Elvenia Makes Magical Debut

It is the time of year where we have seen plenty of nice 2yr olds already but with Royal Ascot around the corner, the race is on to unleash juvenile stars. Kevin has not had his usual number of juvenile runners but he potentially unveiled a smart filly at Newcastle. Elvenia has the pedigree and she proved she has the ability to match when making a winning debut in the 5f Max Recycling And The EBF Fillies’ Novice Stakes.

Purchased from Tattersalls Book 1, Elvenia is the first foal of a smart sprinting Dam. Bred by Yeomanstown stud, who stand Dark Angel, Elvenia ticked every box to tempt Kevin into signing for her at 225,000gns. Strong and with an athletic stride, it was interesting to find out when and at what trip the filly would be making her debut.

Having shown a good attitude to her work, Elvenia thrived in the last few weeks, especially with some warmer weather. Kevin had plenty of options for the filly but after impressing in her last piece of work, he plumped for the 5f contest. It would only attract 5 runners but the select field looked to be full of potential.  Daytona Lady, had a win to her name but price tags suggested the others could be quite nice also.

Andrea Atzeni was in the saddle for his boss and with his filly jumping well, he quickly sought out the only winner in the field. With the stalls in the centre of the track, Daytona Lady aimed for the stands side rail, quickly followed by Elvenia. The five strong field all edged over to the rail through the first furlong as they settled down into their stride. It was a fair pace up front and Elvenia travelled smoothly on her debut.

Utilising experience, the leader had the rail and was aiming to burn off her rivals. Elvenia travelled well to halfway but it was her that the race just heated up and caught her for a few strides. The leader was looking to quicken up whilst her rivals manoeuvred to lay down a challenge. As the field moved towards the 2f marker they were spread out with just over a length separating the five runners.

Andrea just had to get lower in the saddle as Elvenia needed a little help with the race heating up. Whilst the leader had kicked for home, those in behind were trying to close the gap. For a few strides, Elvenia just had to find her feet, changing her lead whilst doing so. Andrea was educating the filly and she proved a quick learner as she began to get balanced underneath the Italian.

Heading into the final furlong the long time leader still held sway. Elvenia now began to gain some momentum and pulled away from the others to give chase. Despite needing a little nursing, the filly hadn’t lost much ground and quickly drew up to the leader. Andrea was proving a great teacher as he kept switching his hands and urged his filly forward. Pulling up alongside the leader 1/2f from home, Elvenia now put her foot down and took the lead. The final 100 yards was her best and Elvenia was strong to the line, winning by a neck which would have surely grown if they went any further.

It was fantastic to see Elvenia make a winning debut and not only did she show ability but a great attitude. She travelled well but you could see it was a new experience when the pace quickened at half way. The filly responded to her rider at this stage and at a point where she could have weakened away she learnt and gathered momentum. With the final 1/2 furlong being the strongest it does suggest that she will get further in time but Elvenia does not lack the speed so it will be interesting to see what is in line next. Obviously everyone always asks about the Royal meeting anytime you have a juvenile winner at this stage of the year. Kevin will do what is right for the filly and whether that includes Ascot will be a discussion to have with Owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum. Whatever is decided, Elvenia looks a lovely prospect with an attitude to match.


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Manaslu Dominates

Keeping it simple can be easier said than done, especially when you have a field of inexperienced horses. When you have the horse underneath you able to dominate then it certainly makes the job an easier task. Manaslu shed his maiden tag at the third attempt at Carlisle, making all in the 7f Durdar Maiden Stakes.

The son of Starspangledbanner had made a low key debut on the all-weather in the winter but shaped with promise. Unfortunately his first intended run of the flat season did not go to plan when he acted up in the stalls. This held his season up by a few weeks but he eventually ran at Hamilton one the extended mile. Travelling well, the trip seemed to have just tested his stamina too much, weakening late on after moving well into contention.

There wouldn’t be a long wait to turn Manaslu out again as he headed north once again. Dropping back in trip, the gelding would line up against 11 rivals but the race shaped up as a match. With newcomers in the field and little form shown by those that had run, Manaslu was up against Topomania who had finished second on debut. The betting fluctuated between the pair, with the rest at double and triple figure prices.

Sunshine throughout recent weeks had given way to a deluge of rain during the day, so much so that the ground changed from quick to soft ground. Kevin didn’t worry about this and wanted to be positive from the off. Manaslu was away quickly and straight into stride. Kevin took control of the race and set a strong gallop. This would be the last time the pair would see another rival.

The story of the race revolved around Manaslu as he poured it on throughout the race. Allowed to free wheel from the get go, the 3yo was going a good gallop. Out in front meant that he had clear daylight and removed the risk of being stuck behind any inexperienced rivals. Manaslu took the right handed bend and was allowed to drift over towards the stands side, a usual trait at the track when the going goes soft.

Passing halfway Kevin loosened his reins and Manaslu kicked on. Suddenly the lead opened up and the field were extended. Manaslu held a clear advantage and looked to have slipped his rivals, with market rival Topomania the closest pursuer. Moving past the 2f Kevin got to work on Manaslu, keeping him up to his work but more importantly educating the gelding.

In the final 1 1/2f the lead did diminish as the favourite gave chase but Manaslu was never in danger. Kevin made sure his mount never stopped working and there was plenty in the tank for any challenge that might have come. Once the gap closed, Manaslu found another gear and went again, stretching the lead back out to 2 1/4 lengths at the line.

Dominating the contest from start to finish, Manaslu was impressive on his third run and Kevin did exactly the right thing. It is hard to do your own donkey work but by taking the lead, many of the variables were taken out of the equation. Although the lead diminished at the end, Manaslu have more to give if required. He was getting a bit lonely out in front and will be better with a stronger race, where he may get a lead. The handicapper will now assess the 3yo and this will dictate where he goes next. Manaslu is a nice prospect and will continue to get better with racing.

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What A Way For Fonteyn To Break Her Maiden

Shedding a maiden tag is always an important milestone but it can come in many different ways. One of the most impressive is when that comes in pattern company, either starting out or making the step up in grade to gain a first win. Fonteyn was yet to win but she was certainly not an unexpected victor when she took the 1m Oaks Farm Stables Fillies’ Stakes (Listed) at York.

The daughter of Farhh comes from a classy family, owned and bred by Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum. She always looked like a filly that would appreciate a bit of time but she did show enough as a juvenile to hit the track late last season. Two runs produced placed efforts with clear progression and Fonteyn certainly looked a nice prospect moving forward to her 3yo career.

Having wintered well, Fonteyn came to hand early on which meant she could make her return at Newmarket’s Craven meeting. After running a little bit fresh, she was narrowly beaten by a subsequent listed placed filly. With the pair pulling over 8 lengths clear, the first two looked highly promising for the year ahead.

It was obvious that Fonteyn was a winning waiting to happen, but after discussions the plan was made to step her up in grade. If she ran to form then the listed grade should not be an issue and also there was no question that she could comfortably take a maiden or novice race. Now she would face 11 rivals with half of them having a higher rating but Fonteyn was one of the least exposed in the field and likely improver. This was the same story with the favourite and it would become the story of the race.

Andrea Atzeni was in the saddle for his boss and had the same issue as last time out through the early stages. With the field settling down, Fonteyn took a keen hold as they looked to settle in behind the leaders. Thankfully this didn’t last for too long and the sharp pace allowed her to settle around fifth position. They were not hanging about and raced quickly through the first furlong which took them into the bend.

York is renowned for being fair and the long home straight gives horses plenty of time to find their position to challenge. The field headed for home and entered the second half of the race with plenty separating first to last. Fonteyn had tracked the leaders throughout and had plenty of options as the leader edged towards the centre of the track. The frantic gallop was certainly testing the field and moving inside the 3f pole the back markers were out of the contest.

Andrea was winding his filly up a long way from home but Fonteyn was lengthening all the time and getting into her stride. Although coming under pressure, Fonteyn was not getting the full drive as she gained momentum. The leader had really set a strong gallop and at the 2f pole, she paid for it. Now looking like a sitting duck, Fonteyn was coming through to reel her in.

The race had revolved around the well touted favourite who began to storm down the outside. Fonteyn held the lead heading into the final furlong but was joined by Grand Dame. Neck and neck the fillies matched each with every stride. Andrea now asked for everything and he got it. Fonteyn was very willing and was proving too strong for the favourite. Although she couldn’t get rid of her, she did have a narrow lead and that would prove enough. Seeing out every yard, Fonteyn grabbed pattern success with a brave performance and gained her first career win.

It was a fantastic result all round and Fonteyn showed a great attitude. There is still plenty of learning to do from her which shows that there could be a lot more to come. She was keen early but that didn’t cost her late on, although it is a trait which we would like to get out of her. It could be that a better race may be ideal for this and Fonteyn will be taking that step up in grade. She has plenty of pace but sees the trip out well so looks easy to position within a race. The obvious calls were for the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot but she currently is not in the race. Whether that is the next step will be discussed but Group level will certainly be it. Fonteyn is a lovely prospect and her ability has barely scratched the surface.

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Moor Thunders Home For First Win

Juveniles are one of the most exciting aspects of racing. You begin with a blank slate and the dreams are alive with the 2yr olds possible of anything. It is a division where Kevin has excelled in but this year the team has had to wait for the first winner of the season. If there was any tracks to do it at then you could choose no better than York and Thunder Moor bolted up in the 5f British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes.

Bronte Collection is a brand new syndicate set up at the start of this year and early on it looked as though they could have a proper 2yr old on their hands. The son of Dandy Man had shown all the right signs at home in his work and had the blistering pace to start over 5f. Coming to hand early he was sent up to Musselburgh to make his debut. Having taken everything in his stride up to that point, Thunder Moor misbehaved once going down and at the start. It was a surprise to see but clear that he could never show his true colours, which resulted in a weak effort. Obviously the occasion had got to him but the ability was there so Kevin went straight back to the entry book and immediately looked towards the Dante meeting at York.

Kevin’s record at York is fantastic with 2yr olds, but then again you have to send a good one due to the quality of racing. Everyone was confident of Thunder Moor’s ability but it was going to be interesting as to how he would handle the occasion. After getting a little worked up there were measures taking to keep the lid on and Danny Tudhope was quickly on board the colt, taking him straight down to the start. It wasn’t the perfect start but looked as though the measures had kept things a lot calmer.

You want the explosion and exertions coming from the stalls and Thunder Moor did just that. A flying start saw the chestnut grab the lead, move over and take the rail for good measure. Whether his 8 rivals could lay up or not, Thunder Moor led them a merry dance, showing natural speed throughout. Danny didn’t fight with his mount and allowed the colt to stride on. Despite his blistering pace, Thunder Moor was doing everything relatively easily and wasn’t trying to take his jockey on.

By halfway Thunder Moor had the rest of them at it and the pace was beginning to show on a few of his rivals. Allowed to continue striding on, Thunder Moor now stretched them once more and began to turn the screw. Suddenly the advantage grew and the race was within the leader’s grasp. Between the 2f and 1f marker Thunder Moor quickened up and darted clear. Opening up a distinct advantage, there was nothing that could go with him and now Danny just wanted to keep him up to his work. First time out the race had almost ended by this stage so education was key. Grabbing a tighter hold on the reins and a couple of flicks, Danny gave Thunder Moor a message to stay straight and keep striding out. The colt responded by pouring it on and his final furlong was close to a victory lap. The winner was clear so it was who would be chasing him home. Thunder Moor powered to the line to win by an impressive 2 1/2 lengths.

First time out proved to be a mis step and this performance was a true show of his ability. Thunder Moor showed blistering speed but then quickened up when asked. In truth the race was won by halfway and it is clear that Thunder Moor is above average. Obviously at this time of year everyone’s eyes turn to Royal Ascot but it is far too early to say whether that is the correct call. If the colt turned up at the Royal meeting then he would certainly head there with a big chance but Kevin will do right by him first. It would seem that a step up in grade could be on the cards and there are a few listed and conditions races which lead up to Royal Ascot.

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Winning Return For Million Thanks

Coming into the new season there was a group of unexposed 3yr olds who had shown plenty of promise. Million Thanks was at the head of that group having our in a couple of fine efforts at 2. Returning at Musselburgh, Million Thanks took his first career win in the 1m Bet At racing.tv Maiden Stakes.

Owner and breeder, Mr Jaber Abdullah has been synonymous with quality, seeing his colours carried to victories in some of racing’s top level contests. Alongside this he has been able to develop a fantastic band of broodmares, leading to a successful breeding operation. Million Thanks is a product of that system, out of an unraced dam who is a half sister to a Group 1 performer. Million Thanks has the pedigree and he certainly has the physique to match.

Two placed efforts last year had signalled that Million Thanks had plenty of ability. Although running well there was a feeling that there might be something just preventing him from really hitting his full potential. This led to a small wind op at the turn of the year which should allow the 3yr old to showcase his full ability.

Lining up over a mile, Million Thanks had 9 rivals for his return. HIs even money price showed that he was the one to beat, although it wouldn’t be straight forward. Kevin Stott was booked for the ride and gave the chestnut a confident ride throughout.

Settled towards the rear, Million Thanks tracked over to race closer to the rail. Kevin had him in a very relaxed rhythm as he slotted in behind a wall of horses. The early pace was fair but nothing too strenuous, as his main market rival took the field along. Galloping down the back straight, the field went through the first couple of furlongs before turning into the right handed home bend.

The long striding Million Thanks was going too well around the bend that he closed up on the heels of his rival. Kevin just had to angle him out as they bared down on the home straight. Keeping him in rhythm, and safe from clipping heels, Million Thanks would be coming down towards the centre of the track. As they straightened up the field concertinaed towards the far side rail and Kevin continued to wait patiently in behind.

Angling out for a run around 2 1/2f out, Million Thanks made smooth headway. Swinging past rivals he quickly moved up towards the leader, with just this duo still on the bridle. Kevin cajoled his mount, trying to get the colt to lengthen. Although he edged right, Million Thanks still looked full of running as they moved between the 2f and 1f pole. The leader was finding in front and with Million Thanks running a little green still, plus trying to hit top gear, Kevin would just need to get a little busier in the saddle. His rival was proving very game in front and combined with Million Thanks taking his time, it was looking as though there would be a real tussle towards the line. Kevin never had to get serious but he certainly had to garb hold of his mount to educate. It seemed to take an age but Million Thanks finally managed to get on top in the dying strides to grab a neck victory.

The winning margin might not have been that impressive but there is plenty to take away from this performance. He took plenty of time to find his feet but that is understandable with his lovely, big stride. Kevin had to educate the colt and he will certainly come on for that run. Now he has three runs under his belt, Million Thanks will receive a handicap mark so it will be interesting to see how he is assessed. There is plenty to look forward to and it does feel as though he could get a little further within time.

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Poignant Success For Forza Orta

Racing is a wonderful sport to meet people and there are many owners who have been with Kevin for years. There are some winners that just mean a little bit more and Forza Orta taking the 1m5f Patersons Of Greenoakhill Buttonhook Handicap at Hamilton was one of those wins.

Martin Wainwright began as an owner with Kevin over two decades and through that time his love of racing saw him build up a breeding operation near Wetherby. Success on the course and in the sales ring, Highbank Stud has made a name in the racing and breeding world. Unfortunately Martin sadly passed away at the end of last year but his passion has been passed on and Highbank Stud continues in the hands or Tom an Iris Wainwright. Forza Orta was the first winner since and his poignant success was wonderful to see.

The son of Fastnet Rock was always going to be a project and he didn’t hit the track until 3 yrs old. Last year he showed plenty of promise, finishing runner up on his first four starts before gaining a much deserved win at Hamilton. It was clear he needed a trip and having returned to Thirsk with a good third placed effort, Forza Orta would tackle 1m5f for the first time back at the scene of his sole win.

Unfortunately Shane Gray couldn’t make the ride so Rowan Scott was back in the saddle, having ridden him last time out. Settling into fourth place from the off, Forza Orta had a nice pitch as the field charged past the stands, running the straight course in reverse. Chasing the leaders, they headed up to the loop of Hamilton. Entering it they went left handed before switching over to right to swing around.

Forza Orta had the leaders in his sights throughout the contest but swinging around the top of the loop he just had to be nudged along. He never lost any ground but for a moment it was a little unsettling. Coming back down the home straight, Rowan angled his mount out for a clear view and it was here that Forza Orta began to come on strong. At the half mile point Forza Orta had moved up to within 1/2 length as he cruised into contention.

In running backers may well have been smashing the button when Forza Orta joined the long time leader, swinging under Rowan. Over the final 3f there were two major factors. The leader proved very game and Forza Orta took quite a while to really top gear. It was Rowan who went for his mount first and the response was not immediate. Lengthening and lengthening, the giant stride of Forza Orta needed plenty of ground to warm up. Locked into a battle the two leaders were neck and neck. Rowan could lean on his experience of the gelding and knew he would stay so continued to drive. Forza Orta took his time but edged his nose to the front 1/2 out and stayed well up the hill. He eventually ran out a 3/4 length winner.

Forza Orta looks a really nice stayer in the making and again he required every yard of this new trip. He certainly isn’t a push button horse and requires time to lengthen but he is very progressive. How far will be his optimum is up for debate and it does seem as though another furlong could be in order next time out. He isn’t the finished article yet and Forza Orta could well be a cup horse in the making.

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Rathbone Back To His Best

With so much racing racing on there were options and decisions to be made. It can be the difference between winning and losing but the correct call was made. Rathbone was back to winning ways as he made all in the 6f Cazoo Handicap at Doncaster.

Two wins and a couple of big placed efforts saw Rathbone shoot up to 96 in the handicap. Unfortunately he couldn’t maintain the upward trend and has steadily been coming back down. Two runs this season looked to have him close to winning again but a no show at Redcar proved to be not only disappointing but quite a head scratcher.

With entries in at Newmarket and Doncaster, the latter was chosen with very few declarations being made. The small field of six would diminish even further with two non-runners, meaning only four would line up on the day. Tom Eaves took the ride and Rathbone would be donning cheek-pieces to try and spark him back to form.

Tactically Tom took the race by the scruff of the neck and bounced Rathbone to lead immediately. With nothing wanting to challenge him, Rathbone led the field setting comfortable fractions. The trio of rivals tucked in behind to race in single file. This would be the story of the race as very little would change.

Rathbone was showing that he was on song and travelled smoothly to halfway. Having been left alone in front, Tom now begun to loosen the reins, ready to kick. It was baring down on the 2f marker where the pace increased as Rathbone set sail for home. Suddenly he opened up a clear advantage and caught his rivals on the hop. As the rest played catch up, Rathbone was lengthening and was in full flow.

Tom got serious moving into the final furlong and the clear lead was maintained. He had made his move and now it was about could he see it out. Old rival, Comanche Falls, was closing as he took second to give chase. Rathbone was proving very game in front and responded tall of Tom’s urgings. The lead was shortening as Rathbone neared the finish, the exertions were starting to tell. All the good work he had done between the 3f and 2f poles were showing and Rathbone ran out a 1/2 length winner.

When he is good, he is very good but sometimes you are not sure which Rathbone will turn up. He is a horse very capable of being involved in the major sprint handicaps but consistency has always been his downfall. Tom got the tactics spot on and it might just be that changing things up constantly helps Rathbone run to his best. There will be plenty more days with him and hopefully Rathbone can hit higher heights this season.

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Anadora Toughs It Out For Old Allies

Winning debutante and then stepped up in class, it is not something that Kevin takes lightly. Sometimes it doesn’t work out but it is a move that Kevin does not take lightly and will only do so if he feels they are good enough. Anadora was the yard’s first 2yr old winner last season and she won again but this time on her seasonal debut when battling for the 6f bet365 Handicap at Newmarket.

Royal Ascot, York, Goodwood, Anadora went to all the big meetings last year. Her record of just the one win may have looked a shade disappointing from the outside but she ran with credit in some huge races. Towards the end of the season there was a suspicion that maybe she had grown. Anadora had proven to be an early juvenile and did maintain her form through the season but just wasn’t quite finishing her races of as before. There was a suspicion that she may well have a bit of strengthening up to do and as a 3yr old she could be better.

Over the winter the filly really filled out and her homework proved that she certainly had matured. Trip wise Anadora had shaped as though 6f would suit but last year it seemed as though she could never quite see it out. Coming back a different model all together, confidence was far higher now and Kevin targeted the 3yr old handicap at Newmarket’s Craven meeting.

Old ally Neil Callan was booked for the ride and if there is one place where he has proven lethal in the past, it is at racing’s HQ. Sent off the outsider at 25/1 showed the competitiveness of the race but Anadora was quickly out from the gates. Allowed to hit her stride she moved forward and soon pressed the leaders who were setting a good early gallop. As the race settled down the field raced up the centre of the track but were quite spread out.

Anadora was always covering the leader throughout the first half of the race which kept the tempo quite high. Passing halfway the race began to unfold, a long way from home when you have the uphill finish to contend with. Callan began to wind the filly up as they galloped into the famous dip, gaining momentum for when they hit the rising ground. Anadora edged her nose to the lead passing the bushes but did just move left as Neil became a little more animated in the saddle.

The strong gallop had sorted the field out quite quickly with those forcing the issue fading. Anadora held a narrow lead and was the only one still fighting it out but she did look as though she was a bit of a sitting duck. Hitting the bottom of the dip they raced into the final furlong and Anadora lost her lead. She quickly changed legs and Neil now asked for everything. Well the lead change lasted a matter of strides with Anadora quickening up and forcing her way to the front again.

Spread across the track, there was a three way tussle deep inside the final furlong. Anadora had laid down her marker and held the advantage, something she was not willing to give up. Along the rail she could see her nearest challenger but over the other side of the track she had to wary of a fast finisher. Neil asked for everything and he got that in spades with Anadora, head to ground, eating up the turf and battling away. The 6f was no issue now and she gamely hit the line well, securing a second career win by 1/2 length.

Off a mark of 85, Anadora was once again winning on her first start of the season and this may well be something that Kevin keeps in mind. There is potential that the filly may appreciate a little bit of time in between races so a pre planned programme will be in order. Obviously the handicapper will have his say about this too and whatever he decides with her handicap mark may steer her in a certain way. Kevin always like the filly and there will be some hope for connections that she may well pick up black type. With an attitude like this Anadora can only go from strength to strength and really fulfil her potential.

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Electric Turn Of Foot Provides Sprinting Double

This is the time of year where most horses will be returning to the track following their winter breaks and pre-seasons. Along with this it is a time of excitement, with some horses seeking improvement or fulfilling their potential. Ballet Steps and Boonie had differing juvenile seasons but they couldn’t have been more impressive when both winning at Nottingham.

Ballet Steps had made the perfect start to her racing career when she was a 2yr old debutante winner. An immediate step up in grade may have just been a little too soon but with only 3 runs under her belt, this season could see the unexposed filly improve through the ranks. Again Ballet Steps proved too good on her first run of the year when she bolted up in the 5f Every Race Live On Racing TV Handicap.

Having found listed company a little too hot on just her second start, Ballet Steps ran once more and earned a handicap mark. An initial mark of 73 seemed quite lenient but the winter months would give her time to grow and strengthen. Having done well for the break, Ballet Steps came to hand early and Kevin aimed to her out early on in the turf season.

The seven runners all brought a different profile and Ballet Steps was the one in the field who was most open to improvement. That said she didn’t have the benefit of a recent run so the contest looked fairly open. Danny Tudhope took the ride for his retained ownership.

Jumping well, Ballet Steps was able to take a lad through the early stages, tracking a strong pace. Danny had the filly travelling sweetly in his hands and she matched the leader’s pace with ease. The seven runners congregated towards the centre of the track and little separated first to last.

Passing halfway, Ballet Steps began to make a little headway as Danny just switched her left, toward the far side. With daylight the filly crept into contention but was doing so  comfortably. As Ballet Steps moved forward her rivals came under pressure and suddenly Danny had to make a decision. He gave the filly a squeeze but probably didn’t quite think the reposes would be what he got. Quickening up down the far side, Ballet Steps passed her rivals and snatched the lead away in strides. The race was blown apart at this stage but Danny was keen to get a good run into the filly, especially with it being her first run. Getting lower in the saddle he pushed his mount along and the filly continued to respond. Moving into the final furlong the race was over as the lead grew and grew. It was a victory lap for the filly as she blew her rivals away by 5 lengths.

This performance could not have been any more impressive and there could be more to come from Ballet Steps. She travelled particularly well but then quickened and put the race to bed within a matter of strides. Obviously a performance like this will get the attention of the handicapper but it would be hard to know how much would have stopped her on this display. Whatever the revised mark is will decide where she can go next but Ballet Steps has certainly proven to be a nice prospect for the year ahead.

Picture – @Steven_Cargill

One of the 3 yr olds who looked set for a big 2022 was Boonie, having had a decent juvenile season he was aiming even higher this year. Having participated at some of the top meetings, showcasing plenty of ability, Boonie was hopefully going to go even better than that and be a fixture at those big days. He couldn’t have got off to a better start when he took the 5f Bet At racingtv.com Conditions Stakes.

Boonie had built a reputation within the yard from as early as his first piece of work, showing natural speed. The powerful, burly colt was expected to go on to have a smart 2yr old season and he managed to back it up. Winning impressively on debut, Boonie would then step up in class to pattern company. Finishing third in the listed Windsor Castle and again in the Gr 3 Molecomb Stakes, he proved that he was well worth his place at that level. Unfortunately the season petered out with a disappointing run but that was at the end of a long season so hopes were far from dashed for the colt.

Winter months are very intriguing times, non more so than with juveniles moving into their 3yr old season. These youngsters can turn inside out, changing physically with the break. Boonie didn’t grow but he certainly filled out into his frame, developing into the typically powerful looking sprinter. When his work proved to be as good as ever, it was clear that plans would need to be made with the 3yr old sprint program in mind. Thankfully this division now has a good program so connections could plot races for Boonie. The conditions event at Nottingham was the perfect starting point for the colt.

Small but competitive would describe the seven runner field. Most came into the contest with a similar profile to Boonie and it was shown in the open market. Eventually Boonie would take joint favouritism as Kevin Stott took the leg up. Having not seen the track for 228 days, Kevin was taxed with ensuring Boonie settled early doors. The colt jumped well but was not forced and took a position at the rear of the field. Kevin had wanted to take a lead which worked out perfectly as a strong pace was set up front.

There were a couple of strides where Boonie proved quite enthusiastic but he quickly realised what Stott was asking. With many of his rivals taking each other on at the head of affairs, Boonie left well alone and. tracked through the first half of the race. The field blasted past halfway in the blink of an eye and were quickly into the business end.

If anyone had looked away they would have missed the first half of the race but the field go racing as they bared down on the 2f marker. Those who had forced the pace were under a drive but it was the two joint favourites who suddenly came into view. On either side of the group, they moved through dangerously with both travelling well. Kevin gave his mount a squeeze and Boonie swept down the near side, passing his rivals with a brisk turn of foot. This move forced his market rival’s hand and thee two would have the final furlong to battle it out.

Momentum was with Boonie who held a neck advantage moving past the 1f marker. As the lead grew the colt just began to edge over to the far rail which allowed his challenger to close the gap. This glimmer of hope only lasted a split second. Once Boonie caught a glimpse of his rival sneaking up the inner, he found a second wind, quickly opening up clear advantage. Striding out he hit the line powerfully to earn a decisive 3/4 length win.

Everything went to plan and Boonie could not have done anymore on his seasonal return. Kevin had wanted to take a lead, something which he hadn’t done last year. The way Boonie settled was ideal but the turn of foot he showed was very impressive. Edging off a true line was not too much of a worry and can be put down to the first run of the season. Boonie will certainly come on for this run which shows how exciting the season ahead could be. Pattern company is the natural step now and Boonie has certainly shown that he is good enough. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see a step up in trip at some point if connections believe it to be the right move, with a race like the Commonwealth Cup tempting for quality 3yr olds.

Picture – @Steven_Cargill

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First Double Of The Year

Although the 2022 flat season has kicked off, it was the all-weather and NH code that produced a double for the team. Both winners couldn’t have been more impressive in their respective fields and could well have bigger plans in their future. Spiritofthenorth destroyed his rivals at Wetherby before Dark Moon Rising impressed on his return to action at Chelmsford in the evening.

Spiritofthenorth was the epitome of consistent but could never find that elusive victory. Well like the old saying about London buses goes, he waited for that long and then two coming along at once. Having shed the maiden tag last time out on the flat he reverted to Hurdles at Wetherby and ran away with the 2m Join Racing TV Now Maiden Hurdle.

Although recording an impressively consistent run of form, Spiritofthenorth could never break the run of placed efforts to gain a first career win. This had seen him try everything and it was the reason that he was tried over hurdles. Unfortunately it was the same story and he recorded three fine efforts, resulting in placed runs but again missing that first career win. Thankfully that maiden tag was relinquished when he got off the mark at Wolverhampton, something which could hopefully act as a springboard.

Deciding to revert back to NH, Spiritofthenorth lined up at Wetherby as the second top rated in the maiden hurdle. Previous runs had been good but there was a need to settle better throughout the race. Champion jockey elect, Brian Hughes was back int he saddle and took control of the race from the tape going up. Although allowed to go on, Spiritofthenorth decided  he wanted to go quicker and settled into his typically free going style. It was a good gallop set and he stretched the field out heading into the first obstacle.

After popping over the first three hurdles the field past the winning post for the first time and swung into their second circuit. Spiritofthenorth settled a bit better now but maintained a clear lead. There is a long run to the next obstacle which did allow a couple of his rivals to close the gap but also let Brian to fill the tank and get a breather.

Spiritofthenorth continued to jump well down the back straight and this saw the leader pile the pressure on with relative ease. With every obstacle taken the lead grew and it seemed as though one more rival dropped out of contention. No mistakes made, Spiritofthenorth was clear swinging for and his nearest rivals were paddling in his wake. Even with three left to jump the race was over, barring any drama. Popping three out and the two out, Spiritofthenorth held a lead of over 30 lengths and it was a case of name you distance. Despite the lead, there is always chance of last hurdle faults and Spiritofthenorth made a big one. Clattering through the final hurdle, he managed to find a leg and stay upright, a real heart in mouth moment for all. Thankfully his one mistake was not costly and Spiritofthenorth cruised him to record an emphatic 32 lengths win.

Barring the last, his jumping was very good and Spiritofthenorth proved far too good for his rivals. Although he set off quite keenly, he did settle and looks to be maturing with each run over the sticks. This win will see his mark changed and opens up plenty of options for him, whether he stays in this code or changes back to the flat. It is just great to see Middleham Park’s owners celebrating another win for Spiritofthenorth after so many near misses.

The evening meeting saw Dark Moon Rising return to action at Chelmsford. The Night of Thunder colt had been an improving type last year but coming into 2022 held some pretty lofty entries. He couldn’t have made a better start to the year as he comfortably took the 1m Woodford Reserve Cardinal Conditions Stakes.

Physically Dark Moon Rising always looked the type who should improve as a 3yr old and this was matched up with his breeding. Everything he did as a juvenile was a bonus so to see him round the season off with a mark of 90 was promising. All those feelings seemed to be proved correct once the colt returned after his winter break, with the 3r old filling out and strengthening up.

Entries in the Dante and French Derby show how highly he is rated by Kevin so it was going to be very interesting to see where he would start his colt off. Obviously Dark Moon Rising has a long way to go before those races but Kevin immediately stamped his intentions when declaring the colt for the £100,000 conditions race. Not only was it a great prize but also holds an invitation to the Kentucky Derby. The line up of 6 3yr olds saw highly rated animals against potential. Dark Moon Rising would actually need to find 13lbs with the top rated Harrow, showing the task ahead of him.

Kevin Stott travelled for the ride and produced a confident display in the saddle. Bustled out of the gates to get into stride Dark Moon Rising was sent to the front by Stott and got there after a little work. It wasn’t uncontested and they had to dispute front running duties. As they swung around the first bend, Dark Moon Rising ended up sitting on the leader’s girth who took a keen hold up the inside rail.

The pace was not the strongest throughout the contest and halfway out there was a change up front, which demoted Dark Moon Rising to third spot. Kevin is not one for panicking and maintained his spot as they entered the home bend. The colt travelled smoothly and when the pace quickened, just before the straight, Dark Moon Rising moved up dangerously. Kevin loosened the reins and let the colt lengthen.

Swinging into the home straight Dark Moon Rising moved up to challenge, making his run up the centre of the track. Kevin got lower in the saddle and asked his mount to go and quicken up. Dark Moon Rising too a few strides but moved up through the gears and poked his nose to the front. With every yard he was coming on stronger and Dark Moon Rising was beginning to gain momentum moving into the final furlong. The favourite was the one who tried to lay down a challenge but Dark Moon Rising had the lead and proved to be the strongest. The further they went the stronger he was and Dark Moon Rising strode out to a comfortable 1 1/2 length win.

It was an impressive display from Dark Moon Rising, especially first time out this year as he will come on for the run. He travelled well but was strongest at the line which does suggest that 1m2f should be no issue in time. With the runner up rated 103, Dark Moon Rising will certainly get a big hike in the handicap now but the aim could well be higher than handicap company. There was plenty of excitement behind Dark Moon Rising and he has done nothing to quell that.

Picture – @Steven_Cargill

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