The staff are and always will be the unsung heroes of racing. Come rain or shine they are in the yard at all hours of the day ensuring their beloved horses are ready for action. They are the ones who spend most time with the horses but whilst all trainers understand and appreciate the importance of a great team, the staff very rarely get the limelight that their hard work deserve. Sometimes there is an opportunity to give them that moment in the spotlight and Harriett Lees has earned that with her hard work and dedication. The amateur jockey enjoyed the thrill of her first winner when coming with a dramatic late run on board Scrutiny, who cut down the field in the 1m1/2f sunsets.co.uk Amateur Riders’ Handicap at Wolverhampton.
Having started coming to Hambleton Lodge during her summer holidays, Harriett started working for Kevin full time as soon as she left school. Always one of the first into the yard on a morning and usually with a big smile on her face, Harriett quickly proved to be a great member of the team. She has always been a very strong rider, good with a piece of work and excelling on yearlings. With dreams of race riding, Harriett was granted an amateur license in 2016. The Wee Barra finished 2nd on two occasions for Harriett, narrowly missing out by an agonising head loss and meaning Harriett would have to wait for that first winner. Unfortunately the amateur game is a very competitive section of racing, with some well known riders in the division. This means that it is hard to find outside rides and Harriett did not get the rides she deserved last year. Kevin is always on the look out but you must have the right horses and very few slipped into the correct category. Fortunately Scrutiny fit the bill perfectly when the entry book seemed to light up with the 1m1/2f event.
Scrutiny had arrived to the yard with little form behind him and his last win being over 2 1/2 years ago. His last two seasons had mainly seen the 7 year old tackling hurdles so Kevin was going to learn a lot about Scrutiny once he hit the track. Having worked ok at home, it seemed that he did retain some ability and looked quite sharp. His first couple of runs did not really work out, finishing down the field over 1mile and 1m3f. Kevin felt that he may not be putting 100% effort in so it was a drop in trip again, with the aid of a visor and tongue tie. Again a weak effort was produced which did cause a few head scratches. These efforts had seen his handicap mark drop to a career low of 55. Looking back through his career, Scrutiny had won 2 on the bounce when competing in an amateur riders’ race. With a similar 0-60 event coming up at Wolverhampton, Kevin decided that this may be the right race to spark him back to life.
As is always the case the race Brough about a full field that looked very competitive. Harriett went out with instructions of enjoying herself and riding Scrutiny with confidence. Having not fired yet for Kevin, it was felt that keeping him occupied throughout may be correct tactic. Harriett did that perfectly from the start, quickly taking her mount back from leaving the stalls. There was a mad dash for the lead, but Scrutiny was looking on from the rear of the field. He didn’t make life easy for Harriett, racing keenly through the early stages, but she managed to keep settled and had a lovely position towards the rail.
With a few runners vying for the lead, the pace was quite strong through the first couple of furlongs. Once the field sorted themselves out it all settled down which saw them bunch up again. Scrutiny was still towards the rear but now had a lot less distance to the leaders. Harriett was showing plenty of confidence in the saddle, happy to sit in a tight pocket along the rail. With the pace dropping it could have been easy to move up but she was doing exactly what was asked of her. As they moved past the 5f Beatbybeatbybeat, who had become keen since the tempo dropped, now moved into the lead and quickly opened up into a 3-4 length advantage. This did not really affect the rest but seemed to finally settle the whole race down and allowed everyone to relax into a nice rhythm.
Scrutiny travelled well throughout the contest and it looked as though the hustle and bustle was really proving to be interesting for him. The field were soon taken along into the second half of the race with the leader opening up a handy lead. Passing the 3f marker they entered the bend and still Harriett waited patiently. Now the pace lifted as the business end was edging ever closer. Despite this tempo increase, Scrutiny continued to travel well and Harriett allowed him to move a little closer whilst running in her hands. The leader was clear and the first couple were starting to go in pursuit but the rest of the field were still well bunched up.
Straightening up for home and hitting the 2f marker, the chase was on. By now the leader started to dwindle and Dose, the joint favourite, was now hot on the heels. Harriett was still sitting quietly and made a very smart move swinging off the bend. With a wall of horses in front she angled out wide to find a clear gap. Immediately it opened up and Scrutiny quickly made headway towards the centre of the track. With Dose taking over the lead it looked as though Scrutiny may have a little too much to do. He was really starting to move through the gears but there was only a furlong left to run.
All the patience shown through the last mile was really starting come to fruition as Scrutiny was flying. Harriett was right behind her mount and with each stride the pair were eating into the lead. Again Harriett showed great maturity. With her first win in sight it would have been very easy to get excited and look for the stick, in an attempt to ensure victory. Harriett knew she was getting a tune from Scrutiny so she just maintained her drive and kept him balanced, allowing the 7 year old to go through with his run. Scrutiny was getting there with every stride and with the greater momentum he soon pulled alongside the leader. It was Scrutiny who was finishing stronger and in the dying strides he got on top, sticking his head out to win by a neck.
There will be bigger wins throughout the year but this was really a special one for everyone at Hambleton Lodge. Harriett is so popular and deserved this first winner. She gave Scrutiny a fantastic ride and showed a lot of patience and maturity in the saddle. It was also great to get Scrutiny back on track after owner, Lizzy Butterworth, giving the 7 year old plenty of time. He really showed his best side, travelling well throughout the race and then quickening up smartly when asked. He seems to show a real liking for this type of race, with his record standing at 3 wins from 5 runs (other 2 runs were placed efforts), so this may be something that could be Kevin’s thinking for future engagements. Whatever happens now will be a bonus as Harriett Lees can officially say she has ridden a winner, and nobody can take that away. Well done Harriett!!!!!