Racing is one of those sports where the smaller guy can step up and take down the big guns, where the participants don’t know about reputations or sales prices. Sales races have grown in stature over the last 10 years, offering huge prize money but proving to be ultra competitive. Bought for E33,000 at the Arqanna yearling sales, The Great Heir has certainly proved to be a bargain as he took down the 6 1/2f Weatherby’s Racing Bank £300,000 2-Y-0 Stakes at Doncaster, pocketing £147,540 in the process.
With the French sale being the first of the European season, it is not a sale that Kevin has had too many purchases from. When Steven Hillen sourced a Pedro The Great colt it was owner Dave Stone who was keen to try and get him and Kevin was more than happy when the hammer came down at E33,000 giving him the first yearling purchase of 2017. From day one he proved to be a character and was bursting to run as soon as a saddle was thrown on him. He was one of the earliest to come to hand and really looked like a precocious colt. Doncaster was actually the first track talked about, with Heir looking like he could line up for the first 2yo race of the year in the Brocklesby. He wasn’t quite ready for that race but he would be on the track soon enough and prove to be one of Kevin’s first juvenile runners of the season.
Starting at Thirsk, The Great Heir, sporting Oliver Stone’s colours for the first time, made a very pleasing start to his career finishing fourth. That race proved to be quite hot with the winner going on to pick up a listed event so the form looked good. It wouldn’t take too long before he would be out again and this time he went a couple better to finish second, again finding a smart 2yo just too good on the day. The two runs were very pleasing, he had improved and that first win looked to be just around the corner. It proved so when, at the third time of asking, The Great Heir went on to win at Redcar. This run earned him a mark of 77 and Kevin had some bigger races in mind for the likeable juvenile.
York is a track that so many owners would love to win at. The Great Heir headed to the Yorkshire track for a nursery, stepping up to 6f for the first time. The result was emphatic as he delivered a 3 1/2 length win, fulfilling a racing dream for Dave Stone. The handicapper took no chances after that, rising him 13lb in the handicap to 90. Heir would head to two big meetings following this, competing in a pair of very competitive nurseries. It didn’t happen for him at Goodwood and then back at York it was felt that the ground was too quick for him. He had race admirably but Kevin felt easier going and a step up in trip would see the Heir back to winning ways.
With entries closing months ago, The Great Heir was already in the Weatherby’s sales race. Fortunately the race fit the bill, likely run on easier ground and an extended trip of 6 1/2f. With a massive prize on offer it was an easy decision to let him take his chance. It is always a tough race to win and the declarations would prove that with 22 runners set to line up, some bringing top level group form to the table. Although he would be seen as a long shot, the conditions were set to play to his strengths. Kevin certainly knows how to win these races and especially with an outsider, as Morning Post won the race back in 2013.
Andrew Mullen was booke for the ride, the first time he would sit on the horse in public. With so many runners tactics are quite hard to work out beforehand so Andrew went out with an open plan. Drawn 3 he would start towards the far side, but it did put him with the favourite of the race, the Group 1 place The Irish Rover. Leaving the stalls the field split into two groups. Andrew just took a pull on his mount to sit towards the rear of the far side group. With so many runners there was bound to be pace and both groups proved that, with little separating the leaders on either side. It was a good, strong gallop through the first furlong as the 22 runners settled down into their positions.
The Great Heir had the larger of the two groups and if he were to get involved then he would need to pass a good few horses. With the strong pace the field were soon through 2f and past the half mile marker. Heir was travelling smoothly and seemingly enjoying his first taste of easy going. There would be little change in the running order until he field hurtled into the second half of the race.
By the halfway stage the race was already heating up with the leaders trying to get a break on the rest and run the finish out of them. This increase of pace just meant that Andrew had to niggle away slightly to keep Heir in his position. The colt responded and slowly moved up through the field, demoting those around him. Still the two groups were neck and neck although it was the far side who were racing far more together. For the few strides that he was pushed along The Great Heir quickly reacted and now back on the bridle he was in the slipstream of the favourite. Andrew looked keen to tag onto The Irish Rover to take him into his final challenge, if good enough at that point.
Heading down to the 2f pole and now the race was on. The jockeys on those towards the front now started to get really animated in the saddle. Unfortunately for those leaders they couldn’t get that all important break on the field. Suddenly the race started to take shape and it was the far side who now held a distinct advantage. Those who had lead down the stands side capitulated quite quickly and looked to be at a big disadvantage a long way from home. Andrew now got into his drive with Heir taking into the race and ready to pounce. The favourite came through to challenge 1 1/2f out and looked a big player as he struck the front. The Great Heir had had a lovely toe off him throughout the contest and as Ryan Moore kicked for home, Andrew followed suit to go in pursuit. The field started to spread out as those leaders weakened out of it, paying the price for forcing the issue. This race was now all about the finishers and The Great Heir was certainly one of them.
The Great Heir passed all of those back pedallers and heading into the final furlong he moved through to give chase to The Irish Rover. The fav had burst through and was trying to make the best of his way home but there was still a way to go. Dirty Rascal came down the centre and The Great Heir was clear down the far side, so they firmly had The Irish Rover in their sights. Stable mate Rathbone had come through smoothly to challenge, being the last off the bridle, but racing towards the near side his run soon flattened out. There was only 200 yards to run and now Andrew asked for every ounce that Heir had to give. In typical fashion the colt stuck his head downed went after the leader. Relishing the ground he began to eat into the lead. So to was Dirty Rascal and Wasntexpectingthat, who swooped suddenly to pull alongside the leader. It looked as though this pair would fight out the finish but The Great Heir was having none of it. As soon as he caught a glimpse of them he changed legs and found another gear. As one Andrew and The Great Heir were all out, giving it everything they had. The bay pulled out a little bit more to squeeze into a neck lead. It was narrow and Dirty Rascal was lunging for one more try but there was nobody going to deny The Great Heir. He clung on to the neck lead as he crossed the line as 2018 Weatherby’s Bank 2-y-o Stakes winner.
These races give every owner a chance to win a massive pot, no matter how much they spent at the sales and it is great for all who take their chance. Owner Dave Stone caught the racing bug a few years ago and since has had plenty of horses in training with Kevin. He is a real enthusiast and steadily his string has got better and better. When he bought The Great Heir it was decided that his son Oliver would design a new set of silks. Everyone was in agreement that he did a fine job, they were certainly better looking than his dad’s, and it looks as though he may have given them a little touch of magic. The Great Heir has done everyone proud all year, improving with each and every run. He is brave, shown by the fact that he went through the quick ground for so long. It was only last time at York that he really didn’t enjoy it, yet still finished 5th. Andrew said he felt like he thrived on easier going so that bodes well for the rest of the season. Anything now is a bonus and it will be very hard to top this result. There could be a chance at pattern company as there is little else for him. The extra 1/2f was ideal and it could be that a step up to 7f in the future may be on the cards. At the moment it will just be case to enjoy the result and watch the replay a few more times.