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Tom O’Ryan returns to the Gazette but misses out on Leger Legends
3:36pm Wednesday 11th September 2013 in Sport
IT’S good to be back! Unfortunately, I’m still not sound enough, or fit enough, to make a third consecutive appearance in the Leger Legends charity race at Doncaster today (Wednesday) to line-up against some of my Ryedale colleagues over the straight mile in an event which will benefit Malton’s Jack Berry House and the Northern Racing College.
The 16-strong contest, confined to former professionals and which features one Derby-winning jockey in Michael Hills and a Grand National-winning rider in Carl Llewellyn, features a strong local presence with former champion jockey Kevin Darley emerging from retirement, along with Ryedale trainers David O’Meara and Ollie Pears, who have also elected to return to their previous career for one race only.
Boston Spa-based Dale Gibson, one of the organisers, who is also riding in the £10,000 race – the only charity event in Britain run under rules – is in no doubt that competition will again be fierce out on the course.
He said: “All the jockeys are really looking forward to it and everybody has been doing plenty of riding-out and fitness work. Jockeys remain competitive, even when they have retired, and that competitive edge will be seen to good effect out on the track.”
Darley, who won the St Leger for Tim Easterby aboard Bollin Eric in 2002, will be riding Sardanapalus for Kevin Ryan, while O’Meara, formerly a successful jump jockey with the Easterbys, is teaming up with Berlusca, one of the few horses he trains who hasn’t been in winning form this summer, and Pears is riding for Middleham trainer Simon West on a horse whose name hardly inspires confidence – Slim Chance!
The legendary Lester Piggott will be present as will a host of other long-since retired jockeys, including Ryedale’s Edward Hide, who ruled the roost in the north for so many years.
There is, of course, a serious side to the whole event: a fundraising cause boosted by a 460-strong charity lunch and auction, which helps to make a difference further down the line.
Gibson explained: “We have already raised £360,000 since this initiative started three years ago and we will aim to raise six figures this year for Jack Berry House in Malton, which will start being built shortly, and the redevelopment of the Northern Racing College.”
• TOP Notch Tonto, who proved a real favourite of visitors to the Malton Stables’ Open Day, has earned himself a permanent place in the heart of trainer Brian Ellison.
The three-year-old, a confirmed mud lover, ran out a decisive winner at the rewarding odds of 22-1 of the Group 3 betfred.com Superior Mile at Haydock last Saturday to provide Ellison with his first Group-race success on the Flat.
It was also a first Group-race winner for jockey Dale Swift, who has long been a vital cog in the Ellison wheel and who won the Ebor Handicap for the trainer on Moyenne Corniche in 2011.
“It was a bit of a shock, but he’s a good horse and he loves give in the ground,” said a delighted Ellison.
“Dale gave him a great ride. He’s been with me a long time, knows how I like my horses to be ridden and is a very under-rated jockey.”
Top Notch Tonto, previously trained by Ian McInnes, joined Ellison in the summer and has never taken a backward glance since.
Future plans, which may include a trip to France, will be weather dependent, according to his trainer. Although Top Notch Tonto has now been promoted to the top end of the ante-post betting for the Cambridgeshire Handicap at Newmarket next month, Ellison warned: “Much as I’d be tempted to run him, I wouldn’t risk him on fast ground.”
Top Notch Tonto, a horse with a white face and white legs, was a real hit during the open day. “Everyone who came into the yard wanted to see him, because he'’s such a flashy-looking horse,” explained Ellison, who understandably feels there is still plenty more to come from this talented gelding.
As for the Spring Cottage trainer, things could hardly be going better.
He preceded Top Notch Tonto with a Thursday win at Sedgefield with Ben Cee Pee M and a Newcastle victory on Friday, courtesy of Llarnamon Lad, while he followed-up his memorable day at Haydock by saddling Montefeltro to score at York on Sunday.
“Four winners in four days can’t be bad,” smiled Ellison, who added yet another on Monday. It’s A Man’s World won at Perth.
• CAN lightning strike in the same place twice for Richard Fahey in Canada on Sunday?
That is the burning question filtering around Musley Bank as Ladys First prepares to represent the Malton stable in the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes at Woodbine – 12 months on from former stablemate Barefoot Lady, likewise owned by Norman and Helen Steel, winning the prestigious $300,000 contest in such unforgettable style.
Ladys First, like Barefoot Lady, is admirably consistent and ultra-tough, as she showed on her latest start at Sandown when, after making the running, she refused to lie down when strongly challenged in the closing stages by Sir Michael Stoute’s Integral and battled home bravely to force a dead-heat in the Group 3 Atalanta Stakes.
Tony Hamilton, seen to such good effect on Ladys First at the Esher track, will be crossing the Atlantic to renew the association at Woodbine.
Fahey said: “It was fantastic to see her come back to winning form at Sandown and the conditions of the Canadian race suit her, so I’m just hoping everything, including her journey over there, goes smoothly.”
It promises to be a big international weekend for Fahey, who will also be represented on Sunday by Glen’s Diamond at Taby in Sweden. This season’s Yorkshire Cup winner bids for the Stockholm Cup, which carries prize money of almost £100,000.
Success for the gelding would not quite be a first for Fahey in Sweden. He sent out Superior Premium, one of his original stable stars, to win at Taby in 1999.
• THE Press Family Raceday – supported by our sister paper and York’s only Sunday meeting of the year – is annually a hugely popular event and last Sunday’s renewal was no exception.
Quite apart from the bumper crowd enjoying autumn sunshine and a whole host of children’s attractions, followers of top jockey Paul Hanagan had extra reason to wear a broad smile.
On his 33rd birthday, Hanagan rode a 33-1 winner for his old boss Richard Fahey when bringing Cosmic Halo with a precision-timed late run to clinch a narrow success. “That was a nice birthday present,” he said. Backers on the Tote of Cosmic Halo were particularly well rewarded. The filly produced a whopping win payout just shy of 46-1.
• WHILE Richard Hughes is long odds-on to retain his jockeys’ crown this year, Britain’s apprentice championship is really hotting up, with three of the leading quartet vying for the all-important junior title based in North Yorkshire, and two of them flying the Ryedale flag.
While Jason Hart, attached to Declan Carroll’s Sledmere yard, is locked in battle with Berkshire-based Thomas Brown at the head of the table after a vastly productive summer, George Chaloner, who is based with Richard Fahey at Musley Bank, continues to stalk the leaders.
Chaloner made a rare appearance at Bath last week well worthwhile when his only mount on the card ran out a six lengths winner. Consequently, he is now in fourth spot, breathing down the neck of Connor Beasley, apprenticed to Darlington trainer Michael Dods.
• IT would be remiss on this of all weeks not to pay tribute to Alec Russell, who, without any warning, stepped into the breach to keep this column in such great shape throughout the summer.
Nothing if not an enthusiast, Alec rose to the challenge like the true professional he has been through the decades to produce an informative and entertaining read week after week, following my accident.
The last racing column in this paper bearing my name appeared at the end of May. It seems like an eternity.
But thanks to Alec, best known for his brilliant racing pictures, but, by his own admission “a frustrated journalist”, readers were kept firmly up to date with all things racing in Ryedale.
Hats off to a true pro.
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