WHAT could possibly be better for an up-and-coming jockey than winning one of Britain’s major handicaps? Winning another just one week later, that’s what.
If George Chaloner was walking on air after steering Baccarat to victory in the Wokingham Handicap at Royal Ascot, then he was sky-high after Angel Gabrial, likewise trained by his Malton boss, Richard Fahey, had gained a similarly decisive success in last Saturday’s John Smith’s Northumberland Plate – better known as the ‘Pitmens’ Derby’ – at Newcastle.
“It’s just unreal – an amazing feeling,” said apprentice-of-the-moment Chaloner after completing a handicap double many top seasoned jockeys would be delighted to achieve.
The Wokingham carried a first prize of just over £108,000, while the Northumberland Plate, an historic race in the North-East calendar and Newcastle’s signature event, had a winning purse of £86,226.
Well drawn in stall one in the 19-runner two-mile event, Angel Gabrial, backed from 8-1 in the morning down to 4-1 favourite, secured a rails position just behind the leading group until launching his challenge approaching the final two furlongs.
Soon in front, the gelding, who had looked an unlucky runner-up in the Chester Cup in May when ridden by Jamie Spencer, edged to his right inside the final furlong, but by then Chaloner had the race in the bag and the partnership crossed the line with three-and-a-half lengths to spare over Suegioo, who had beaten him in the Chester Cup.
Both first and second are owned by Dr Marwan Koukash, who could hardly believe his good fortune that the two horses had dominated a second major event.
“I am absolutely delighted, it’s a great day,” said Koukash, who chose to go racing at his beloved Chester rather than make the journey to Newcastle. It mattered not a jot to his enjoyment.
As for Chaloner, he was on the receiving end of numerous interviews from the media and playing a starring television role on Channel 4 racing for the second successive Saturday.
“I couldn’t have had a better ride,” said the rider, who has ridden a glut of winners lately. “He travelled lovely and when I’ve asked him to pick-up, he’s taken off.”
Fahey said: “I’m delighted for George. He’s given him a good ride. Good young jockeys need something like this to put on their cv to show they’ve got what it takes to win races like this.”
Fahey also paid tribute to Angel Gabrial: “He’s a very good little horse and he’s got something that not many two-milers have, which is a turn of speed.”
Angel Gabrial may have been the crowning moment, but for Richard Fahey, capturing the Northumberland Plate was merely the cherry on top of a very large cake.
The Malton trainer sent out no less than six winners on Saturday, had four the previous day and was taking his tally to a remarkable 22 successes in 11 days.
“It’s hard to believe isn’t it?” said Fahey. “The horses are healthy and running well, which is the main thing. It’s great for all the owners and the team.”
Saturday’s six-timer comprised three winners at Newcastle, with Al Gomry and Tatlisu preceding Angel Gabrial’s famous triumph, two at Chester, courtesy of Roachdale House and English Summer, and one at Doncaster’s evening meeting when old-timer Extraterrestrial prevailed under Tony Hamilton.
• PAUL MIDGLEY may never have had runners in Ireland before last Saturday, but the Ryedale trainer made his presence firmly felt on Irish Derby Day with his two runners at the Curragh.
While Monsieur Joe, partnered by Joseph O’Brien, who went on to Derby triumph aboard the brilliant Australia, was beaten less than a length into third place in the Group 3 Sapphire Stakes, Line Of Reason landed a sensational 18-1 success under apprentice Leigh Roache in the Paddy Power Scurry Handicap, which had prize money of 100,000 euros.
“The lad gave him a good ride and it was great to see him win like that,” said Midgley. “He’s a horse we’ve always thought a lot about and he’s really turned the corner since he was gelded.”
Midgley, who had only ever visited the Curragh on one previous occasion, may go local with Line Of Reason when he next appears.
“It obviously all depends on what the handicapper does, and I don’t expect him him to be lenient after winning a big one, but the Skybet Dash at York would be among the options for him.”
Midgley was also proud of Monsieur Joe finishing such a gallant third. He said: “For him to be placed in a Group 3 race at his age (seven) was tremendous. And Joseph O’Brien, who rode him, even though his father (Aidan) had the winner in the race, came across as an absolute gentleman.”
The in-form Midgley, who pushed his domestic tally up to 17 winners - just two shy of his total score for 2013 - at Hamilton last week when Mu’Ajiza toppled the hot favourite Flycatcher, trained by Richard Fahey, had only one regret about his Irish raid.
“I wish now,” he said, “that I’d run Another Wise Kid in the handicap at the Curragh on Friday night instead of sending him to Newcastle where he finished second to Robot Boy in the Gosforth Park Cup.”
Midgley, though, was happy with his weekend’s work, and particularly happy with his Irish experience.
• THE Northumberland Plate meeting at his home-town of Newcastle remains a favourite for Brian Ellison, who usually fires as much ammunition as he can over the three days of Gosforth Park fare.
This year was no exception and although the fixture started off on a sour note for the Norton trainer, it got considerably better as time went on.
After short-head winner Baraweez was demoted by the stewards on the opening day, after being found guilty of causing interference to the runner-up, Ellison went on to score with Knightly Escapade and followed up the next evening with Top Of The Glas and Big Storm Coming.
Also on the mark at Musselburgh’s Friday meeting with Honest Bob’s, Ellison enjoyed a largely satisfactory weekend, even if he is considering an appeal against the Baraweez decision.
• DAVID O’MEARA has broken new ground by having a winner at Windsor.
The Nawton trainer had had only one previous unsuccessful runner at the course before last Saturday when Custom Cut prevailed by a neck under Jamie Spencer in the Listed Midsummer Stakes.
On the same day, Kevin Ryan won a Listed race, the Empress Stakes, at Newmarket, with Calpyso Beat, a 25-1 shot, who was bred by Pam Cockerill near York.
• IT’S an ill wind, or so they say, that does nobody any good and Jake Butterfield’s loss was Jason Hart’s gain at Carlisle last week.
Butterfield was feeling unwell on his journey to the Cumbrian course and was forced to forfeit his riding engagements, which ironically cost him a winner aboard the Ollie Pears-trained Al Khan.
Hart duly deputised and went on to record a double on Incurs Four Faults for Keith Dalgleish.
Butterfield had been feeling considerably better earlier in the week at Beverley when he was seen to good effect on Jacbequick, also trained by his Norton boss, Pears, who got home in a blanket finish to record his second course success.
As for champion apprentice Hart, he recorded a milestone success on Monday of this week at Pontefract when he posted his 100th career success on Craggaknock, trained by Mark Walford at Sheriff Hutton. “He’s a decent horse, but he’s still a big baby and Jason has given him a good ride,” said Walford after recording his tenth success since taking over from his father, Tim, at the beginning of February.
• IAN BRENNAN has come in for wholesale praise after winning an historic race.
The Cumberland Plate, staged at Carlisle, has a long and distinguished history and Brennan last week captured the spoils on local hero Noble Alan, trained by Nicky Richards at nearby Greystoke, who shrugged-off his advancing years to come from almost last to first.
Noble Alan, who prevailed in thrilling style, was following in the hoofprints of Coriace, who won for Gordon Richards – Nicky’s father – 34 years earlier with Edward Hide in the saddle.
Nicky said: “What a ride Ian has given this horse. I left it to him, but he’s a horse who needs relaxing and Ian has got him switched-off and then produced him. It was a top-class ride.”
Brennan, who is attached to John Quinn’s Norton yard, now requires only one more winner to lose his apprentice allowance and join the ranks of fully-fledged jockeys.