off the season with a 1/2 length victory, The Cookstown Cafu matched that when he won again, taking the 1m Inclusive, Supportive Training At The NHC Handicap at Pontefract.

It was the Yorkshire track where he had got off the mark last year. Coming off a wind op, The Cookstown Cafu shed his maiden over C&D. This was followed up by a good runner up effort and had connections looking forward to potentially bigger things in 2023. The 4yo made the perfect return to action when making all over 7f despite still having some race rust to shake off.

Raised 2lb by the handicapper, The Cookstown Cafu stepped up in grade and trip for the race at Pontefract. Despite winning last time out, The Cookstown Cafu would not go off favourite in the 7 runner race. Rowan Scott has struck up a good relationship with the gelding and retained the ride.

Drawn outside in stall 7 there was always going to be one thought for Rowan. Thankfully The Cookstown Cafu was well away which allowed them to quickly head to the front and track over to the rail. Taking control of the race, Rowan was allowed to dictate and set a nice, even gallop.

Although the tempo was fair, The Cookstown Cafu was pressed all the time down the back straight. Galloping through the first half of the race they moved past the 4f and started to hit rising ground before swinging left handed around bend. Leaving the 3f pole behind, Rowan loosened the reins and allowed his mount to stride on. This move had the field at it as they tried to play catch up.

Entering the straight Rowan gave him a squeeze to get The Cookstown Cafu lengthening. Using his giant stride, the gelding began to quicken and goo through the gears. Whilst his rivals just maintained the gap, they were hard at it and The Cookstown Cafu had yet to find top gear. Once he moved into the final furlong the afterburners kick in and the race was over. Finding more in front, The Cookstown Cafu strode away from his rivals, comfortably securing a 1 3/4 length win.

The Cookstown Cafu has thrived since the backend of last season and there could be much more to come. Knowing the family well, Kevin always knew The Cookstown Cafu would do better with time and racing. Where he could end up is anyone’s guess at this stage but he has won with plenty in hand. Named after Leeds United stalwart Stuart Dallas, his Leeds mad owners would love nothing more than another Yorkshire win. It could be that the Kavesmire is the next stop on the journey with the Dante meeting around the corner.

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Magical Spirit Back To His Best

Consistency may not be his strength but Magical Spirit is one of those who will put in some fine efforts throughout his career. With an Ayr Silver Cup to his name and a career high mark of 104, he has shown a high level of form. Magical Spirit won for the second time at Doncaster when taking the 6f Follow @attheraces On Twitter Handicap.

Older horses tend to train themselves at times. They seem to come to form at certain times of the year or at a specific track. Magical Spirit enjoys softer going and will always run himself into form. The burly 7yo ran well on the opening weekend where he ran well for a long way before tiring. He then took a big step forward last time out and showed he would be winning again before too long.

Magical Spirit has some top form at Doncaster and loves the straight, galloping style tracks. With the spring weather yet to dry up, the soft conditions were ideal. Tom Eaves took the ride as they  took on 7 rivals. Cheek-pieces were re-fitted for the first time this season.

Jumping enthusiastically, Magical Spirit was prominent from the off and sat just off the leader through the early stages. Tracking the pace he was positioned on the far side of the group. With the mud flying the field raced down the centre of the track. Despite the conditions, it was a fair tempo being set in front.

Little separated first to last which meant there was no change in the order through the first half of the race. When the pace increased, heading towards the final couple of furlongs, the race began to quickly develop. Those on the front end started to pour on the pressure and it was the leader and Magical Spirit who travelled the strongest.

There was a trio up front who started to separate themselves from the rest. Tom had yet to move as his mount continued to gallop powerfully. As Magical Spirit drew up alongside the leader, with 1 1/2f to run, it was time to put the race to bed. Tom got into his drive and kicked on to take the lead. Entering the final furlong he had the two rivals either side of him beaten. There would be one last challenger though, with the favourite charging home after being outpaced. Despite this late flourish, there was no stopping Magical Spirit. Continuing to find more in front, the chestnut galloped through the line and secured a 1/2 length victory.

Magical Spirit had been taking steps forward on both runs this season and it was great to see him continue that progression. He showed real enthusiasm throughout the race and was always doing enough when challenged late on. The handicapper will pop a few pounds back on now but Magical Spirit will be aimed for the big sprint handicaps again this season. There is plenty of life left in the 7yo and it would be no surprise to see him bag another one this season.

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Seargent Wilko Gets The Juveniles Up And Running

The juvenile division has always been one where Kevin has done very well with. At the start of the year they allow connectiosn to dream of what might be, with a blank slate to build their career upon. Seargent Wilko was the yards first 2yo runner of the season and he became the first winner as he took the 5f Download The Vickers.Bet App EBF Maiden Stakes at Thirsk.

Sired by Bungleinthejungle, Seargent Wilko had commanded €50,000 from the Goffs Orby sales. Strong and powerful looking yearling, he looked just the type that Kevin does well with and a proper 2yo type. It doesn’t always work out that way but thankfully his pre-season went well, there were no hold ups and Seargent Wilko came to hand very early.

Musselburgh has one of the earliest 2yo races and it is a race where Kevin has had plenty of runners in recent years. Seargent Wilko made a cracking debut, travelling powerfully throughout the race before kicking clear with ease. Unfortunately he just got a little lonely out in front, allowing his rival a chance to rally and nab him on the line. Despite not coming away with the win, Seargent Wilko was arguably the one to take out of the race with his professional performance.

Just 14 days later Seargent Wilko was back out and some early 2yo form woful be put to the test. Lining up at Thirsk against 7 rivals, the race would revolve around two with experience. Seargent Wilko and Valero had both finished second on debut and they headed the market. Tom Eaves had taken the ride on debut and maintained the partnership.

Both the market rivals had raced on slower ground but it was the favourite who had tasted really testing conditions. Recent weather had turned the ground soft and ensured it would be a test for the juveniles. Once again Seargent Wilko was well away and Tom allowed him to get into his stride, ending at the front of the field. Racing down the centre, the other 6 runners filtered in behind Seargent Wilko.

Having shown plenty of speed on debut, Seargent Wilko put this to good use here as he travelled well on the front. By halfway the favourite spotted danger and moved up to second place to press Wilko, as the pair began to put pressure on the rest. With well over half the race to run it began to look like a 2 horse shootout at this point.

The first to crack was the favourite who came under a drive as Tom remained motionless inside the 2f marker. Seargent Wilko continued to travel well and looked full of running as they were galloping down to the final furlong. With his rival continuing to find for pressure, Tom loosened the reins and asked Wilko to go and win his race. You could see that he wasn’t 100% at home on the ground as the response wasn’t immediate but this time he knew far more about the job at hand. He battled away and began to find more as the two pulled clear of the rest. As the lead closed and Seargent Wilko was pressed hard, its was here that he began to really hit top gear. With 100 yards to run, Wilko changed leads and started to pull away again. As he hit the line, Seargent Wilko earned his first career win by 3/4 length and continue his early progression.

It was clear from his debut that Seargent Wilko had plenty of ability and he showed that once again. The manner in which he travels in his races is impressive and this time he had the pressure applied from quite a way out. The favourite ensured he had a stern test, which Wilko stood up to and proved a very tough competitor. It was pretty clear that he wasn’t completely happy on the ground and the team cannot wait to see him on better going. His action and racing style suggests he should be better on nice ground and he is an exciting juvenile for the early season targets.

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First Double Of The Season

Getting the ball rolling early is always important when the new season begins and the runners so far have shown a good level of form. The Cookstown Cafu and Camacho Star took control in their respective races to gain wins in some tough conditions.

The Cookstown Cafu hails from a family which Kevin knows well and has also had plenty of success with. The progeny have all got better with racing and time which is something that The Cookstown Cafu seemed to following. Having become a little frustrating through last year, a small wind op allowed the gelding to finally reach his potential. Rounding off the season with a win and runner up finish, The Cookstown Cafu finally looked like he could be hitting the levels that he had threatened to do.

First runs of the year are always full of questions and with the ground conditions testing, fitness was going to be thoroughly tested. The Cookstown Cafu looked like the type who could improve again this season, so starting off a mark of 77 felt as though he had room to work with. Rowan Scott had partnered the 4yo on his final start last year and retained the ride in 2023.

Leaving the stalls, Rowan allowed The Cookstown Cafu to go on, using his stride to press the lead. With the sport ground, the field vied for the far side rail and from his draw The Cookstown Cafu could take the lead and the rail. Despite the ground, the gallop was fairly strong which would ensure a good test one the 7f trip.

The field got racing a long way from home and passing halfway plenty of the runners were under pressure. Rowan too had get lower in his saddle as he wound up his mount. This wasn’t the pressure but rather trying to get The Cookstown Cafu rolling underneath him, knowing full well he would see out the 7f strongly. The pair maintained their sit at the front of the field but a couple of their rivals were stalking them menacingly.

Despite coming off the bridle earlier, it was The Cookstown Cafu who was looking strongest as they moved into the final couple of furlongs. Suddenly the rivals who had travelled strongly, came under a drive also. Still holding firm in front, The Cookstown Cafu passed the 1f marker and hit top gear. Now he pulled away to gain a 1 1/2 length advantage as Rowan kept him up to his work. This move proved to be the winning point as the final 100 yards would see his rival close the gap. Striding out to the line, The Cookstown Cafu gained his second career win by 1/2 length.

It was great to see The Cookstown Cafu back in action with a win. He has always shown plenty of promise and it looks as though now he is beginning to reach it. He won well and will certainly come on for the run so this performance can be upgraded. The handicapper will be adjusting him and could well lumber a good few pounds to his current mark. Hopefully the gelding can continue his progression and may well have some bigger targets throughout the season.

As racing continued the rain carried on falling and it was really playing into mud lovers hands. Camacho Star had been knocking on the door of late and with his sire’s progeny usually enjoying easier going, it was an interesting prospect of gaining his first win. Although he had only tried the 1m trip once before, Tom Eaves was going to be positive from the off.

The 3yo had race fitness under his belt, as well as good form with a strong runner up finish. Having seen the runners head to the far side all day, Tom was clearly looking to do the same from the off. It would take a little longer with the stalls positioned on the stands side but the 8 runners would soon move over. Camacho Star was allowed to stride on and set the fractions in front.

Again, despite the tough conditions, the pace was fairly strong and now on the far side, the field moved through the first half of the race. It was early in the race but Camacho Star looked to be completely at home on the ground and was striding on. Tom was looking to be positive throughout and he began to turn the screw moving towards the 3f marker. Allowing his mount to move upon through the gears, the pair started to stretch the field. This began to find a few of their rivals out as the tempo increased.

Tom waited, just nudging his mount along as they moved into the final couple of furlongs. As his rivals were under the pump, Camacho Star continued to take Tom along and they started to open up a clear advantage. With a couple of lengths begin, Tom kicked on from the 1f marker. Camacho Star continued to find for him but the favourite was rallying in second. Keeping him up to his work, Tom ensured that Camacho Star was doing enough. The gelding was always holding his rival and just looked to be getting a little lonely in front. The margin was cut but was still a clear 3/4 length as they crossed the line.

Camacho Star deserved to gain a first career win and did it the hard way. He showed a very willing attitude to make all and repel his rivals. The ground proved to be no issue and it may be that easier going suits the 3yo. He got a little lonely out in front so this could be just the spring board to better things. Now he has got his head in front, hopefully Camacho Star can progress from here and add more wins to his tally.

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