The beige and blue colours have become commonplace in racing now as Hambleton Racing is at the forefront of racehorse syndication. Offering people opportunities to get into the great sport of racing they have found success and built a great reputation of offering their owners fantastic days out but also the chance of getting into that coveted winners enclosure. They enjoyed a fantastic 2016 with Kevin and this season has already started well with Havana Star and Fine Example providing the first winners of the 2017 turf season.
Leading up to the start of the flat season there is always a huge buzz surrounding the yard. We get to see all the horses back in action, seeing how they have progressed through the winter and starting to make plans for their season ahead. One thing that is totally unknown, which makes it even more exciting, are the 2 year olds. Dreams are started as everyone starts to wonder just how good they could be. This was true for a Havana Gold Colt. He was set a slightly daunting task when his naming day came around, as any horse with Star in their name has to try and live up to that title. Havana Star certainly made the best possible start to his racing career when he made a winning debut in the 5f Mayday Raceday Novice Median Auction Stakes (Div II) at Beverley.
When Kevin received the Goffs catalogues last year the Havana Gold Colt immediately stood out. The dam, Nagham, had been trained at Hambleton Lodge and she proved to be a good 2 year old. After winning on debut she ran only twice more for Kevin but her final start was a fantastic third place in the Super Sprint. She wasn’t the biggest of fillies but she had plenty of speed and after seeing her first foal Kevin and Steve Hillen decided he ticked the boxes. When the hammer went down the final bid was E37,000 and it didn’t take long for Simon Turner, of Hambleton Racing, to secure the colt who looked all over a sharp and precocious type.
Early signs were good as it looked as though Havana Star would match his physique and come to hand early. For a first foal he was well built and strong which all bode well for the season ahead. With his natural progression, Havana was one of the first ones to be working and going away to sample the grass gallops. All the pre race preparation went well and so it wasn’t long before Kevin was searching for a race for Havana Star to make his debut.
Beverley has been a lucky course for Kevin in recent years and he has enjoyed plenty of success there with juveniles. Although he had shown plenty of speed, Havana Star had also shown that he could be a horse to get 6f in time. The stiff, uphill final furlong is ideal for 2 year olds like this so the 5f Novice event was seen as the perfect starting point.
Kevin Stott was given the responsibility of educating Havana Star and the pair had drawn the best stall, sitting on the rail in 1. Havana Star had shown signs of immaturity in the parade ring and immediately did the same when the stalls opened. Slowly away, Kevin had to roust him along to get the juvenile into his stride. The more experienced rivals were away sharply and on the front end, forcing a quick pace. After dwelling Havana was soon towards the rear of the field and unable to keep up through the initial stages. Knowing the horse Kevin remained calm and just helped his mount along through the first furlong trying to get him balanced and into a rhythm.
Half of the 5f track is downhill and the leaders rattled along, getting quicker with every yard. Havana was finding it all a bit much early on and by halfway Kevin just had to give him a couple of taps to keep him straight and on the right lead. The field rounded the bend and straightened up ready for the home stretch. Havana had a lot of ground to make up and with experience up front it was going to be a difficult task.
Passing the 2f marker the race was on as the leaders went for home and the pace increased again. There was a definite break in the field and Havana was in the second group. Kevin got serious with him, changing his hands and getting hold of the juvenile’s head to teach him. Once asked and once balanced Havana Star began to get to grips with what was going on. He changed his legs and quickened up, understanding that he had to do what Kevin was asking. Although he was starting to improve the margin to the leaders was surely too big and they looked as though they had set sail.
As the ground rose the pressure increased and one or two of the leading runners wandered off a true line. Havana Star was really starting to gallop on now and with the rail he had a perfect passage, left open by his rivals. It was the twice raced Rockin Fella, favourite, who now took up the lead and seemingly had the race in hand. The final furlong was entered and Kevin was driving along hands and heels but getting a response. You could see Havana really start to buckle down and he scything through the field. He was finishing with a rattle and eating up the ground on the incline, which in turn was starting to nullify the leader’s margin. With a couple of hundred yards left to run it became evident that Havana had a real chance of winning. Rockin Fella had kicked clear but momentum was with Havana Star. As the bay drew up to the favourite he just began to have a slight look around. The leader moved off a true line and Havana followed suit, edging left with him. Stott grabbed hold his reins for a quick adjustment, keeping the momentum up. It was a head bobbing finish but Havana Star was running on the strongest and powered all the way to the line. The juvenile crossed the line with a neck advantage to get off to a winning start.
Hambleton Racing had a mix of owners in Havana Star, some who have owned before and some who were new to the syndicate. It was great to make a winning start and Havana Star can only improve from here. He showed plenty of inexperience but once the penny dropped he really quickened up well and saw out every yard of the trip. He looks as though he will stay 6f so that opens up plenty of options further down the line. No plans are in place and Kevin will surely just do what he feels is right with the horse. It’s a perfect debut and the dreams are well and truly still alive.
It took Fine Example quite a bit of time to find the winning feeling and like the saying goes about a London Bus, two came along as he notched a couple of wins late last season. Fortunately we didn’t have to wait too long this year and Fine Example produced a great effort to win the 7 1/2f Lynne Glenton Handicap, giving Hambleton Racing a double on the day.
Example took a bit of time to find his feet but rounded last season off with a few very good runs. Finishing the season with a mark of 66, it was felt that with another winter on his back there could be more to come. He certainly looked like the break had done him good, looking physically more imposing and he came to hand early on.
Starting this season over a mile, Fine Example made a decent return at Pontefract. Having raced in mid-division he could never factor and race fitness showed as he weakened up the stiff finish. He then took a big step forward to finish second at Catterick next time out. Having failed to handle the track early on and struggling to go a frantic gallop, Example found his stride and quickly hit the front. Having been clear for over 2f he was collared late on to go down bravely.
His latest effort had really caught the eye and it was felt that he was well treated as the handicapper left him alone following his second place. Unfortunately he was berthed widest of all and at Beverley it is very difficult to win from wide. Despite this disadvantage the punters still liked his chances and Fine Example was sent off the 7-2 fav.
Lewis Edmunds had taken off an important 5lb at Catterick and his claim was utilised again as he got the leg up. With the draw in mind, Kevin told Lewis that he may have to just tuck in and find a position. There was plenty of pace drawn inside of him and the last thing Kevin wanted was a race run at break neck speed where they ruin each other’s chances. The field broke in quite a level line and Lewis rousted Example into the bridle. The camera angle didn’t show exactly how the runners lined up but once they were allowed to converge, Lewis started to make a beeline for the rail. Surprisingly there was little going forward, even horses who had shown plenty of pace in the past, and Fine Example looked likely to take the lead. Only Make On Madam tried to lead but as Lewis had been a little more vigorous, Fine Example just edged in front and had managed to take the lead.
The early push for the lead had Example going quite quick, especially as he free-wheeled downhill. Lewis just tried to apply the brakes and get Example into a nice but slightly slower rhythm. The young apprentice did well and after the first furlong had managed to gain control of the race, setting a decent but sensible gallop.
All of the field were happy to take the lead and filtered in to formation behind Fine example. Keen not to take a wide route the field were well strung out with the jockeys keen to take the shortest way round. Fine Example travelled well on the front end and was really striding out.
Little changed through the first half of the race and Example took them along around the bend and into the home straight with just under 3f to run. The pace had never ceased and Lewis was trying to wind it up ready for his final assault. There was still plenty of time to make a move but it seemed that the leading few were in the best position. Example continued to travel well and it was the back markers who came under pressure as they tried to make inroads into the lead and somehow close the gap.
One by one the jockeys got to work but it was the front 3 or 4 who were seemingly full of running. Fine Example had not seen a rival yet and as they moved inside the 2f marker Lewis decided it was time to go, he wanted to keep the revs up and put the race to bed. Example quickened up for him but he couldn’t immediately shake the attention of his nearest pursuers. The front few began to break away and it looked as though the winner would come from this small group, barring any disaster.
It had been a strongly run race and the final furlong was really going to test the runners. Fine Example had done everything right but could he see out the trip up the stiff finish. Lewis was not coming off that rail but he was giving it everything to try and repel the challenges. Make On Madam and Arcane Dancer had been on the tail of Example all the way and were still there, trying to force the leader to crack. It was a real battle in the final furlong but Lewis was getting everything he was asking for. Fine Example was brave and really sticking his neck out. The line was coming up fast but Arcane Dancer was edging ever closer to the leader. He lined up one more late thrust but Fine Example still had a little more to give and bravely stretched out. The blinkered head of Example flashed past the line first closely followed by his rival who had given everything to go down by just a neck.
Lewis is a young jockey going places and displayed why with this win. He took the race by the scruff of the neck but even more impressively he judged the pace of the race just right. Fine Example was a very willing partner and gave everything to earn his first win of the season. There still looks like there is more to come from Example and he should give connections plenty to cheer about this year. Although his wins have all been over 7f he shapes as though a mile will be no problem. Now we will see what the handicapper does before making a decision on his next outing. It was a great day for Hambleton Racing and seeing the smiles from all their owners, old and new, was certainly rewarding. They have a good team of horses and the many owners will be seen flocking into the winner’s enclosure plenty more times through this season.