Experience is important for all horses, it can make all the difference with them reaching their potential. One factor than can be determined with racing experience is trip. As horses learn to race they can show different traits which affects their ideal distance. This is certainly true for Fikhaar as she shed her maiden tag in the 6f Book Your Christmas Party Here Handicap at Chelmsford.
Bought from the February sales at Tattersalls, Fikhaar came to Hambleton unraced but with a fantastic pedigree. Early on it was quite difficult to tell what her optimum trip would be and she was shaping as though a stiffer test may be down her street. She was a slow burner and her first three career starts saw her race over 7f, 1m and 1m1/2f without ever threatening. Although the bare results didn’t read much, watching her run you could see an improvement as she was beginning to grasp how to race.
Having received a lowly mark of 58 Kevin decided that a drop back to 7f would suit for her handicap debut. It was this run at Newcastle that really showed Fikhaar was getting to grips with racing. Jumping well and showing plenty of speed she chased the lead and travelled strongly throughout. Looking like the most likely winner she just failed to get home late on, weakening but still running well for a career best fourth placed finish. This run was an obvious prompter to Kevin that he should try dropping her in trip once again.
With form on the artificial surface, Fikhaar now had plenty more options. It was decided that Chelmsford was the most suitable race so she travelled south for the contest in which she would be sent off 5-2fav. Kevin Stott has enjoyed a fruitful season riding Hambleton Racing owned horses and made the long journey to partner Fikhaar.
Having shown good pace last time out, Fikhaar had the plum draw of 1 to go forward again. This was the obvious tactic to use although there was a question as to whether she could show enough pace against sprinters. With a little bit of rousting by Kevin, Fikhaar moved quickly along the rail, got into her stride and took the lead early on. There were plenty who wanted to be positive so this forced a decent early pace but Fikhaar had done the hard work and got to the front, holding a 3/4 length lead.
After the first furlong they hit the bend which meant the field had to sort themselves out. As they filtered into positions behind Fikhaar the 13 strong field were closely bunched on the rail, with nobody willing to give an inch. Kevin now settled in front and with his mount into a nice rhythm he let her stride on. Now everyone was happy with their positions the pace settled into a sensible gallop.
There was little change throughout the first half of the race as they were all waiting for the straight before making any challenge. Being able to dictate in front Kevin was the one who would decide when the race would wind up. As Fikhaar travelled smoothly, and with a length advantage, the pace remained the same and Kevin sat and waited. At Chelmsford it is usually off the bend where the race heats up and it looked like that was what Kevin was aiming to do. The closer they got to the straight the more action began to unwind from the rear, as those back markers tried to go through the gears ready to burst through down the home straight.
Kevin was being patient in front but needed to work a little entering the home straight. The pair still held sway with 2f to run but Fikhaar travelled wide off the bend. This opened up a big gateway for those sat behind her on the rail but thankfully she was still moving forward and Kevin was quick to try and get her balanced and change legs. They were all lining up behind ready to attack the leader but it was Fikhaar who seemingly still looked the strongest. It was hands and heels from Kevin as he was asking the filly to wind up and shift through the gears whilst keeping a little bit in the tank.
The length lead remained as they entered the final furlong but there were big dangers from both sides. Now Kevin sensed the danger he had to get serious with Fikhaar trying to keep her going and dig deep. The filly responded well and with a couple of smacks she found some more. There was a late thrust coming from the stands side with Hurricane Rock who was finishing well. Fikhaar had the others held but her advantage was whittling away from the fast finisher. Thankfully she had more in reserve and as the rattling hooves got closer she stuck her head down and dug deep. Staying on well she strode on to repel the late challenge and win with a 3/4 length advantage.
It was a tough performance from Fikhaar to give Hambleton Racing yet another winner this season. She has taken a bit of time to learn and come to hand but her last couple of runs have now shown promise. Having shown good speed she then stayed well and battled when needed. Obviously the handicapper will determine what happens next but with form on the all-weather and few races under her belt she may be one to continue through the winter months. The most important factor is that she has a win to go with her pedigree which gives her a future but for now it will be interesting to see just how much improvement she can find as an unexposed filly.