CLEVER COOKIE, who is two-from-two at York this season, aims to hit the jackpot on Knavesmire on Saturday by landing the £150,000 55th John Smith’s Cup.
Trained at Barton-Le-Street just outside Malton by Peter Niven, Clever Cookie has proved a revelation since being switched to the Flat earlier this year. After a profitable winter over hurdles, which included a Grade 2 triumph at Kelso, the Ryedale gelding has since developed into a high-class horse on the level.
Successful on his Flat debut in maiden company at Doncaster, Clever Cookie won a tough handicap at York’s Dante meeting in May and followed-up when dead-heating in a Listed race on the same course at the end of the month.
His latest success, when he shared first prize with Irish raider Ralstone Road, was achieved over one mile and six furlongs, but Niven believes that distance stretched his stamina and immediately after the race nominated Saturday’s contest over an extended ten furlongs – the distance of Clever Cookie’s previous York win – as his prime target.
“He’s had a little break and everything has gone well. We hope he is in good nick and the ground looks like it will be spot-on for him,” said Niven earlier this week.
Clever Cookie will have a new jockey in PJ McDonald on Saturday as his usual partner Graham Lee is Newmarket-bound to continue his long-standing association with Jim Goldie’s sprinter Jack Dexter.
“He’s a straightforward ride,” said Niven. “He has a turn of foot and you have just got to save it.”
A hugely competitive field is assured for one of York’s showcase handicaps and Ryedale trainers are set to be strongly represented. David O’Meara has Fattsota, recent winner Two For Two, Chancery and Ingleby Angel among his likely runners, while Brian Ellison can rely on Pacific Heights and, if he makes the cut, Llarnamon Lad, winner of two of his last three starts.
Richard Fahey relies on Hi There, while John Quinn has a fascinating entry in smart German recruit Tahira, who finished sixth behind Clever Cookie at York in May, after meeting trouble in running, and who is now set to meet her local rival on 18lb better terms.
Friday’s York meeting is highlighted by the Group 3 Summer Stakes, which promises a strong Ryedale contingent, headed by Ladies Are Forever, who not only won the corresponding race 12 months ago, but also in 2011 when her owner-breeder Reg Bond sponsored the event under his ‘Tyregiant’ business umbrella.
Trained at Brawby by Geoff Oldroyd, Ladies Are Forever, who has won more than £300,000 in prize money, was a winner in Listed company at Bath on her penultimate start but was compromised by the soft ground when unplaced on Knavesmire in the Duke Of York Stakes on her latest outing in May. A dry few days will be hoped-for by her connections.
“She’s in great form,” said Oldroyd earlier this week. “It would be great if she could win this race for a third time.”
Among the opposition to Ladies Are Forever are Tim Easterby’s talented Body And Soul and the Neville Bycroft-trained Willbeme, who has proved a revelation this summer. A five lengths winner at Beverley early last month, she has since won a useful handicap at York and now merits a crack in Pattern-race company.
• PAUL HANAGAN, fresh from winning last Saturday’s Coral-Eclipse Stakes on Mukhadram, is seeking more Group 1 glory at Newmarket on Saturday.
The former Malton-based champion jockey, who rode work for his former long-time boss Richard Fahey at Musley Bank yesterday morning, will be aboard Aljamaheer in the Darley July Cup. The Roger Varian-trained five-year-old finished a close-up third in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot last month.
“He’ll be on the ball on Saturday,” said Hanagan. “It’s just taken him a little time to adjust from being settled and ridden to get home over longer distances to being asked to jump and go fast this season since he’s been switched to sprints. But I couldn’t be happier with him.”
Reflecting on last Saturday’s triumph which came little more than a month after his Oaks success on Taghrooda, Hanagan said, “It was tremendous and I was so pleased for the horse. He’s the nicest, kindest, most straightforward horse you could find and he deserved a Group 1 win.
• IAN BRENNAN has reached the milestone every apprentice longs to fulfil by taking his score to 95 winners which enables him to forfeit his allowance and join the ranks of fully-fledged jockeys.
Brennan, who, after three years away, is once again attached to John Quinn’s Norton yard, rode World Record to score for his boss at Beverley on Saturday. The success came hot on the heels of Brennan posting a notable recent victory on the Nicky Richards-trained Noble Alan in the valuable Cumberland Plate at Carlisle.
Some 30 of Brennan’ winners have been gained in his native Ireland, but he is up to double-figures for the current season in Britain and is beginning to re-establish himself in the north again after his absence.
Brennan’s achievement adds to a memorable campaign for young Ryedale riders. Jason Hart, last season’s champion apprentice, lost his claim at Hamilton last month and has since notched his 100th career success, while George Chaloner has swept all before him this summer, winning the Wokingham Handicap at Royal Ascot on Baccarat and the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle aboard Angel Gabrial for his boss Richard Fahey, who gave him the leg-up on another three winners last week.
Several other apprentices are going great guns. Rachel Richardson, attached to the Tim Easterby yard, took her tally of winners up to double figures last weekend after a memorable 24 hours during which she scored on Captain Dunne at Haydock and Gran Canaria Queen at Carlisle, both trained by her guvnor.
Joe Doyle, another Quinn-based rider, is now just one winner shy of reducing his claim to 5lb after scoring on the John Ryan-trained Tenor at Kempton last week, while Luke Leadbitter gave a reminder of his talents when winning on Kimbali for his Sledmere boss Declan Carroll at Beverley last Friday evening and Megan Carberry and Jake Butterfield have also been among the winners in the last few days, lending further power to the elbow of this area’s crop of young riders.
Deserving of a mention, too, are a couple of talented Ryedale-born apprentices. Cam Hardie, whose father Willie is head-lad to Tim Easterby, rode two winners at Doncaster last Friday, another in a valuable handicap at Sandown on Saturday and is making a huge impression riding out of the Richard Hannon yard. Hardie recently reduced his riding allowance to 5lb and is climbing rapidly up the ladder. Jack Garritty, son of Russ, the former leading jump jockey, is likewise making swift progress, attached to the Andrew Balding stable. He has established good contacts north and south and has ridden winners in recent weeks for Ryedale trainers, Richard Fahey and Brian Ellison.
• MORE than 2,000 people – and horses – will have their names inscribed on bricks being used on Jack Berry House, currently under construction in Old Malton.
Part of the fund-raising for the £3.1m state-of-the-art Injured Jockeys’ Fund rehabilitation centre, which is due to open early next year, included paying £50 to have your name – or that of your favourite horse – inscribed on a brick. “There are 2,034 of them in total,” reveals Jack Berry, who added, “There will be a special wall within the building, with lights on it, displaying all the bricks with people’s names on them, and outside there be a display of those with the engraved horses’ names.”
That display is likely to surround a life-sized statue of Berry himself. “Willie Newton, the sculptor, is doing it and I’ve been down to get measured for it,” says the vice-president of the IJF, who remains “absolutely chuffed,” that the facility will carry his name.
That said, Berry pointed out, “It should really be called ‘Our House’ after all the people who have supported the project and helped to build it.”