Everybody wants to win on the biggest stage and at the biggest tracks. There are plenty of reasons why people want to win at certain places and for many a northern trainer, owner or jockey, York is the track where they are yearning to have a winner at. It is certainly true for Kevin, who has enjoyed many a winner at the Yorkshire track. Owner Dave Stone and jockey Shane Gray have not been as fortunate but were rewarded by The Great Heir as he bolted up in the 6f John Smith’s Nursery Handicap, giving the pair their first York winner.
The Great Heir always looked like a real 2yo type, sharp and precocious. Although he wasn’t out as early as expected, once he did hit the track he certainly showed there was an engine underneath the bonnet. At Thirsk, on debut, he finished 4th to a future listed winner then bumped into another nice prospect at Beverley when improving to be runner up. The form was strong and he continued his improvement when he gained his first, and well deserved, win at Redcar. Having helped force the pace throughout he put his experience to good use, kicking on 2f out and then repelling all the late challengers. Again the form looked good when the 3rd placed horse went on to win well next time out.
From his first 3 rune, The Great Heir had shown his career was in the upward curve and it was clear that he was crying out for 6f. With this in mind Kevin felt there was more to come but he had a lot of options to work through for Heir’s future racing. Being bred in France meant that Heir is eligible for the French breeding premiums. These are very attractive offers that add a percentage bonus to the prize money won in France. Kevin immediately thought this would be the best route for the juvenile, it would be step up in grade and the prize money would be 3-4 times better than racing over here. After weeks and weeks of searching for races across the Channel it was clear that there wasn’t anything suitable. Any suitable race just wasn’t offering enough prize money so Kevin decided that he would keep Heir closer to home and tackle the nursery route.
York always offers top class racing and very good prize money. Unfortunately for them, Mother Nature has really made their tasks difficult and like so many other meetings the field sizes are smaller than usual. The nurseries are always ultra competitive but due to the very quick conditions at present, the 6f nursery only attracted 5 declarations. Originally Kevin didn’t declare for the race, believing that there would be too much against Heir. Ideally he would enjoy a little bit juice in the ground, so to race against 20 rivals would be too tough. Once he saw the field size was decimated and the race re-opened it was logical to let Heir take his chance.
Shane Gray rides all of Dave Stone’s horses and had done the steering on The Great Heir in each of his 3 runs. With one non-runner, Heir would line up against just 3 rivals, meaning Shane would not have many options with tactics. With four runners it was going to be how he jumped and then to go from there but there did seem like there would be pace from the Richard Fahey trained Posh Perfect, who had won by using positive tactics the time before.
The four runners were loaded quickly and all four jumped the same way. In a line they all bounced out and for the first few strides they stayed in their own lanes. The stalls were placed on the stands side rail, where The Great Heir was drawn, so Shane initially stuck to his route. With all the runners allowed to stride on it was Posh Perfect who was sent a little bit faster to get the lead and cut out the running. The others now settled down to follow the pace which meant the field shifted over to race more towards the centre of the track. Shane allowed Heir to drift over and the colt latched on to the leader’s girths. With Blyton doing the same on the other side, the fourth runner Aurag was left to sit in behind his stable mate, forming a diamond formation of the field.
This was not going to be a tactical affair as the leader set a good gallop. The Great Heir travelled well on the stands side and had settled into a nice rhythm from the off. With these 2yo’s being inexperienced this type of race can be harder than a big field as there isn’t too much to help them out. When the race comes to the big push it can be daunting in a small field because there is so much daylight and concentration levels can be affected. The four runners had no issue through the first couple of furlongs as only a couple of lengths covered the field.
Moving towards halfway and the leader had travelled powerfully in front, trying to use her speed to burn off her rivals. Despite going well, Posh Perfect was allowed to inject a little bit more pace heading down to the halfway point. Stretching out she increased the tempo and the move did have an affect on the race. Blyton, who was second favourite, started to come under pressure in an attempt to maintain his position. Shane was motionless on board The Great Heir, as he managed to match the leader’s speed with ease. Cruising along down the stands side he closed up to now sit almost alongside the filly. The field were going to get racing a long way out as now Aurag also started to get niggled at the try and close on the leader.
The Great Heir had moved into the race supremely well and between the 3f and 2f marker he really started to lay it down to the leader. With the 2 rivals behind struggling to get on terms, Posh Perfect now came under the pump too as Heir was travelling well on her outside. Moving up with Shane still pulling double, Heir stuck his nose into the lead passing the 2f pole. Without any hesitation Shane got lower in the saddle and asked Heir to lengthen away. His mount responded and edged ahead of the long time leader who was trying hard to match her rival. The other two rivals were toiling away in behind and it did look quite clear that the winner was only going to come from the leading pair.
Heading into the final furlong and The Great Heir held the lead but had not yet completely put the race to bed. Shane had been very easy on him but now he pulled his stick through to his left hand as his mount just lugged towards the far side. Quickly flicking his stick, Shane got Heir top straighten up and change legs. Once he did this he quickened up and went clear in a matter of strides. Now he had put the race to bed and Shane went back to hands and heels. It was the colt’s first try at 6f but the further he went the more impressive he looked. The race was won 3/4 furlong from home but Shane kept him up to his work. The Great Heir stretched clear and as he reached a 3 length advantage, Shane was able to start applying the brakes. Crossing the line he held an impressive 3 3/4 length advantage to win with ease.
You always have a feeling that horses can improve with certain factors but it’s not until they try it that you know. The Great Heir had been shaping as though 6f would be ideal and it certainly proved that way. The further they went the stronger he was and this was another improved performance. Obviously the handicapper will be reassessing his mark following this win off 77. Owner Dave Stone was certainly enjoying his first York win but he will be thanking a certain young man. Oliver Stone, his son, decided that his dad’s colours were not the best and he could do better. When The Great Heir came into training, Oliver got the designs out and came up with the new and improved silks for Heir. They have certainly proved to be lucky and he has helped his dad to enjoy a great start to Heir’s career, so it looks like Dave may have to draw up an improved contract for his racing manager. It was also great to see Shane ride his first winner at York. He has come close in the past so to gain that first one is big for him. He is a talented young jockey, hard working and deserves this success. As for the future there are plenty of options for Heir. Kevin will be keeping his eye out in France still but there is a few big nurseries coming up, back at the Knavesmire or possibly down at Goodwood. These are both at big meetings and will certainly ask a few more questions but with the new lucky silks on there’s no reason why Heir can’t continue going from strength to strength.