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Malton trainer Richard Fahey bidding to end near misses in Gold Cup
ALL roads lead to Scotland this weekend for the three-day Ayr Western Meeting and the chance for Richard Fahey to bridge a seven-year gap.
It was in 2006 that Fahey won the coveted Ayr Gold Cup with his ultra-popular Fonthill Road, ridden by Paul Hanagan and narrowly beaten in the race the previous year.
But although he’s had some near-misses since, including in 2009 when he won the Silver and Bronze Cups with Kaldoun Kingdom and Baldemar, and saddled Knot In Wood to be beaten a mere length into third in the Gold, the Malton trainer remains credited with only a solitary strike in the main event.
That could change come Saturday, courtesy of Baccarat, who heads the ante-post market at around 10-1 in the £155,000 William Hill-sponsored showpiece, largely on the strength of his latest win in the Great St Wilfrid Handicap under Tony Hamilton at Ripon last month.
The Ayr Gold Cup has been the target ever since for Baccarat, owned by Sir Robert Ogden, and Fahey couldn’t be happier with his preparation.
“He’s in good form, has been working well and a bit of ease in the ground shouldn’t bother him,” said the Musley Bank trainer, who went through the £2m prize money barrier for the season when Bayan Kasirga scored under George Chaloner at Musselburgh earlier in the week.
Scotland’s showpiece sprint, contested by a 27-strong field, is an ultra-competitive race, and some of that competition to Fahey will be coming from neighbouring trainers, including Mick Easterby.
The Sheriff Hutton stalwart is set to saddle the talented Hoof It on Saturday.
One of the most exciting sprinters in the land a couple of years ago when he won the Stewards’ Cup and was narrowly beaten in Group 1 company, Hoof It has had his problems since. But the gelding, part-owned by top golfer Lee Westwood, returned to form at Haydock earlier this month when finishing third to Gordon Lord Byron in the Group 1 Betfred Sprint Cup.
A reproduction of his best form would make Hoof It the horse to beat on Saturday and bookmakers make him a 16-1 shot to take the spoils and provide Easterby with a second Ayr Gold Cup triumph, his first having been achieved way back in 1977 with Jon George.
Kevin Ryan can draw on much more recent success in the Gold Cup, having won three of the last six runnings, including the latest two with Our Jonathan and Captain Ramius.
Hambleton-based Ryan has a strong hand going into this weekend, with Captain Ramius again in the mix, along with the likes of York Glory and Lightning Cloud.
It promises to be another memorable race, but spare a thought, as Ayr dawns, for those connected to Julie Camacho’s Norton yard, whose Gold Cup hope Diescentric is not only out of the big race after sustaining a major injury, but whose future career remains very much in jeopardy.
A dual-winner this season for owners Axom (XVIII), Diescentric would have travelled to Ayr with sound claims, but for pulling-up lame when undertaking a routine canter on the gallops.
“He suffered an off-fore fracture,” explained Camacho’s husband and assistant, Steve Brown. “We all know these things can happen with horses, but it’s very unfortunate and we feel very sorry for the owners.”
Diescentric has since undergone an operation at York’s Minster Veterinary Hospital. “It’s too early to know for sure whether or not he can race again, but the main thing he’s comfortable after surgery,” said Brown.
It's a bitter pill for the Camacho team to have to swallow to be denied the services of their best horse.
Fingers are crossed that come Saturday the historic race produces a much more favourable outcome for another of the Ryedale raiders.
TIM EASTERBY rarely allows the Ayr meeting to come and go without making an impression and this year is likely to be no exception.
The Great Habton trainer has made a raft of entries for Scotland’s showpiece fixture and could be doubly represented in Saturday’s William Hill Firth of Clyde Stakes, a race in which he has experienced mixed fortunes in recent years.
Successful in 2011 with Roger Sez, who prevailed at 14-1 after being equipped with first-time blinkers, Easterby came up short last year with 9-4 favourite, Royal Rascal, who could finish only sixth.
This time around Easterby has pitched Azagal and Ventura Mist into the mix for the Group 3 fillies’ contest, the former having narrowly missed out on a massive payday at Doncaster last week.
Although the juvenile picked-up a not-to-be-sniffed-at £70,000 for finishing second in the Weatherbys’ sales race, she failed by just half a length to get the better of the Kevin Ryan-trained Morning Post, who duly captured the first prize of £175,000 at 100-1 under Paul Mulrennan.
Azagal will not be running for anything like that kind of money in Scotland, but a Group 3 victory for her would go down well in the Easterby camp, as indeed it would for Ventura Mist, a dual-winner this season and rated by the handicapper only 2lb inferior to her Habton Grange stablemate.
PADDY MATHERS may not have enjoyed much luck this season, but the experienced Ryedale jockey, nothing if not a trier, received a bumper helping of good fortune last week which more than doubled his tally of winners in a matter of days.
Mathers’ first stroke of luck was that Beverley decided to stage an extra ‘twilight’ meeting last Tuesday because he ended up riding a double at the fixture.
Mathers did not originally have a ride in the opening race, but the late arrival of Joey Haynes, who had earlier ridden at Redcar, enabled him to fill the breach on the Richard Guest-trained Eddiemaurice, who justified favouritism by a neck.
Later on the card, Mathers rode Fair Flutter for his boss Fahey and went down by a short head on the 14-1 shot, only to be awarded the race in the stewards’ room after receiving a bump late on by the winner Ocean Storm.
If Mathers thought he had used up his overdue change of luck in one fell swoop, he most certainly had not – on St Leger day at Doncaster, he gained a 20-1 success by a short head on Photography.
The eventful few days boosted Mathers’ score for the season to five winners – and perhaps restored his confidence in the belief that even a long-time frowning Lady Luck smiles eventually.
SUMMER DANCER, without a win this season, ended his barren spell at Musselburgh on Monday in the same race he won last year – only this time he had to share the honours.
The Paul Midgley-trained gelding, ridden by Paul Mulrennan, crossed the line locked together with Cara’s Request, partnered by Connor Beasley, and it took racecourse judge Fraser Perratt all of 15 minutes to deliver his verdict that he was unable to separate the pair and the outcome was a dead-heat.
Summer Dancer, who was providing Midgley with his 17th winner of the campaign, is often ridden by Micky Fenton, but the jockey, a vital cog in the wheel of Midgley’s Westow yard, has been ruled out for the rest of the season after a fall at Chepstow earlier this month left him a fracture and displacement of the C2 vertebra in his neck. He has since undergone surgery at the University Hospital of North Tees.
We wish him well in his recovery.
BRIAN ELLISON was not the only one impressed by the recent Group 2 success of Top Notch Tonto, whose victory in Haydock’s Superior Mile provided the Norton trainer with his first Group-race triumph.
The handicapper has since given his reaction to the performance of Top Notch Tonto by hiking up his handicap rating.
Ellison revealed: “He’s put him up 17lb, so he’s up to 112 now.”
The dilemma soon to be facing Ellison is whether to saddle Top Notch Tonto in the prestigious Cambridgeshire Handicap at Newmarket at the end of the month, in which he gets in off his original handicap mark, plus a small penalty for his Haydock success.
Ellison said: “It will obviously be tempting to run him, because he’ll be about a stone ‘well-in’, but he’s a soft-ground horse and I wouldn’t risk him if conditions weren’t right for him.”
Top Notch Tonto is a son of Elite Hope, who was previously trained in Ryedale by Nigel Tinkler and who won a whole host of races.
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