Confidence can be key to a horse and really help them to unlock their full potential. Once they get the feeling of getting their head in front then they thrive and it is not uncommon to see horses rack up a sequence of victories. Ayutthaya had been on a 17 month winless streak but bounced back to winning ways last time out. This victory proved the catalyst for the 4yr old gelding who made it a brace when taking the 1m2f Simon Scrope Dalby Screw-Driver Handicap at Pontefract.
Patiently ridden at Haydock, Ayutthaya travelled supremely well before picking up nicely and staying on powerfully through the line. Although the win was 2lb below his last winning mark the race was his first victory in handicap company and was the first time that Ayutthaya had won over 1m2f. With the softer going ideal for Ayutthaya, Kevin was quick to look for another similar contest with the season winding down and the autumn weather providing perfect conditions.
There has been plenty of racing in the north recently and with the weather turning, as well as a long season coming towards the end some races are not getting the size of fields expected. The 1m2f contest at Pontefract was going to be contested by just 5 runners and although it offered more prize money it looked an easier race than the one that Ayutthaya had won. The 2018 winner Francis Xavier would be contesting the race once again and would be the main danger to Ayutthaya going in again. With just a 4lb rise on his back it did look like a nice opportunity for Ayutthaya but would the race pan out like last time with a small field.
Tom Eaves was in the saddle again, attempting to implement the same winging tactics. It was difficult to really work out how the race would be run but there did look to be a front runner in Leroy Leroy. Once the gates opened the 3yo took up the pace setting tactics and allowed the other quartet to settle in behind. Initially a decent gallop, Ayutthaya dropped to the rear of the field but with just 5 runners there was very little separating first to last. Main market rival Francis Xavier was closest to the leader and as they raced down the back straight the field thinned out to race closer to single file.
It was a strange pace set through the first half of the race as the 3yo tried to race a little keenly for strides before settling and repeating. Ayutthaya travelled smoothly as Tom played his waiting tactics once again and his position offered him the perfect sighter of his main rival. As the rain fell on the runners they continued to get a patchy pace, quickening then steadying constantly. This probably owed to the undulating track as the leader who quicken in the hands of his jockey racing downhill, get back into a rhythm before hitting another undulation a few yards later. Thankfully this allowed the race being run quite truly given each of the runners a chance.
Moving into the last 1/2 mile of the contest the field broke formation and the line became a diamond with Tom edging off the rail. Running down to the home bend the first four began to bunch up and started to move away from the outsider in the field. Just as they started to hit the bend there was a distinct injection of pace from the front which was matched by Francis Xavier who loomed up on the outer. Tom measured this move and likewise edged closer to now have the front 4 racing in two pairs.
Sweeping around the bend the leader was now being joined by Francis Xavier and Ayutthaya shuffled up to. This trio started to pull away from the other two and entering the final 2f there was a line of three. Hitting the top of the home straight this line was broken as Francis Xavier took over and kicked for home. Immediately snatching the lead he was chased by the big white face of Ayutthaya who himself demoted the pace setter to third, who was now weakening right out of contention.
Ayutthaya came to join his market rival Francis Xavier as they passed the 1f marker and the pair settled down to tussle it out. The pair had put a good few lengths between themselves and the rest so could now concentrate on fighting each other. Tom had nursed his mount into the race but once they drew alongside their rival he asked for everything from Ayutthaya in one fell swoop. The chestnut responded to pressure and edged his nose to the front but what he found on his inside was a very willing adversary. With just a neck separating the pair they battled up the rising ground for the final 150 yards. Ayutthaya had come to challenge looking the strongest and he put this to his advantage the further they went. Finally he was getting on top with 100 yards to run and Ayutthaya stretched his head lead into neck, then 1/2 length and then 3/4 length, crossing the line to gain his second victory on the bounce.
After some very good efforts this season Ayutthaya has really thrived with the change of tactics. He was always travelling well in his races but either found one too good or just didn’t quite see out his races. Being ridden more patiently has really helped him quicken up in the latter stages and it has been this turn of foot that has seen off his rivals in his two wins. He is obviously in great form and with soft ground being no issue there are plenty of options still open to him for the remainder of the season. There is no doubt that He will be due another rise in the handicap which could see him close to his highest once again but in this form it would be no surprise to see him complete the hat-trick and go even higher.