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Richard Fahey targets a memorable Doncaster double as Flat season stars
3:27pm Wednesday 20th March 2013 in Sport
THE Flat turf season kicks off this weekend and Brae Hill makes his now annual pilgrimage to Doncaster for the William Hill Lincoln Handicap in a bid to make history.
Runner-up to Sweet Lightning in 2011, the Richard Fahey-trained gelding went one better last season when scoring by a whisker from former stablemate Mull Of Killough to provide Fahey and jockey Tony Hamilton with their first Lincoln triumph.
Hamilton will be in the saddle again come Saturday when Brae Hill bids to become the first back-to-back winner of the Flat season’s traditional curtain-raiser for more than 50 years.
The last horse to achieve the elusive double was also a Ryedale performer. Trained at Highfield by Capt Charles Elsey, Babur won the 1957 Lincoln under Malton jockey Edward Hide and followed up 12 months later in the hands of Edgar Britt.
Many have tried and failed since to emulate Babur’s feat and on Saturday it will be Brae Hill’s turn to put his reputation on the line.
Owned by Dr Marwan Koukash – who has recently caused a stir in rugby league by taking over Super League club Salford City Reds – Brae Hill seems at his best in big-field handicaps. In 2011, he won the Bunbury Cup at Newmarket under Barry McHugh.
A 25-1 shot in last year’s Lincoln, he scored officially by a short head. “He hadn’t come in his coat at all and must have been the woolliest-looking horse at Doncaster last year – not that it mattered,” recalls Fahey. “He’s a lot more forward in his coat this year, but whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, I don’t know. He’s been working well, though.”
The straight-mile cavalry charge that is the Lincoln is certain to attract a maximum field. A big betting race, it is always a hugely competitive handicap and this year looks no exception.
Among the opposition to Brae Hill is a raft of Ryedale runners, including a couple of his stablemates – the classy Majestic Myles, twice a winner in Listed company, who heads the weights on 9st 10lb, and Justonefor-theroad, a Musselburgh winner on his first turf outing last season.
Brian Ellison is set to run Memory Cloth and Global Village, two horses who both had timely all-weather outings a fortnight ago, Declan Carroll could saddle Swiftly Done and David O’Meara has a fascinating runner in the aptly-named Hit The Jackpot, who was previously trained in Ireland by Dermot Weld and was highly tried last season in Pattern race company.
O’Meara will have to sweat a little before knowing whether the tough Anderiego has made the cut for the race, while John Quinn is in a similar, if not more vulnerable, position with new recruit Levitate, who may just miss out. Those horses which fail to secure a place will be redirected to the William Hill Spring Mile, the so-called “consolation race”.
It promises to be a thrilling start to the Flat. Any Ryedale winner of the Lincoln would be well received. History made by Brae Hill would be even better.
• THE two-day Doncaster meeting, which heralds the start of the Flat turf campaign, sees Paul Hanagan making a flying visit to ride at the curtain-raising fixture after spending the winter in Dubai.
He will be returning to the Middle East afterwards to ride at the richly-endowed Dubai World Cup meeting, which takes place the following Saturday.
Unsurprisingly, former Malton ace Hanagan, now retained by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, will be joining forces on Town Moor with his old boss, Richard Fahey, and will kick off his domestic season by partnering Lord Clyde in the Brocklesby Stakes, a juvenile event, which opens the campaign on Friday.
• WHILE Countrywide Flame is Aintree-bound next month for a trip to the Grand National meeting, following his heroic third-placed effort in last week’s Champion Hurdle, the same journey across the Pennines will be made by his neighbour Cape Tribulation, following his fifth-placed effort in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, which thrilled his trainer, Malcolm Jefferson.
The Grade 1 Betfred Bowl is the target for Cape Tribulation, who did Jefferson proud in the blue riband of steeplechasing last week.
“He’s come out of the Gold Cup grand,” said his Norton trainer. “He made a little mistake at the water jump, but ran a good race and earned £12,000 in prize money.”
Jefferson, though, felt the rain which arrived on the final day of the Festival may have compromised Cape Tribulation’s chance. “I’m not too sure he wants ground as heavy as that. He won his two hurdles last season at Cheltenham and Aintree on good ground, so there could be more improvement to come on a better surface.”
Highfield trainer John Quinn, who was understandably thrilled to see Countrywide Flame chase home Hurricane Fly and Rock On Ruby – both previous winners of the race – in the prestigious Champion Hurdle, will now point his ultra-tough gelding at the Grade 1 John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle, which will be his first try at two and a half miles over jumps.
There was no joy for Quinn at Cheltenham with his two runners in the JCB Triumph Hurdle, which Countrywide Flame had won last year. Neither Kashmir Peak nor Hidden Justice challenged in the race, which was won impressively by unbeaten Irish raider Our Conor, trained by Dessie Hughes and a horse who is a half-brother to Tim Easterby’s Flat winner, King Of The Celts.
Another Ryedale horse who is Aintree-bound in the first week of April is Dakar Run, who made it two wins from two starts at Huntingdon last week and is now set to tackle the Championship Bumper.
The Richard Fahey-trained gelding followed up his debut win at Wetherby with a comfortable victory under Brian Hughes, who confessed: “It was a messy race and the ground was horrible, which he hated, but he still won well.”
Hughes is a huge fan of the four-year-old, who is owned by York-based Wildcard Racing, run by Andy Bonarius. “He’s as nice a bumper horse as I’ve ever ridden,” said the jockey.
• DANNY COOK felt somewhat cheated at not getting the chance to win the Grand Annual Chase aboard the Brian Ellison-trained Viva Colonia.
Having won his previous two races over fences, Viva Colonia was well fancied to run a big race in the final contest of the Festival.
Cook explained: “It was very unfortunate. A horse fell in front of him early on and knocked us back to last. He never had any chance from there on, which was a real pity.”
Cook was thrilled with the performance of Ellison’s Totalize, who finished fifth in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle. “He met some interference and got stopped everywhere, but he ran a cracking race. I was thrilled with him.”
Cook and Ellison were back among the winners at Carlisle on Sunday with Dusky Bob, who ploughed through testing conditions to score decisively over fences.
• LADIES ARE FOREVER, a stalwart performer for Ryedale trainer Geoff Oldroyd and Pocklington owner-breeder Reg Bond, continues to shine and has taken her prize money earnings through the £230,000 mark after bagging her second successive Listed-race triumph.
The classy five-year-old, winner of the Redcar Two-Year-Old Trophy and a Group 3 event at York earlier in her career, may have gone through last year without a win, but she has already made up for that in 2013.
Having won a Listed race at Lingfield last month, she won another last Saturday, storming home by more than two lengths at 10-1 in the hands of apprentice William Twiston-Davies, whose brother Sam had enjoyed a Cheltenham Festival success earlier in the week on The New One, trained by their father, Nigel Twiston-Davies.
Ladies Are Forever is now a five-times winner. In her current form, she may well be able to add to that tally in the coming weeks.
• DANNY TUDHOPE is eagerly looking forward to the start of the Flat season and also to his first experience of riding in Dubai at the forthcoming World Cup meeting.
Stable jockey to Ryedale trainer David O’Meara, Tudhope is to partner Penitent for his boss in the Godolphin Mile on Saturday week at Meydan Racecourse.
“I’ve never ridden in Dubai before so it will be a great experience,” said Tudhope. “The horse leaves, I believe, this weekend and I will go out a few days before the race.”
Penitent did much to bolster the fortunes of both Tudhope and O’Meara last season. Not only did he win two Group 2 races, he also finished second in Group 1 company at Longchamp on Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe day in October.
The Tudhope-O’Meara combination promises to be a potent force in the weeks and months to come. They teamed up to land a treble at Wolverhampton last Saturday night with Frontier Fighter, Classic Colori and Hiddon Coin and have plenty of useful ammunition to fire once the Flat season is up and running.
• RYEDALE trainer John Wainwright ensured Blue Noodles was on the menu at Wolverhampton on successive evenings last weekend by running his gelding twice on the course in the space of 24 hours.
On Friday night, Blue Noodles won at a tasty 14-1, but with a 6lb penalty to carry the following evening, he was narrowly denied when finishing a close up third, again ridden by Paddy Aspell.
“He’s a tough little horse and he deserved to win one, as he had been running very well this year,” said Wainwright, who, after making the journey to Wolverhampton on Friday, opted out on Saturday. Instead he went to watch York City defeated by Port Vale.