Impressive on debut, Celebrity Dancer set his bar high from the off. The manner in which he travelled and then quickened up was the sign of a promising animal. Unfortunately he couldn’t quite match that feat at the second try. Well after a short break he was back at Ayr and setting the record straight, this time making all to stride clear in the 6f Longines Irish Champions Weekend EBF Stallions Novice Stakes.
Pontefract had been the stage of Dancer’s impressive debut win and following that it was decided that a return to the Yorkshire track was needed. With connections dreaming of what may be the top hats were quietly being dusted off but before a trip down south he would need one more test. Unfortunately Dancer proved a little more immature second time round than he had at the first try. The signs were there from the off as he jumped right leaving the stalls before tracking the leaders throughout. This time he didn’t travel as smoothly and as he hit the 2f marker, where he had shown an electric turn of foot first time, the pressure was already on. He hung around the bend and went wide up the centre of the track. Despite this he managed a very solid third place, beaten by as much ground as he had given away. It showed that he wasn’t ready for the big step up just yet but there was still plenty of promise.
The form of that conditions event worked out well with the winner going on to finish 6th in the Coventry and the runner up then nothing a couple of wins, even the fourth won next time out. Far from disappointed, Kevin made the decision that gelding may help Dancer really fulfil his potential. It meant a short break but it certainly would help him throughout the rest of the season and future career.
Back in full work and Celebrity Dancer was back to his best. Time to start looking for another race and it was the Novice route which seemed the best choice. Ayr was the chosen track and it’s flatter, more galloping nature was seen as a positive for Dancer. Once the declarations were made it was clear that tis would be a decent novice race. Baronial Pride was an impressive winner on debut and there was some good form from another couple of rivals. Kevin Stott drove north to take the ride and Dancer would line up carrying the 7lb penalty for his debut win.
Drawn in the centre of the field, Kevin wanted to be nice and positive, knowing that if he could dictate from the front if allowed. Dancer jumped well and, along with the Mark Johnston trained Royal Big Night, went forward to cut out the running. The stalls were closer to the stands rail so Kevin immediately made a bee line for the rail. With nothing on his inside moving up to challenge he comfortably tracked across, closely followed by Royal Big Night as the field settled down through the first furlong. Two rows of three were the order of running with one of the outsiders already outpaced.
Celebrity Dancer got into a nice rhythm as he forced the issue with Royal Big Night. The favourite Baronial Pride was stalking Dancer, sitting directly behind him and tagging on to his flashy tail. As the leading pair moved through the first couple of furlongs they were allowed to stride on which meant the pace was quite strong and would really test these juveniles.
Passing the 4f and heading down to halfway and the first signs of pressure began to show as Amadeus Grey couldn’t match the leading duo who were pouring it on in front. There would be no hiding place and whoever were to win would need to do so showing they could see out every yard of the six furlongs. They moved into the second half of the race and it really began to heat up with 2 1/2f to run. Kevin began to work on board Dancer, winding him up, getting the chestnut to lengthen and move through the gears. This was matched by a couple of his rivals but Royal Big Night and Baronial Pride were the two who still travelled quite comfortably. This all changed in the matter of strides. Celebrity Dancer was really starting to lengthen now and he came through with the minimal amount of fuss to take up the running. Now sensing Kevin had plenty underneath him the other jockeys had to get more serious with every stride.
Celebrity Dancer had burned off his long time rival heading towards the final furlong and as the strain started to show Royal Big Night just moved away from a straight line. This opened a big corridor for the favourite to move through, which he did to burst through and now lay down a challenge to Dancer. With a length advantage Dancer had control but he still had the final furlong to run and it would be a test. Kevin was working hard but he was yet to get serious and he was still riding hands and heels getting his mount striding out all the time. It now started to look like the winner was between two horses as the others were weakening under pressure.
Baronial Pride had made a winning debut by stalking and striking late, a tactic that was in play right now. He burst through to challenge and by 1/2f to run he came to join Celebrity Dancer. In play it seemed as though the favourite would sweep past as he was the one who looked the more powerful now. Anyone who had taken the price on that would be counting the cost through because Stott was still only riding in second gear. The favourite had expended a bit more energy to challenge and had already had a couple of reminders to help him. Once joined, Dancer knew he had to pull out a bit more and so too did Kevin. Now he pulled his stick through and gave his mount one quick slap. It did the trick, he changed his legs, opened up and quickened away. The race was settled, Celebrity Dancer pulled away from his rival and there was no way he was to be caught now. Seeing out every yard of the trip he ran out a cosy 3/4 length winner and was going clear at the line.
It was great to get Celebrity Dancer back to winning ways and his performance was impressive. The pace set was strong but he travelled well and then quickened up when asked to do so. At times he still looked a little bit green and awkward so there is still some signs of immaturity but he is learning with racing and will continue to improve. All in Hambleton Racing were possibly expecting a trip to Ascot but Dancer just wasn’t ready for an occasion like that early on. He is a lovely individual who will get better with time and has the scope to improve run by run. He won with a bit in hand and Kevin didn’t really have to get too serious with him. What lies ahead will be decided in due course but it seems as though a step up in grade may be in order. Dancer would need to carry a double penalty in a novice race which is very difficult for a juvenile. There are plenty of options moving forward but the Goofs UK Premier Yearling Stakes may be the main target. It’s a huge prize to aim for and you need a nice horse to win it. Celebrity Dancer is now 2 from 3 and certainly looks likely to keep Hambleton Racing cheering throughout the season.