Goodwood 2016 was the last time that Laughton had tasted victory. That was over 2 years ago and 21 runs had come and gone. Having looked like a potential star handicapper of the sprint division, Laughton has struggled with consistency and form, slowly dropping down the handicap ladder to a mark that is far beneath his ability. Having knocked on the door of a win on a few occasions this season, Laughton gained that elusive victory when taking the 6f Bank’s Amber Bitter Handicap at Wolverhampton.
Many people may wonder why owners Pete and Angie have stuck with Laughton when they have plenty of other horses in training who are more than paying their way. The problem with Laughton is that everybody knows there is some talent in there and despite the losing streak, it would come out again. If he could get his career back on track then there is no reason that he couldn’t go on to rattle off a few wins.
When he last won, a 3yo handicap at Goodwood, his stable mate Brando had flown through the handicap ranks that same year and then go on to finish 3rd in a Gr1. Strong travelling and a good turn of foot, Laughton looked a very similar type and had the potential to emulate his classy stable mate. Ok he may not have the group class of Brando but he looked like the perfect type for some thing like the Ayr Gold Cup. Unfortunately those ambitions would truly be put on the back burner as he would go on to struggle to find form for much of the next couple of seasons.
This season he has been unlucky not to get his head in front with a few near misses. Laughton has been given a good chance by seeing his handicap mark plummet to 62 and he had shown form at stages but again proved to be inconsistent. A couple of his best efforts had come on the AW at Wolverhampton so the 0-65 handicap was the obvious choice of race. Kevin Stott was on board for the ride and looking to continue his own fine run of form.
Draw 4 is good around Wolverhampton but Kevin would opt to give away his advantage as Laughton needs cover. Taken back from the stalls, Kevin would settle Laughton at the rear of the field with just one rival behind him. As per usual, at this track, the pace was very strong which suited Laughton perfectly. He settled nicely into his stride and travelled with ease through the early stages. With Castletrea Tess and Kraka both wanting to be positive and taking each other on they ensured that they were soon hitting the bend.
When in form, Laughton can travel like a dream. It wouldn’t matter what race you put him in, he has a very high cruising speed and does it very easily. Kevin was always happy to sit and wait out at the back. He not only knew that his mount had a great turn of foot but he pace being set would really test them in front so he could throw down a late challenge by reserving energy.
The leading pair never let up and this meant that the field got racing a way from home. At the halfway point there was plenty of the field under pressure to try and close in, laying down a challenge. Nobody had got near to the front yet but swinging off the bend there would still be 2f to run and time to challenge. Kevin was riding with the utmost confidence and never budged on Laughton. As the pair turned into the home straight they were still at the back of the field and looking at a good 10 length deficit to the leaders, who were now going for home.
Kevin had to try and pick a route as he straightened up. With almost all the field in front of him there was plenty of dangerous paths that would just create a troubled run. Looking inside, the shortest route possible, he quickly realised that that was just a dead end. Although Laughton had a lot of ground to make up, Kevin decided to switch to the outer, taking a little longer route but confident that he had the horse underneath him anyway. Kraka snatched the lead away heading into the final furlong and was staying on strongly. looking back to Laughton and Kevin still sat quite motionless but gradually began to work more and more.
The final furlong would see Laughton in his best light. As those in front were fighting hard for the lead, Laughton began to move easily through the gears. Now Kevin asked him to go and go he did. In strides Laughton was eating into the ground and began to motor down the outside. With 100 yards to run he was still a couple of lengths down but momentum was with him and Laughton had really hit top gear. As the leaders battled away with each other Laughton came sweeping through at a tremendous rate to pass all in one full swoop. Passing them with 50 yards to run, Laughton maintained his run all the way to line to earn his long awaited win by 3/4 length.
Laughton had been threatening to do this for a while now and he should have done with the handicapper giving plenty of leeway. Having gone up to a career high mark of 83, Laughton has dropped 21lbs. He travels so well that its obvious he retains plenty of ability but maybe it was a confidence boost that was required. Hopefully he enjoyed this victory and it can be the spark to kick him back into life and he can go on from here.