Sprint Cup hero Regional puts Ed Bethell in wonderland

Trainer Ed Bethell was left fighting back the tears after Regional provided him with a first Group One success in the Betfair Sprint Cup at Haydock.

It is less than three years since the Middleham Moor handler took over the licence from his father James, who trained for over four decades before handing over the reins.

Regional has proved a real flagbearer since being bought for the bargain basement price of 3,5000 guineas in the summer of 2021, rewarding his connections with three previous wins, two of which have been achieved at Haydock.

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Having landed the Listed Achilles Stakes at the Merseyside venue in June, the five-year-old got his first crack at Group One glory in the Nunthorpe at York last month and was not disgraced in finishing fifth, encouraging Bethell to give it another go over an extra furlong.

A 10-1 shot in the hands of Callum Rodriguez, Regional was never too far off the speed and dug deep as the post loomed to see off 50-1 outsider Shouldvebeenaring by a neck.

“I’m just over the moon. I’m in an incredibly fortunate position, to take over from my father, and my parents have been big supporters of mine,” said a clearly emotional Bethell.

“I never thought it would happen (winning a Group One). A huge ‘thank you’ has to go to Barbara Jones, who rides this horse every day – she doesn’t go on holiday because she wants to make sure he’s in tip-top form. She’s the important one here, along with the rest of my team at home. I’m just the lucky one to have my name on the ticket.

“We bought this horse just to win a race and he’s taken these guys (owners) on a tremendous ride. This meteoric rise is down to the team at home and we’ve just been incredibly fortunate.”

Regional (left) on his way to victory at Haydock
Regional (left) on his way to victory at Haydock (Tim Goode/PA)

Bethell felt the step up in trip was key to Regional’s performance, adding: “He was able to travel in his comfort zone, which he wasn’t in the Nunthorpe. The whole complexion of the race changed at York with Live In The Dream going so quick and fair play to him, but we were rushed off our feet.

“Today we were so much more comfortable at this trip at this level. I thought maybe he’d gone too quick and he’d get swallowed up, but he was one of the last to come off the bridle. I can’t believe it really.”

The trainer is keen to let the dust settle before firming up plans for his stable star.

He said: “I’ll enjoy today and tonight and get back to it tomorrow morning.

“I don’t know where we’ll go next, the owners might want to go to America, but I’ll just see how the horse is first and make a decision.

“Genuinely, I don’t think words can describe how I’m feeling. I told myself if we finish in the first five we’ve done well.

“When we won a handicap over six furlongs here two years ago I couldn’t believe it. I thought ‘I’ve done my job now, he’s won a race, maybe the owners will stick with me’.

“Did I ever think he could go and do this? No. These sort of days I hope will go a long way to helping the yard achieve what I want it to.”

Rodriguez – also winning his first Group One – said: “It was an amazing performance by the horse and what a story it’s been with him this year, being picked up for 3,500 guineas. The journey he has taken his syndicate on is just amazing. It was very smooth as he hit the gates very well and was in a good rhythm all the way and every time I asked him he responded.

“It was a great feeling. It is very fitting this has happened here as this is my local track from where I grew up 40 minutes down the road. It is just an amazing day.”

Rodriguez has worked his way back to the top after serving a six-month suspension in 2019, having tested positive for cocaine. He added: “I really hit the ground running as an apprentice and landed the Ebor and some other nice races along the way.

“It has been a little bit stop-start and you kind of ask yourself if you are going to find the one. I’ve been so lucky to find Regional this year. It is an amazing story and I’m thankful it has come off.

“I’ve a lot to thank Ed for. I stepped into the yard in January to ride out and get to know the horses.

“There is a real strong team of horses there and he is a real loyal man, and we work really well together and I’m happy with the way things are going.”

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The disappointment of the race was undoubtedly Julie Camacho’s Shaquille, who was the 11-10 favourite to complete a top-level hat-trick following wins in the Commonwealth Cup and the July Cup.

Shaquille failed to fire in the Sprint Cup
Shaquille failed to fire in the Sprint Cup (David Davies/The Jockey Club)

But while the three-year-old – who got upset beforehand – was much quicker away from the starting stalls than had been the case at Royal Ascot and Newmarket, he was a spent force with a couple of furlongs to run and ended up trailing home last of 16 runners.

“Everything was fine, he had a bit of a wobbler before the gates opened (but) it didn’t affect his start and he jumped very clean,” said jockey James Doyle.

“He travelled super, but between the three and the two I had no power and I was beat very quick.

“As we know that’s not him as one thing he does do is get through the line, so we’ll see. They’re not machines, are they?

“The season is not over yet, we’ve got Champions Day to come and other races and we’ll see what comes to light. We’ll just regroup at this stage.”

The stewards inquired into the performance of the market leader, stating afterwards the representative of Camacho could offer no explanation for the colt’s performance and that the veterinary officer examined Shaquille during routine testing and had nothing to report.

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