Rathbone Finally Breaks Streak

Frustrating sums up Rathbone in one word. Works great, runs well but inconsistent and disappoints on the occasions where everything is in his favour. If you had asked connections at the start of last year what they would envisage for Rathbone you could almost guarantee Royal Ascot, York, Ayr and all the other big meeting would have come out. Unfortunately the win didn’t come but Rathbone broke his losing streak when making all in the 6f Sky Bet Request A Bet Handicap at Thirsk. 

It has been incredibly frustrating over the past 18 months. Some of Rathbone’s form is high quality, running future Group 1 winner Glen Shiel close on a couple occasions. Those type of runs have been followed up by no shows. Headgear has been used, it worked and then next time out there was very minimal effort. Multiple jockeys have had a go and differing grounds/surfaces tried. This year started in the same manner but a couple of runs ago, at Thirsk, Rathbone showed a little more life. Chester over 7f was next and again he travelled so well before just finding it too far. These two runs certainly had connections looking forward but there was trepidation, something that has been taught by following the son of Foxwedge. 

Megan Nicholls had almost unlocked the puzzle last year when partnering Rathbone, with the pair just getting touched off at Ascot. Now lining up against 7 rivals and with blinkers back on, Megan was given no instructions and it was all left in her hands. After the race Megan had said Rathbone gave her such a feel going to post that there was only one thing in mind, which turned out to be a masterstroke. 

Despite Megan having a plan in her head it could all change as the stalls opened. Actually it turned out to be perfect as non of her rivals wanted to go on. Rathbone was into his stride and quickly took up front running. Holding a lead of 3/4 length, Rathbone led down the centre of the track and looked to be happy with daylight in front. 

Through the first half of the race Rathbone looked to have it easy enough but his rivals were not going to keep it that way. They gave the leader a squeeze at the 3f pole which injected a bit more tempo into the contest. Feeling their presence, Rathbone quickened up and their move actually got the leader a little more fired up. Megan still had her mount in her hands but allowed him to lengthen and they edged into a larger 1 1/4 length advantage. His rivals move had backfired and kept Rathbone honest in front which he reacted to perfectly. 

One by one the runners came under pressure and moving into the final 2f, Rathbone was the only one travelling on the bridle. They couldn’t bridge the gap yet and Megan begun to turn the screw. Squeezing a little more with each stride they continued to hold their advantage but doing so with far more ease than their rivals. Megan was going to try and play her hand late and the lead was cut down to just under a length with the final furlong baring down on them. The difference was that Rathbone had yet to exert himself where as his rivals had made their challenge. Full of running Megan asked him to go and win the race, which Rathbone did so quickly opening up once again passing the 1f marker. He was kept up to his work but Rathbone was not throwing the towel in. The final furlong was just a question of how far. Striding clear he won with ease and earned a 2 1/4 length win but with plenty left in the tank. 

There was no arguments with this performance and it was fantastic to see Rathbone get his head in front once again. He travelled smoothly and then quickened when asked. Megan gave him a great ride, full of confidence and deserves a huge amount of credit for unlocking the key to success. Rathbone is a very talented horse and hopefully this could be the confidence boost that he needed. The winning margin is a little irrelevant here as he had a lot left in the tank and if they come to him he had plenty more to give. Rathbone is horse capable of mixing it with the very top handicappers and hopefully he can get to that level with this spurring him on. Could he get to Ayr, well you would certainly think so but what cup will it be for. 

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Aleezdancer Waltzes To An Easy Success

Promise and a nice introduction is the perfect start for 2yr olds and that can be from winning on debut to finishing unplaced. It is important for the juveniles to have an enjoyable first day out and something they can build on. Aleezdancer did just that as he stepped up on his debut fourth to run away with 5f Racing TV Novice Stakes at Beverley. 

The son of Fast Company was gelded before his first ever run, something just to help settle him down. It was something that worked very well for him and Aleezdancer relaxed into his work and therefore came to hand early enough. Kevin always felt that the geld would get further than the bare 5f but he was ready to run and had to make his debut. Opting for Beverley due to it’s stiffer test, Aleezdancer ran green early on before the penny dropping in the final furlong. Finishing powerfully, Aleezdancer ran on to finish fourth and catch many people’s eye. 

Having felt that the gelding may want further, Kevin had given him a chance at Beverley and would return to the Yorkshire track just 3 weeks later. Aleezdancer headed back with experience under the belt but would be faced with differing conditions. Recent weather turned the ground soft and Aleezdancer was lumbered with the widest draw of all the 12 runners. Conditions should suit but the draw was not kind and Kevin Stott, taking the ride, would need to earn his riding fee from the off. 

Jumping slightly left from the stalls wasn’t the ideal start but Kevin quickly adjusted his bearings and tracked over with the rest. Aleezdancer used his experience as he quickly made up for the tardy start and was into his stride to chase the early leaders, sat just in behind them. There looked to be a good pace through the first couple of furlongs but Aleezdancer was actually just fighting for his head, looking like he wanted to stride on. He did relax and listened to Kevin, racing on the outside of the field. 

The field charged through the first half of the race but were quickly racing for home. The pressure was telling as they entered the home straight and the majority of the field got racing a long way out. Aleezdancer was travelling sweetly down towards the centre of the track and Kevin was motionless on the gelding. Moving inside the final 2f if the race was frozen there looked to be only one winner. Whilst his rivals were struggling away, Aleezdancer powered through the ground and came through to challenge with ease. 

Kevin waited and waited and waited. With Aleezdancer cantering into the lead it wasn’t until the ground started to rise, around 1 1/2f from home, that Kevin asked his mount to go. Lengthening and quickening up, Aleezdancer moved away from his rivals. Only one other could go with him but it was to no avail as Aleezdancer hadn’t even moved into top gear yet. Kevin asked him to really put the race to bed inside the final furlong and the lead suddenly burst wide open, going from around 1 length to as far as he liked. Aleezdancer powered through the group, up the stiff finish and was just putting daylight between himself and his rivals. Bolting up, the gelding won by 6 1/2 lengths and it was a number that could have been whatever he wanted.

It was a very impressive performance form Aleezdancer and he really took a step forward from his debut. The easier ground looked to be more to his liking and he travelled unbelievably well. When Kevin asked the gelding to quicken he did just that and was galloping all the way through the line. Whether he steps up in trip next time out will all depend on options but 6f certainly looks likely to be his trip. Although they have enjoyed winners in syndicates, John and Allison Matthews were gaining their first success in their own colours. It is always special and it was fantastic to deliver for them, as well as Kevin’s old boss Mr and Mrs Berry who own half. Where Aleezdancer goes next will be interesting but he is certainly on the right tracks after this win. 

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Sound Reason Makes All

Being the first 2yo runner last year it seemed as though Sound Reason could be in for a fun season. After a promising start to his career connections and to be patient. The waiting game paid off with a novice win in February but Sound Reason backed that up with another win on his first run on turf, taking the 5f Beverley Annual Badgeholders Handicap. 

Hot Streak was a crack sprinter for the team and now a stallion at Tweenhills Stud. Obviously Kevin was keen to capture some of his progeny. Unfortunately he hasn’t really hit the heights yet as a stallion but he has certainly produced some sharp sprinters. Sound Reason was always big, powerful colt form the moment he arrived at Hambleton Lodge. Unfortunately following his debut run he just couldn’t quite carry that strong frame and so time was given to allow him to mature and strengthen up. 

Thankfully the patience was to pay off, almost immediately. Returning at the start of 2021, Sound Reason finished 2nd on the all-weather. With such a long time off it was a nice return and he was bound to come on for that run. He certainly did and took advantage of a small field novice at Newcastle to gain his first career win. 

Three runs to date had all been over the 5f but all were at Newcastle which is a galloping track. There were plenty of options around for the chestnut but the stiff 5f at Beverley looked the most suitable and so he lined up in the competitive handicap. With 14 declared for the contest it was a full field and quite an interesting contest. Sound Reason looked the least exposed whilst some of his rivals were recent winners but of a lower handicap rating than himself. Kevin Stott was in the saddle and was lumbered with a poor draw of 13 to overcome. 

Jumping well Kevin decided to take the simple route. Staying almost straight from his wide draw he raced closer to the stands side rail through the early stages. Sound Reason was quickly into stride and up with the early pace but would only have one rival for company, which was the only horse drawn wider than himself. Seeing Kevin stick to his draw, his colleagues were quite sure where to position themselves and the field were spread wide across the track. 

Charging through the first 2 furlongs where they gallop past the round course, Sound Reason held the overall lead. This saw the field shift even closer to the gelding and away from the far rail. Kevin had dictated the race and had dirt on his terms thanks to his positivity. As they moved to the halfway stage Sound Reason began to stretch out and this started to creates breaks in the pack. 

Sound Reason took Kevin along as he was still on the bridle coming into the final 2f. It was at this point that Kevin started to work and wind up his mount. Sound Reason put his head down and was finding for pressure but couldn’t get a clear break to his rivals. There was still plenty of racing left with the stiff finish to come but Sound Reason was finding for pressure. 

Inside the final furlong the chestnut had finally managed to repel those  in closest pursuit as they cracked under the pressure. Sound Reason was continuing to find more in front but there was one rival finishing. From out of the pack Memo was finished late and fast. Although Sound Reason wasn’t stopping Kevin knew he had to keep him up his work, just incase his rival caught him by surprise. Fortunately he had a very willing  partner and Sound Reason was not going to be denied. Not stoping and galloping all the way to line, Sound Reason had enough to repel the late flourish and he held on to win by a head. 

Both horse and jockey deserve a lot of credit for this performance. Kevin was positive and kept it simple but Sound Reason was very brave and did it the hard way. He showed great speed but stayed on well in the latter stages. It looked as though he was always doing enough and may well have appreciated a little more help for longer. Sound Reason is a horse on the upgrade and looks like he will get 6f at some stage. It will interesting to see what happens to his mark from here but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him continue with this good form. 

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Plain Sailing For Bergerac

Surely it was a case of when not if Bergerac could get his head in front and earn his first career win. Some solid place efforts at two were followed by a runner up spot when he returned this year as a 3yr old. Well Bergerac earned his first career win on his next run in devastating fashion, taking the 6f Tuffa Boots Supports The National Horseracing College Handicap at Pontefract. 

Starting his career at Hamilton, Bergerac showed promise on his first two runs, both at the Scottish track. After a third placed effort on debut he went one better next time out. With the shortened season last year handicap marks could be given after two runs. His pair of placed efforts earn an opening mark of 77. With owners Angie Bailey and Peter Tingey lovers of York, Bergerac headed there for a nursery which again saw him fill the runner up spot. Unfortunately his final run was the only one where he was below par and he was finished until 2021. 

Bergerac did well over the winter, having been gelded he thrived and strengthened up. Coming to hand early on in the year, Bergerac had to try the all-weather for his first run. Back to form he once again put in a solid effort and gained another runner up finish. It was a really pleasing return but it was about time for the gelding to be the first past the post. 

Back to his original mark of 77, Bergerac headed to Pontefract to tackle the 0-75 contest. It would mean that the 3yr old would be lumbered with top weight but it this means that he was realistically the best horse in the field. Lining up against 7 rivals Kevin Stott partnered the gelding for the first time. The entire pre race revolved around Bergerac with the son of Kodi Bear backed into 5/4 clear fav. 

There was no messing about  from the off as Stott kicked his mount out of the gates and straight towards the front. It was a dash for the lead and his colleagues quickly realised what Kevin’s intentions were. Only one rival went with him and it was a horse that Bergerac had finished 2nd to at York last year, Julie Johnston. Settling down Bergerac was just on the girths of the leader as the pace was strong, taking the field through the first furlong. 

The strong gallop saw the field well stretched out as they charged through the first couple of furlongs and headed down towards the left handed bend. With the leader continuing to kick on Kevin decided to keep tabs and chased the pace throughout the contest. As the front two begun to swing left they caught the rest of the field on their heels. Trying to play catch up they were under pressure to close the gap. It was actually Bergerac’s stable mate Tiny Danser who was the closest pursuer and the only on who was within striking distance. 

Kevin had the rail and slipped up the inside of the leader with 2 1/2f to go and his rival paid for forcing the pace, weakening away. With the rest hard at work Kevin was still quiet and Bergerac took the lead with ease. Swinging into the home straight Kevin used the momentum and started to wind his mount up. Bergerac squeezed out a bit more and had a clear length advantage inside 2f. His stable mate was chasing him through and now Kevin asked Bergerac to go and put the race to bed. Initially he started to lengthen and opened up his advantage to 2/3 lengths. The final furlong was his lap of honour as Tiny Danser was in second, pulling clear herself but not catching her stable mate. With the ground rising Bergerac really thrived up the hill and stretched further clear. In the clear and galloping all the way to the line the win was secure but the distance was the only thing left. Impressively Bergerac opened up a clear 6 length advantage to bolt up for his first career win. 

It couldn’t have been any easier for Bergerac and he impressed in the way he went through the race. The pace was strong throughout which he handled but could then quicken up in the latter stages. Bergerac looked the best horse in the field and he proved it with the decisive fashion of victory. Distance and performance will certainly have announced Bergerac to the handicapper and he will surely be looking at a big hike. There would have been no stopping him on this day so a handicap change is well deserved and could lead the 3yr old to some bigger handicaps now, maybe getting connections excited about heading to York. 

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