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A major Triumph chance for Norton trainer Quinn
2:20pm Wednesday 2nd January 2013 in Sport
What’s better than having one live prospect for the Triumph Hurdle? Having two – or even three – is the obvious answer.
Norton trainer John Quinn is now in that enviable position after Hidden Justice had displayed his burgeoning talents on his hurdling debut at Wetherby’s Christmas meeting and Cockney Sparrow had won by 27 lengths last Saturday at Doncaster.
A couple of weeks earlier, stable companion Kashmir Peak had proved himself one of the best juvenile hurdlers in the country with a Grade 2 success at the same track, showcasing his Triumph Hurdle chances.
Quinn is the first to acknowledge that “we’ve got a good bunch this year,” as he heads into 2013 with an enviable group of young hurdlers, an area in which the Highfield handler has few peers.
While Countrywide Flame, Quinn’s 2012 Triumph Hurdle winner, may not have enhanced his Champion Hurdle claims when a beaten favourite in Kempton’s Christmas Hurdle, the lack of an end-to-end gallop in that Grade 1 contest counted firmly against him.
None the worse for his fourth-placed effort behind Darlan, Countrywide Flame, previously a wide-margin winner of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, will aim to bounce back to winning form before a return to the Cheltenham Festival in March.
The clear signs are that he will have some company on his journey to Gloucestershire. While Kashmir Peak appears to have booked his Triumph Hurdle place, Hidden Justice planted a marker at Wetherby with a professional display on his hurdling bow.
Making light of the heavy ground, the three-year-old, bought for 30,000gns at Newmarket’s October Sales after failing to win in 10 starts on the Flat on turf and with one win to his credit from two all-weather outings, forged clear to win by 15 lengths under Dougie Costello.
“We liked him, but we did think we were starting him off in a hot race,” said Quinn, after the 10-1 success. “We’ll get him out again in about three weeks under a penalty and then see where we go. He’ll be entered in the Triumph Hurdle, and because he revelled in the ground, we’ve got one for soft and one for good ground now.”
Cockney Sparrow, a former Peter Chapple-Hyam Flat-racer with two wins on the level, cost 35,000gns at the same Newmarket Sales where Hidden Justice was recruited.
A creditable runner-up on her hurdling bow at Aintree, the daughter of Cockney Rebel had little to beat at Doncaster and was sent off the 1-3 favourite, but she could hardly have scored with more authority, making all the running under Costello and cruising home by a wide margin.
“She ran a great race at Aintree but had never encountered heavy ground before,” recalled Quinn. “She has come on for that run. We bought her with mares’ races in mind, but she’ll also be entered in the Triumph.”
One more outing will also earn her a rating for the Fred Winter Novices’ Hurdle, a handicap.
• The Grand National may again be on the agenda for Neptune Equester, who returned to winning form in typically gritty style at Wetherby under Kyle James.
The Brian Ellison-trained gelding, having his first outing since last season’s National in April, defied 11st 7lb in the handicap hurdle when keeping Ollie Pears’ My Arch at bay in a gruelling slog.
• A memorial service is to be held at Ripon Cathedral on January 12 for Jessica Bethell, who died suddenly, aged 24, in early October.
The daughter of Middleham trainer, James Bethell, for whom she worked as assistant, Jessica was being groomed to take over from her father. The 11am service at Ripon Cathedral will be followed by a get-together at Ripon Racecourse.
• FINALLY, here are the answers to last week’s Ryedale Racing Christmas Quiz: 1 Cheveley Park Stud; 2 Cape Tribulation and Attaglance; 3 Crackentorp and Jacqueline Coward, dual-winners of the Queen Mother’s Cup; 4 Body And Soul (with £285,956 in prize money); 5 Wolverhampton; 6 Pepper Lane; 7 Countrywide Flame; 8 Tony Hamilton (on Brae Hill); 9 Freddie Tylicki; 10 Danny Cook; 11 Malton Stables Open Day; 12 Danny Tudhope and David O’Meara; 13 Tim Easterby; 14 River Dragon (trained by Tony Coyle); 15 Hamish McGonagall; 16 Tim Walford, father of ex-jockey and new trainer Robert; 17 Lawrence Mullaney; 18 Jack Berry House; 19 Ryedane; 20 Barefoot Lady (trained by Richard Fahey).