Four Ryedale horses, trained within four miles of each other around Malton, were separated by less than a length at the finish of the thrilling £100,000 William Hill Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster on Saturday.
Principal honours fell to John Quinn, who saddled new recruit Levitate to a 20-1 success by a short head from the Brian Ellison-trained Global Village, with last year’s winner, Brae Hill, trained by Richard Fahey, only a nose away in third, closely followed by his stablemate, Justonefortheroad, who was beaten a further three-parts of a length.
“I don’t like beating my neighbours, but I’m glad I won. If I hadn’t I would have wanted Brian or Richard to have won. It was a great result for Malton,” said Quinn, who was saddling his second Lincoln winner. In 2006 when the race was run at Redcar, he was triumphant with Blythe Knight, who was runner-up to Smokey Oakey two years later when the Lincoln was back at Doncaster.
“I’ve never had a live Lincoln hope since until this year,” explained Quinn, who only took over Levitate in the winter. “I’ve had him since about December and he’d been working pleasingly. I knew he was fit and he had form on soft ground.”
The irony of the victory was that if the race had been run, as planned, one week earlier, Levitate would not have been in the line-up. But, while the snow came at a bad time for Doncaster and for plenty others involved, it was a godsend for Quinn and owner Charles Wentworth, who sent the gelding, along with three others, to the yard during the winter.
During the re-jigging of the Lincoln last week, six of the original runners dropped out and six others, who had been destined to go for the consolation race, the Spring Mile, entered the equation. Levitate was the fifth of the six to gain access to the Lincoln at the second attempt and Quinn was counting his lucky stars for the delay.
“He wouldn’t have run in the race if it hadn’t been postponed a week,” acknowledged the trainer, who believes his booking of crack apprentice Darren Egan tilted the balance in Levitate’s favour.
“Mick O’Connell was going to ride him, but he only had 8st 7lb which would have been on the cusp for him, so we decided to book an apprentice. As it turned out, given that he’s only just won, Darren’s 3lb claim probably won us the race.
“It was great to win one Lincoln, and it’s even better to win two.”
Frustrating though it was to lose a Lincoln by inches, Brian Ellison was delighted with Global Village. “He’s done everything except win and was in front a couple of strides after the line,” said the Norton trainer, who did at least claim a valuable consolation prize.
“I won the big hurdle race at Haydock,” said Ellison, referring to the Danny Cook-ridden Fleet Dawn, who picked up a £32,000 first prize, which was nearly double what Global Village earned for finishing runner-up at Doncaster.
Earlier in the week, Ellison and Cook had forged a Wetherby double with Discovery Bay and Neptune Equester, whose next run is likely to be in the Scottish Grand National on Saturday week.
The Fahey team – not surprisingly thrilled with the Lincoln performances of Brae Hill and Justonefortheroad, not to mention their third runner Majestic Myles, who was beaten just over three lengths into seventh place – also gained handsome compensation.
Eastern Destiny and Doc’s Legacy, both ridden by Brae Hill’s jockey Tony Hamilton, clinched a handicap double for Fahey at Doncaster later in the card, while up at Musselburgh, Hi There, ridden by Barry McHugh, completed a treble for the Musley Bank stable.
It was much the same story on Easter Monday when another three-timer was landed courtesy of Time And Place (Paul Hanagan) and Gabrial The Master (Jamie Spencer) at Yarmouth and Wyldfire (Lee Topliss) at Redcar.
Another big week is coming up for John Quinn, albeit under a different code. He will be on duty at Aintree’s Grand National meeting, supervising his top-notch hurdler Countrywide Flame.
The tough-as-teak gelding, a hugely creditable third in last month’s Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, steps up to two and a half miles in Thursday’s £200,000 John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle as he aims to bag his third Grade 1 jumping scalp after successes in the Triumph Hurdle and the Fighting Fifth Hurdle.
After Levitate, it will be some achievement for the Highfield team if Countrywide Flame can ignite an outstanding double.
Teenage rider Jamie Hamilton is eagerly looking forward to his first ride at Aintree this week – and a thrilling encounter with the fearsome Grand National fences.
Hamilton, who is attached to Richard Fahey’s Malton yard and who recently rode his first winner on the Flat at Doncaster aboard the tricky Yeomanoftheguard to go with his 15 winners over jumps, is set to ride Tartan Snow in the £40,000 John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase over almost two and three-quarter miles of the most daunting of steeplechasing courses.
“I can’t wait,” said Hamilton, as he contemplates jumping famous fences like Becher’s Brook, the Chair, Valentine’s and the Canal Turn.
The youngster has recruited the services of at least one, if not two, experienced jockeys to help him in his quest. He explained: “I have asked Brian Hughes and also Ryan Mania to walk the course with me, so hopefully one if not both will be able to give me some advice. Ryan has ridden Tartan Snow before, so he knows the horse and the course.”
Hamilton has twice ridden Tartan Snow, trained in Scotland by Stuart Coltherd, to victory in hunter chases and knows the 13-year-old well. “He’s a grand old horse. It’s anyone’s guess how he’ll react to the Aintree fences, but he’s an experienced jumper and I’m looking forward to a great spin on him,” he said.
Although there are no Ryedale runners in this year’s Grand National, Billy Cuckoo, trained by Norton’s Tony Coyle, is being prepared for a tilt over the National fences in Friday’s John Smith’s Topham Chase.
Malcolm Jefferson, who saddled Cape Tribulation to finish fifth in last month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, is hoping to see his stablestar grab a bigger slice of the prize money at Aintree this week.
The £150,000 Betfred Bowl Chase on Thursday is the target for the talented and versatile Cape Tribulation, who will again be partnered by Denis O’Regan. The gelding bagged notable prizes over hurdles last season at both the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals.
Come Saturday – Grand National day – and the John Smith’s Champion National Hunt Flat Race is the aim of the Richard Fahey-trained Dakar Run, unbeaten in two outings to date at Wetherby and Huntingdon.
Mick O’Connell, who rides for John Quinn, was the winner of the Flat Ride of the Year award at last week’s PJA Stobart Lesters Ceremony in Birmingham.
O’Connell won the highly-prized ‘Lester’ for his narrow win on the Linda Stubbs-trained Qubuh at Hamilton last season and beat off strong opposition from Danny Tudhope, Richard Hughes and Freddie Tylicki to take the award.
Amy Ryan also picked up a ‘Lester’ for Apprentice Jockey of the Year, the Hambleton-based rider having clinched the junior title in 2012 with an historic success for a female pilot.