Island Brave battles to Old Borough Cup victory

Island Brave lived up to his name to claim victory in a thrilling renewal of the Betfair Exchange Old Borough Cup at Haydock.

Heather Main’s stable star had not managed to get his head in front in seven previous outings this season, but a change of tactics brought about a change in fortunes on Merseyside.

Ridden from the front by Silvestre de Sousa, the 10-1 shot looked booked for minor honours at best when passed by the strong-travelling 4-1 favourite Noble Masquerade inside the final two furlongs.

But Island Brave was not done with as he battled back tenaciously to retake the lead and he had just enough in reserve to hold the fast-finishing pair of Alright Sunshine and Nicholas T at bay by half a length and a nose respectively.

Winning owner Donald Kerr said: “That was a fantastic – a great result.

“We dropped him back in trip as it was good to firm ground and that’s what he wants.

“I thought Silvestre gave him a brilliant ride. I was a little bit worried when the other horse passed him, but he fought back.

“We usually hold him up. I think this is the first time he’s made the running since he won his maiden at Lingfield (in 2017).

“This is his 11th win. We’ve had him since he was a breeze-up horse and he’s been a great horse for the yard.”

Golden Flame (9-1) benefited from a power-packed ride from Joe Fanning when winning the £100,000 “My Odds Boost” On Betfair Handicap.

Down the field in the Melrose Handicap at York last month, Mark Johnston’s charge bounced back to form in this smaller field – digging deep when pressed by Praiano to prevail by a length.

Fanning said: “It’s nice fast ground and he was able to bowl along there and was happy in front.

“He stayed really well and I was never in danger really – he was always doing enough.”

Paddy Power cut Golden Flame to 20-1 from 33-1 for the Cesarewitch at Newmarket next month.

Golden Flame on his way to victory at Haydock
Golden Flame on his way to victory at Haydock (David Davies/PA)

Johnston’s assistant, Jock Bennett, said: “He was the last one off the bridle there and he just had to stick it out.

“He won early on (this season), we’ve aimed at some of the bigger handicaps and he’s come good to day in a small field and getting his own way from the front.

“He’s only a three-year-old, but like anything of ours, they’re always better when they go up in trip.

“It looked as though he stayed every inch of the mile and three-quarters and looks like he will get further.

“The Cesarewitch will be a different sort of race on soft ground. I think we’re a long way off that, so we’ll just go home and reassess him and take it from there.”

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