The enforced mid-season break was very disappointing and frustrating, none more so with the 2 year olds. With all the juveniles ready to go it was terrible timing but one horse who had managed to get some experience was Trusting Friend. Two runs down he looked like a winner waiting to happen and thankfully he made true on this when showing great determination to take the 6f Racing Welfare Racing Staff Week Novice Auction Stakes.
People are very quick to right off horses and this happened with Friend when he lined up for his third run. A fine debut second placed effort had seen the form franked with the winner going on to strike again. Unfortunately Trusting Friend couldn’t back it up when he finished last on his next start on the all-weather at Wolverhampton. Having hung all through the race it was obvious that the track and surface could be the deciding factor so a line was put through that run. Where connections kept faith, punters did not and despite having arguably the best form he was overlooked as an 8-1 shot.
Kevin Stott was in the saddle again having partnered the colt on his previous starts. With experience in the bag it was hoped that Friend could jump well and be positive. The stalls were positioned in the centre of the track, giving Friend a plum draw of 5 being bang in the middle of the field. Jumping quickly, Friend found himself at the forefront of the race and took the lead heading straight down the middle of the track. Only the fancied Arcavallo went with him vying for the lead whilst the others tucked in with the favourite well back in the field.
Keeping it easy was the call Kevin made and with Trusting Friend travelling strongly and seemingly happy in front, he left him to stride on. Alongside Arcavallo the pair had a little gap over the rest and the runners were quite well strung out even coming through the first couple of furlongs. It was obvious there was a bit of juice in the ground as clumps of turf kicked up, so the 6f was going to be a bit more testing than usual.
By halfway it became clear that the two leaders were in the right spot as they travelled well. Even at this early stage there were plenty of the rivals beginning to get to work, trying to close the gap but unable to. Friend was pricking his ears in front and was still having a bit of a look around, not fully concentrating on the race in hand. Kevin was happy but still had to just cajole his mount slightly to make sure he kept his position and was ready for the pressure that was to come in the finish.
There had been no change in the race and moving inside the 2f marker it became obvious that the two leaders were going to be hard to reel in. Arcavallo was travelling the better of the two but Friend was still there and distress signals were not being raised by Kevin. The pair were stretching out and the advantage they held began to grow, with nothing getting into the race. Between the 2f and 1f marker it was Kevin who got to work first, winding Friend up and trying to get him into top gear. The pair were neck and neck but Arcavallo looked the likely winner of the two.
The leaders had been eyeball to eyeball from the start and were still inseparable. As they hit the final furlong together both jockeys got to work simultaneously. Having been motionless up until now, Paul Mulrennan quickly got to work whilst Kevin was just increasing his pressure on Friend. Suddenly the race changed and from being the weaker of the two, Trusting Friend looked the stronger. Friend had gone through the gears and was beginning to get stronger whilst his rival hadn’t found as much as expected. The two were still neck and neck but as the pressure grew, Arcavallo began to show signs of stress, edging to his left and towards Friend. Kevin was asking for everything and getting it. Despite being carried slightly left by his rival, Trusting Friend was seeing the trip out the better and got on top with just 150 yards left to run. There was no stopping the colt and he was seeing out the trip well. Once in front he pulled out a little bit more and finally managed to dispense with his long time foe, squeezing out a 3/4 length advantage.
Trusting Friend really bounce back following a disappointing run and looks to have more to come. He still showed signs of immaturity and is a long way from the finished article. It was positive from start to finish but Trusting Friend was looking around a bit and will continue to learn with racing. He was very strong at the finish and looks likely to get another furlong. It was a great result for owner Fergus Galvin who was watching from his base in Keeneland where the juvenile was purchased last year. He is a nice prospect and it is going to be an interesting second half of the season for Trusting Friend.