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Exciting feature contest on the cards at Ripon Racecourse
Louis The Pious, pictured winning at Haydock Park, will be attempting to give David O’Meara a William Hill Great St. Wilfrid Handicap hat-trick at Ripon on Saturday. Picture: Alec Russell
EARLY August, in fact the period between the end of Glorious Goodwood and the start of York’s Ebor meeting, always seems a little lacklustre.
There is certainly no lack of meetings – in fact this Saturday sees eight around the country – and if Newbury is the premier meeting then Ripon, Yorkshire’s Garden Racecourse, can lay claim to being the most interesting.
The Great St Wilfrid Handicap, sponsored by bookmakers William Hill, has long been one of racing’s most competitive six furlong handicaps.
While perhaps lacking the kudos of the Wokingham at Royal Ascot, the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood or the Ayr Gold Cup, Ripon’s principal race of the season almost always provides exciting fare.
In recent years the Easterby family, Peter, Mick and Tim, have been the most successful Ryedale trainers, but we had seen a decade without success until Nawton-based David O’Meara sent out Pepper Lane to win in 2011 and then repeated the feat last year.
Remarkably our leading trainer, Richard Fahey, has never trained the winner but the sponsors have installed his four-year-old Baccarat as 7-1 favourite.
O’Meara has three entries and both Louis The Pious and Dick Bos are quoted at 14-1. Two other interesting local contenders are Ollie Pears’ Needles Blue Boy and Hoof It, Mick Easterby’s 2012 Stewards’ Cup victor.
The main supporting race, the Ripon Horn Blower Conditions Stakes, could see Fahey’s classy two-year-old Supplicant back in action after a desperately unlucky run at Goodwood.
Regarding stable star Garswood, meanwhile, he said: “All roads lead to the Prix de la Foret on Arc week-end, but we’ll take a race in on the way.
“He’s in the Hungerford at Newbury on Saturday and we’ll look at the Park Stakes at the St Leger meeting. The Prix du Moulin at Longchamp would be another option.”
TOMORROW (Thursday) sees the running of the White Rose Saddlery Amateur Riders Handicap at Beverley over one mile and 100 yards. This popular race has again been split into two divisions, with 12 runners in the first and 11 in the second, and there will be plenty of local interest – both trainers and riders.
Strikemaster, owned by his wife Carol and ridden by his son Aaron, started at 10-1 and displayed a real turn of foot at the finish to win the two miles race by two-and-three-quarter lengths. To keep the affair nicely in the family, Carol led Strikemaster up.
JAMES SULLIVAN clocked up 50 winners two years ago when he came close to clinching the Apprentice Championship, and the Norton jockey, now firmly established in the fully fledged ranks, is well on course to scaling even greater heights this year.
The quietly spoken Irishman is currently enjoying a tremendous purple patch, highlighted by six winners in four days last week, which included a sizzling treble at Redcar.
Sullivan rides for a whole host of trainers and his Redcar winners were achieved for three different stables. He kicked off aboard 9-1 shot Fab Lolly, for Middleham trainer James Bethell, followed up aboard talented sprinter Head Space, a 9-2 winner for Stillington trainer Ruth Carr, one of Sullivan’s principal supporters, before finishing off with a 5-2 success on Micky Hammond’s Spats Columbo.
The trio of wins, which came hot on the heels of a midweek Pontefract double and a strike at Southwell, took Sullivan’s tally for the year to 35, just six short of his total score for the whole of last season.
Considering we have yet to reach the middle of August, Sullivan looks a pretty safe bet to leave that previous best number of winners behind him before 2013 draws to a close.
THE short-head defeat of Top Notch Tonto at Newmarket last Saturday prevented Brian Ellison from continuing a remarkable sequence on behalf of owner Keith Brown.
Brown only sent horses to the Norton handler when his trainer Ian McInnes lost his licence earlier this summer. Since then Ellison has had six runners for Brown and saddled five winners.
Dream Walker has won three from three, Local Flier scored at Beverley, Brown’s local course, and the smart Top Notch Tonto, after a Newmarket win last month on his first outing for Ellison, just missed out on his latest appearance.
“I’ve never had a run like it in all the years I’ve been owning horses.” said a delighted Brown.
TIM EASTERBY has a real money-spinner on his hands in new recruit Gran Canaria Queen, who made it three wins from four starts for the Great Habton trainer with a silky smooth success at Haydock Park last weekend.
Partnered by David Allan, the four-year-old never needed to be asked a serious question to follow up previous successes at Thirsk and Hamilton.
Remarkably, Gran Canaria Queen had never previously scored on turf – her only win had been on an artificial surface before joining Easterby this season.
She has clearly found her niche and in her current form it would take a brave man to say that, even though she is climbing up the ratings, her winning run is about to come to an end.
YORK Racecourse chief executive and clerk of the course William Derby is very excited about next week's Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival.
“On the ground side we are really happy,” he said. “The going at present is good to firm, good in places with a week to go.
“There’s a forecast of sunshine and showers between now and racedays so we would hope to get some moisture from above. But we’ll monitor the situation and we are looking all set for what should be a real flagship festival.”
The big race of the first day – indeed the most valuable of the whole meeting – is the £750,000 Juddmonte International and has attracted a top notch array of talent.
Aidan O’Brien has six entries, including Derby winner Ruler Of The World and his Racing Post Trophy winner Kingsbarns, but perhaps the most appetising prospect is the possibility of Al Kazeem, winner of three Group 1 races this season, meeting Toronado, the winner of the Sussex Stakes after a great battle with Dawn Approach.
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