Now is the time of year when the 3yr olds begin to take on their elder counterparts on a more regular basis. As horses mature and strengthen up the closed handicaps begin to get fewer and youth starts to take on experience. Having already gained success against his own age, Wild Hope took his second career win when beating his elders in the 1m totepool Handicap at Ayr.
The son of Kingman had shown plenty of promise at 2yrs so it was no surprise to see the gelding get off the mark early on this year. Utilising a fair mark he bolted up in a 7f handicap at Carlisle, proving too good for his rivals. Powering through the line suggested that the 3yo may well be suited by a step up in trip to 1m. He returned to the scene of his victory looking to take advantage of a penalty rather than the handicap rise due. Unfortunately soft ground and a rough race meant he couldn’t capitalise. Wild Hope bounced back next time out though when finishing a very good third against older rivals to show he was still on the upgrade.
Handicap mark of 81 does give you plenty of options but each come with different questions. Connections plumped for the 0-85 route and sent Wild Hope north of the border to Ayr, the track where he made his debut at last year. The contest attracted 8 runners to the line up and it did look a competitive race. It was a mix of 3yr olds and older horses, plus there was the Irish trained Excelcius making the journey to add another interesting factor to the race.
Kevin Stott was on board Hope and the pair were sent off favourite by the punters. Simplicity was in order as this tactic had seen the pair get off the mark a few starts ago. Ayr does tend to be a track where the pace is strong so when Wild Hope jumped well from stall 3 there was still no guarantee that he could get forward. The gelding was quickly into stride but those drawn a little wider also wished to go forward. This left Kevin to squeeze his mount up along the rail and press the leaders. As everything settled down it was actually Wild Hope who ended up taking up the running and led after the first furlong. Kevin now looked to steady it all up now he had the advantage and get Wild Hope into a nice rhythm.
Down the far end of the track the field raced through the first half of the race. Although not left alone in front, Kevin was able to calm the pace a bit and the gallop was fair. With the pace slowing it allowed the field to bunch up, bringing those at the rear closer together with the rest. Wild Hope travelled well along the rail, taking the shortest route possible, but he was going to be in the firing line once getting to the business end. Kevin had set good fractions but he would need to continue to do so if he wanted to repel his rivals.
Rounding the bend there was still over 3f to run and the challengers were beginning to wind up their run. Taking the shortest route meant that Kevin was saving ground with every stride and this forced his pursuers to just niggle along to keep tabs. Wild Hope still travelled well and took the left handed turn with ease. Whether the race was going to turn into a sprint or a test was now in the hands of Kevin.
Down the home straight and inside the 3f marker the race was on. One by one the horses came off the bridle as they tried to overturn the leader’s advantage. Still Wild Hope held sway and Kevin just allowed him to lengthen his stride. The pace slowly increased and this meant that his rivals were forced to follow suit. The lead opened up to around length as they bared down on the 2f marker and passing it was the point where Kevin went to put the race to bed.
The order still hadn’t changed much and the entire field could still be seen to have a chance of winning. Wild Hope maintained his length advantage and between the 2f and 1f marker the only thing that changed was the main danger to the leader. Tadaawol on the inside and Irish raider Excelcius were starting to finish whilst Amadeus Grey was proving very game, having given chase throughout the contest. The one they all had to catch though was Wild Hope who was brave in front and still finding for pressure.
Moving into the final furlong Kevin really asked his mount for everything he had. Wild Hope quickened once more but so too did his rivals, hot on his heels. Just 100 yards from the line the lead was cut to 3/4 length. Wild hope had the advantage but the momentum just swung in favour of Tadaawol who had hit top gear, whilst on the outer Amadeus Grey and Excelcius were closing too. It was sure to be close but Wild Hope was giving everything and was up for the fight. As he felt the thundering hooves of his rivals, his head got lower and Wild Hope was not for being passed. Seeing the trip out well and battling all the way, Wild Hope repelled the late thrusts to win by a neck and gain his second career victory.
Wild Hope showed plenty of attributes in this win and proved that he is on an upward curve. Having jumped well he settled nicely, travelled well throughout the contest and then was brave when challenged. Hambleton Racing are enjoying a good season so far and with Wild Hope they look as though they could have a progressive handicapper going forward. It’s clear he will be reassessed following this and the decision for future engagements will depend on that. One thing is for sure is that connections will have plenty of fun for the rest of the year.