Haggas on the mark again as Gaassee takes York opener

Gaassee provided trainer William Haggas with back-to-back victories in the Paddy Power ‘Making Flat Less Flat’ Handicap at York.

A year on from saddling Ilaraab to claim his sixth successive victory in the Dante Festival opener, the proud Yorkshireman was represented by a similarly progressive colt in this son of Sea The Stars.

Third on his racecourse debut at Lingfield in September, Gaassee went on to score at Chester, Newcastle and Kempton before the end of 2021 and was all the rage for his return to action on the Knavesmire.

After initially being settled in midfield by Tom Marquand, the 6-4 favourite made his move at the top of the home straight and finished strongly to beat recent Hamilton scorer Forza Orta by a length.

Ilaraab went on to contest the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot following his triumph 12 months ago, finishing eighth, but Gaassee appears unlikely to follow the same route.

Haggas said: “That’s a good start. He was lugging a bit to the left though, I don’t know why. He might have been a bit rusty, but he wasn’t as impressive as I’d hoped he’d be.

“We put him in the Hardwicke in case something like this happened, but he’s not Hardwicke material yet.

“He wears a tongue-strap but I don’t know if it makes a difference, we’re just now at the stage where I don’t want to take it off.

“Everyone loves winners at York, but I was born up here and I’m always proud to have winners at York.”

Dakota Gold (right) just holds off Makanah
Dakota Gold (right) just holds off Makanah (Tim Goode/PA)

Dakota Gold bounced back to his best in no uncertain terms when holding on in a tight finish to the Churchill Tyres Handicap.

Sent off at 18-1 having disappointed on his reappearance at Musselburgh, the eight-year-old was without a victory since November 2020 but was winning for sixth time on the Knavesmire, equalling the record of Copper Knight as the most successful horse at the track in modern times.

Having led the near-side group, he looked a sitting duck as Makanah and stablemate Pendleton closed in late on, but Dakota Gold clung on for Connor Beasley to win by a head and half a length.

Dods said: “I gave him a run at Musselburgh and he didn’t like it because everyone wants to lead and he was getting hassled – it was a waste of time.

“He looks better this year than last year. I was never really happy with him in his coat and everything last season and he was so high in the weights he couldn’t get in races. He was having to run in Listed races and basically wasn’t good enough.

“They had a bit of rain here today and six furlongs on good ground is perfect for him. It’s nice to see him come back and hopefully he goes on from here. For an eight-year-old to do that, he’s got some heart.”

Samburu was made to pull out all the stops to maintain his unbeaten record in the Paddy Power ‘Here For The Craic’ Handicap.

A winner in novice company at Yarmouth in September and at Salisbury last month, the Kingman colt was the 4-5 favourite to complete a quick-fire double for John and Thady Gosden and Frankie Dettori following Emily Upjohn’s romp in the preceding Musidora Stakes.

Samburu (left) and Frankie Dettori at York
Samburu (left) and Frankie Dettori at York (Tim Goode/PA)

But while Emily Upjohn is now a short-priced favourite for the Oaks following a dominant display, it was much harder work for her stablemate, who had to fight hard to beat 50-1 shot Snooze N You Lose by half a length.

Samburu holds an entry in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, but John Gosden has an alternative target in mind at the showpiece meeting.

He said: “That was good, we’re happy with him. He wasn’t in love with the ground Frankie said, he’s out of Dansili mare so it was a touch slow.

“He won’t be going to the St James’s Palace. If we go anywhere grand it will be for the Jersey, that’s what the jockey thinks anyway and he usually knows best.

“It’s been a lovely day, a nice double on the first day of York. It’s such a knowledgeable crowd here, they’ll ask you about a pedigree and before you know it they are back in the fourth generation!”

Kihavah (right) leads the way at York
Kihavah (right) leads the way at York (Tim Goode/PA)

The Adrian Keatley-trained Kihavah comfortably justified 7-2 favouritism in the Conundrum HR Consulting Handicap, giving 7lb claimer Ryan Sexton his first winner at York with his first ride.

“He’s a lovely, big genuine horse who likes a mile and a half or a mile and six (furlongs) on good ground,” said Keatley.

“Hopefully he can come back here and win another nice contest. He loves a big, galloping track.”

Kevin Ryan and Danny Tudhope combined to win the concluding British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes with 7-1 shot Thunder Moor.

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