It has been a long time coming but racing is finally back. The enforced hiatus has had everyone on tenderhooks waiting for racing to return and it has not disappointed. Racing has been working hard to put measures in place and the governing bodies have done a fantastic job. Although the days to day training has not really changed since lockdown, with all the staff working behind the scenes preparing the team, the first day back would be a step into the unknown for almost everyone involved. Thankfully Oakenshield got the team at Hambleton Lodge off to a perfect start when making a winning return in the 6f Betway Casino Handicap at Newcastle on the opening day.
Oakenshield is a son of Invincible Spirit and had started his career with a lot of promise. With a debut fourth at Haydock he showed that there was an engine under the bonnet and it seemed a matter of time before the first win would come. Unfortunately he couldn’t build on that next time out when travelling to Hamilton, getting stuck in the very deep going. With that run coming towards the end of the season, Kevin decided that time would be the best way forward and Oakenshield was finished for the year.
Over the winter break the colt was gelded and a small wind op performed to help him coming into 2020. The rest did him well and Oakenshield thrived, looking to fill out and mature ready for his 3yo season. He came to hand early on but then all plans were ripped up as the lockdown came. Oakenshield continued to do well in his homework so when racing got the green light, he was ready to run with Kevin looking for the correct race immediately.
Starting with an opening mark of 75 the perfect race came along on the opening day. With the limited field sizes now in place it meant that the 6f 0-75 handicap would be contested but those close to the top end of the handicap bracket and only a couple of pounds separated all of the 12 runners. Sheikh Mohammed Obaid’s retained jockey Andrea Atzeni was able to travel north to take the ride as Oakenshield returned to action.
Drawn in stall 2, which was towards the far side rail, Oakenshield was quickly away and into stride. Andrea allowed his mount to stride on where he was comfortable. Through the first furlong the field settled down and Oakenshield found himself towards the front end was the runners converged to race down the centre of the track. It was a good gallop set and Andrea now tagged on to the leaders girths to gain a nice toe into the contest.
The pace didn’t cease through the first half of the race and this was evident with the back markers struggling passing the 3f marker. At the opposite end the leader was striding on and ensuring there was no hiding place. Oakenshield was laying it down and his stable mate, Barbarella was the on the near side doing likewise. Suddenly the 12 runners began to get strung out as those struggling became detached from the main body. Heading down to the final 1/4 mile it was obvious the winner would be coming from only half of the contenders.
Barbarella snatched the lead as they moved inside the 2f marker with Oakenshield going with her. The longtime leader gave way but tried to battle back as the Hambleton paired now kicked on and fought out the lead between themselves. Both sported yellow silks but it was the black spots of Oakenshield that began to get on top as he took the lead 1 1/2f from home. Edging into a 1/2 length advantage Andrea asked him to put the race to bed but Barbarella was not going away without a fight. Kevin’s duo moved a length away as that took each other on but Oakenshield started to take control. Changing his legs, the gelding quickened up and opened up a clear advantage over his stable mate.
Entering the final furlong Oakenshield held a couple of lengths lead had almost put the race beyond doubt. Barbarella was still finding for pressure and whilst she was holding the rest at bay she could not match Oakenshield. Andrea was ensuring he kept up to the task at hand and he had a very willing partner underneath him. The further they went the stronger he looked and with each stride the lead grew. Striding out enthusiastically, Oakenshield kept pouring it on and crossed the line with a clear 3 3/4 length lead over Barbarella, who herself had pulled a length clear of third.
After all the time waiting it was great just to get back racing but to do so with a winner made it a very good day all round. Oakenshield had shown promise last year and he started to fulfil that with a dominant performance at Newcastle. He showed that he was a class above his rivals and there looks to be much more to come from him. Oakenshield showed great early speed but the most impressive part of his performance was the way he quickened up and continued to stride clear. He showed plenty of ability and a very willing attitude. This win will see the handicapper take a very close look at Oakenshield and he will surely be looking at a reasonable hike in the handicap now. There will be plenty of opportunities for Oakenshield but it will be a step up in class now, which should be no problem for him on this evidence.