A DEAD-HEAT drama saw Barton-le-Street’s Peter Niven celebrating Listed race glory at York – but his winning horse won’t be appearing in the Ebor Handicap in August.
After tasting glory at the Dante Festival last month, Clever Cookie returned to Knavesmire to share the spoils with Ralston Road in the Stowe Family Law LLP Grand Cup.
Jockey Graham Lee kept Niven’s six-year-old, the 3-1 favourite who was stepping up in class, at the back of the 12 runner field before coming out wide in the closing stages and looking like he would claim a straightforward victory in the mile and three quarter contest.
But Ralston Road (12-1), ridden by top Irish apprentice Ronan Whelan, fought back strongly and the pair crossed the line stride-for-stride.
A lengthy study of the photograph at the winning post couldn’t split the pair and Niven, while delighted to still have one hand on the prize, said he didn’t believe Clever Cookie saw out the trip – with a slow, crawling pace early on eventually turning into a sprint in the home straight.
“He doesn’t go for the Ebor but he might come back for the John Smith’s Cup,” he said. “We will see what the handicapper does to him.
“I am going to have a little think about it. He’s had a hard race. It is the first time he has really been properly emptied and Graham says he was empty from two out so he has done very well to win.
“He’s got a touch of class and these horses will win over anything you throw at them. I think his optimum trip will be between a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half.
“He has come out to win this race and he’s not got the trip. Take nothing away from the horse we have dead-heated with but we’re well on top from half a furlong out and he has come back at us.
“He shouldn’t have done – not the way the race has gone. He should have been running away. He’s a very, very good horse.”
Pat Shanahan, trainer of Ralston Road, said the Gold Cup at Ascot would be next for his Irish raider. “He’s actually got some very good form as he ran a good race in last year’s St Leger and he wasn’t beaten far in a good Group Two at Meydan over two miles.”