When you have a price tag that exceeds 3/4 of a million Euros, £775,000 to be exact, there is always going to be a lot of pressure. Fortunately horses do not know their price tag and can only perform as they feel or able to do so. Eyes On Asha showed no signs of stage fright as she bounded clear to make an impressive debut, winning the 1 Mile 32Red.com fillies maiden at Newcastle and taking the first steps to repaying her hefty sales price.
The Arqanna Breeze Up sales have been a happy hunting ground for Kevin and Steve (Hillen), most notably with The Grey Gatsby. Having bought plenty of winners out of the French sale, the pair made a real statement last year by purchasing the second top lot, a daughter of Redoutes Choice. Eyes On Asha arrived at Hambleton Lodge and it was immediately evident that she was a long way from the finished article but you could see why the money was spent. A lovely, big filly she looked the part and impressed early on but then began to mature. This lead to her growing which meant she was a little weak and so it was decided that time was essential for her. Owner, Mr T A Rahman agreed and Asha was allowed to mature as she needed which led to her missing the chance to run at 2 years old.
Following a nice winter break, Asha had strengthened up well. Once Kevin got her back to work she began to impress once again and quickly came to hand. As she improved physically, getting fitting by the day, it was decided that she should be ready early on and a debut could be made on the all-weather. With a couple of good pieces of work Kevin made the decision that Asha was ready and entered the filly at Newcastle, hoping that the stiff mile would suit the debutante.
Only 8 fillies were declared for the contest but it included a couple of well bred newcomers as well as a very promising type. The Karl Burke trained Hot Natured was a fine second in a similar event and was the well backed favourite this time around. She set a good standard and Eyes On Asha would need to know exactly what she was doing to challenge the favourite. Kevin Stott has enjoyed a lot of recent success in the orange and blue of Mr Rahman and he was handed the ride on board Asha.
With a mixture of experience in the field it was hard to weigh up just how the race would unfold, so Kevin was to ride Asha as he found her. When the stalls opened he ended up having the decision made for him as Asha was slowly away and needed a little cajoling to attach on to the group. The early pace was steady and this allowed Asha to find her feet, get into her stride and move up to run alongside her fellow back marker. There was not too much covering the field as they passed through the first couple of furlongs.
Kevin had Asha in a nice rhythm through the initial stages. With the favourite just in front of them they could track Hot Nature’s every move. As the pace was quite sedate all the field were able to travel quite smoothly, especially the less experienced runners. It was quite obvious that the second half of the race would be the deciding factor and it might just turn into a sprint. With his filly travelling well, Kevin was keen to keep her close enough to challenge if she was able to come the business end of the race.
Past halfway and into the final 3f there was a increase in the tempo as the leader began to quicken the pace. This move caught a few of the runners on their heels, it also caused Kevin to just get to work a little. As the horses in front of her quickened up, Asha became a little lost and needed some help. Kevin niggled her along, keeping her in her stride and trying to get the filly to lengthen and improve with her rivals. Asha did quicken up but was fighting with inexperience, coming under pressure for the first time in her life. Although she was showing signs of greeness she was still in touch and her rivals were still in contact.
The leader had set a steady gallop and quickened up well, having dictated throughout she now made a break for it. Having gone clear by a couple of lengths, Sulafah the leader, was now playing “catch me if you can” and at first it looked as though the rest may not be able to. Asha was in the bunch behind the leader and now inside the final 2f she was starting to get the hang of things. Kevin was working hard, trying to educate the filly and you could see the penny dropping as she moved past a couple of her rivals. Progress was being made but the final furlong was looming and there was still a good deficit to cut in to.
Just before the 1f marker Asha could only see a wall of horses in front of her so Kevin manoeuvred his mount, switching her to the right and towards the stands side. This movement triggered Asha to change her legs and she suddenly picked up. Quickly she passed her nearest rivals and then became one of the biggest dangers to the long time leader. Having overcome her inexperience, Asha was now in full flow and eating into the ground. Although she was now becoming ever more professional there were a few more glimpses of inexperience, especially when she saw daylight in pursuit of the leader. Kevin anticipated all these little chinks in the armour and was always working hard in the saddle, urging his mount, keeping her balanced and ensuring she continued forward. Despite it being in fits and starts, Eyes On Asha still managed to show a good turn of foot, quickening up to join the leader and then swooping past with relative ease. Once in the lead her eyes quickly pricked but she continued to assert and really began to dominate in the final half furlong. Extending out all the way to the line, Asha crossed with a dominant 2 1/2 length advantage, to score on debut.
Whether they are any good or not, expensive horses will always carry high expectations and it was great for Eyes On Asha to get that debut win. Not only did she show a great attitude, overcoming inexperience and learning on the job but she also showed plenty of ability. It was always felt that she would probably want a trip and the way she strode out after the line proves that. Asha showed a good turn of foot and saw out every inch of the trip and she was probably worthy of a bigger winning margin. Mr Rahman showed a lot of faith to pay that amount of money and it was very pleasing to give him another winner with Asha. You cannot take anything away from the filly and on this evidence she does look an exciting prospect. What the options are next are undecided but it is likely we will se her over 1m2f before too much longer. The buzz is still around this record buy and the orange silks will surely continue to be seen in the winners enclosure, just which racecourses is now up to Asha.