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John Quinn’s Hidden Justice in hat-trick win bid
HIDDEN JUSTICE, unbeaten in two runs over hurdles and on course for next month’s Cheltenham Festival, is set to cross the Pennines on Saturday in a bid to complete a hat-trick of wins at Haydock.
Norton trainer John Quinn has identified the Victor Ludorum Hurdle as a tempting target for the smart gelding, who, along with stablemate Kashmir Peak, has the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham on his agenda.
Previously trained on the Flat by Amanda Perrett, Hidden Justice was bought for 30,000 guineas at Tattersalls Horses in Training Sales at Newmarket last October. He has since proved a useful addition to Quinn’s hurdling team.
A runaway winner at Wetherby’s Christmas meeting, when he scored by 15 lengths, Hidden Justice followed up under a 7lb penalty at Catterick last month when beating Deepsand by a convincing five lengths.
“He’s a good, tough, hardy horse,” says Quinn. “What I liked about him at Catterick was the way he just legged it after the last under a penalty to win like he did.”
The chances are that Haydock will ride pretty testing on Saturday, but such conditions hold no fears for Hidden Justice.
“He goes well on soft ground and he’s the sort of horse who could run well in a soft-ground Triumph Hurdle,” explained Quinn, adding: “The Victor Ludorum is a good race in its own right and what’s great about it is that he’s then got a full month before Cheltenham.”
In Hidden Justice and Kashmir Peak, Quinn has two horses with fighting chances in the Triumph Hurdle, a race he won last year with Countrywide Flame, who is now on course for the Champion Hurdle.
“He’s grand,” said the trainer of Countrywide Flame. “I was happy enough with him at Doncaster last week (when he finished second to Rock On Ruby, the reigning champion after Darlan fell fatally at the final flight when launching a challenge).
“It wasn’t ideal. He was forced into making the running into a strong headwind and he led two good horses for one mile and five furlongs.
“He was five lengths down at the last and was beaten three lengths at the line, with Denis (O’Regan) just nudging away on him. He’s a spring horse and although he’s got something to find to win a Champion Hurdle, it’s what goes there best on the day that wins, and he’ll love the fast gallop.”
Quinn also hopes to run Calculated Risk at Cheltenham in the Fred Winter Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.
A Doncaster winner on his debut, he finished unplaced at Huntingdon last week, but his handler is quick to defend that performance.
“He’s a half-brother to Kings Quay, who did so well for us a few years ago and who was a horse who loved a bit of decent ground. I think this horse is much the same and I was disappointed to get to Huntingdon and find the ground was bottomless.”
Very much aware that Calculated Risk is one race short of receiving a handicap rating, Quinn intends to run him this weekend and has given him a choice of engagements, including at Kelso on Thursday.
“He needs that third run to qualify him for the Fred Winter,” explained the Highfield trainer, who has plenty to look forward to this weekend, and in the coming weeks.
• FAST approaching the first anniversary of his appointment as retained jockey to Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, Paul Hanagan has his first chance of Classic glory for his powerful boss tomorrow (Thursday).
The start of the British Flat turf season may be more than a month away, but the Dubai Racing Carnival is in full flight at the stupendous Meydan racecourse and Hanagan – based in Dubai for the winter – is set to team up with Soft Falling Rain in the prestigious UAE 2,000 Guineas.
The colt, trained for Sheikh Hamdan by Mike de Kock, is unbeaten in five races and was last season’s champion juvenile in South Africa where his quartet of victories included a Group 1 contest.
On his debut in Dubai last month, Soft Falling Rain, ridden for the first time by Hanagan, ran out an impressive pillar-to-post winner of the UAE 2,000 Guineas Trial, a race which has proved an uncanny accurate guide to the real thing in recent years.
Overcoming a wide draw, Soft Falling Rain was always far too good for his 13 rivals and he swept to success by two and a half lengths without Hanagan needing to get serious with him.
His chance of winning again this week, for an owner on his home course and a jockey itching to get on the Classic scoreboard, look positive to say the least.
• WHEN does a Holy Angel become a guardian angel? Ryedale apprentice Rachel Richardson may be best equipped to answer that teaser after posting two wins in two visits to Wolverhampton in the space of a week.
Holy Angel, trained by Tim Easterby, Richardson’s boss, carried the 7lb claimer to victory on her first mount at Wolverhampton and last week the gelding provided his partner with a smooth follow-up success when coming from off the pace to win in no-nonsense style.
Richardson is understandably thrilled to rattle up a couple of quick winners so early in the year and effectively double her riding score.
Her previous two wins, one as an amateur and the other as an apprentice, were achieved on Ryedane, who is now surely being strongly challenged by Holy Angel as Richardson’s favourite horse.
• SO CLOSE yet so far – that was the outcome of Kristin Stubbs’ first runner as a trainer when Midnight Dream failed by a whisker to score at Wolverhampton last week.
Partnered by Graham Lee, the sprinter was involved in a thrilling duel throughout the final furlong with Sewn Up and the two horses crossed the line as one, unable to be separated with the naked eye.
Alas, the photo-finish showed that Midnight Dream had gone down by a nose to his rival and was thus denied giving his trainer a fairytale winner with her very first representative.
• THE trip across the Humber Bridge from Ryedale into Lincolnshire has become a familiar one for O Crotaigh, whose liking for Market Rasen has seldom been in doubt.
It was highlighted again last week when the Alan Brown-trained gelding, after a spell in the backwaters, returned to winning form at his favourite venue to post his fifth course success.
Given a fine ride by Malton jockey Danny Cook, this habitual front-runner was not put off by a snowstorm which took place during his race and ran on gamely to win by nine lengths at odds of 20-1.
Brown, who trains O Crotaigh for Ryedale owner David Sturdy, was thrilled with the nine-year-old.
“He loves Market Rasen,” confirmed the Yedingham handler.
“It’s been very tough for him. He won four races last season and went up more than 30lb and, although he’s run some good races in defeat since, including at Musselburgh last month, he just needed to get back to a more realistic rating before he was able to win again.
“It’s hard for horses when they go up so much in the handicap, especially a front-runner like him, because in better races he’s always being taken on for the lead.”
Last week, O Crotaigh was able to boss his field from the outset and he showed no signs of stopping.
“Hopefully the handicapper won’t be too hard on him and we’ll try to find another race for him at Market Rasen,” said Brown.
• VOTING has opened for the Flat Ride of the Year, in which Ryedale has three of the four contenders in Freddie Tylicki, Danny Tudhope and Mick O’Connell. Richard Hughes is the other finalist.
At stake is a highly-prized ‘Lester’, a jockey statuette named in honour of the greatest-ever Flat rider, the inimitable Lester Piggott, who will be guest of honour at the star-studded awards ceremony, which takes place at Birmingham’s Metropole Hotel on March 28.
Unlike the other awards, which are voted for only by members of the Professional Jockeys’ Association, the public decide the outcome of the Flat Ride of the Year. Vote for your favourite at firstname.lastname@example.org There is, incidentally, excellent news on the awards front for Jack Teal, who had been among 10 short-listed nominees for the David Nicholson Newcomer Award at the Godolphin Stud And Stable Staff Awards in London.
Teal has now earned himself a place in the final four. The winner will be decided by a panel of judges and will be announced at the awards ceremony on March 4.
• WANT to place an offer for a piece of racing memorabilia? Ryedale jockey Paddy Mathers is selling a pair of distinctive red breeches from the 2003 Shergar Cup meeting at Ascot, which is authenticated by the racecard from the day and which was signed by lots of top jockeys, including the now-retired champions Pat Eddery and Kevin Darley, not to mention Kieren Fallon, Yutake Take from Japan, Shane Dye from New Zealand and South African ace Doug Whyte.
Anyone interested in buying the breeches should phone Paddy on 07590 335201.