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Fiddlerontheroof hits the right notes in Colin Parker

Fiddlerontheroof doubled his tally over fences with a tenacious victory in a strong renewal of the Listed Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle.

Colin Tizzard’s seven-year-old managed just one success as a novice last season, but was adventurously campaigned throughout and placed five times at Grade One and Grade Two level.

The six-strong Carlisle feature was packed with similarly promising contenders – and after Fiddlerontheroof’s fellow Grade One-winning hurdler Ahoy Senor unseated two out, having led and jumped well most of the way, there were four still in with a chance.

Brendan Powell mounted his challenge in earnest at that point, having held Fiddlerontheroof up off the pace, and they got on top after the last to win by a length and a quarter from Pay The Piper.

Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father, was therefore able to celebrate a second victory in this race in the last three years, after Lostintranslation took it for the Dorset yard and some of the same owners in 2019.

He can also start to consider whether Fiddlerontheroof should follow in his stablemate’s footsteps and head next to Haydock’s Betfair Chase – which Losintranslation won – or choose the alternative target next month, in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury.

Tizzard said: “He got placed behind good horses all of last season. But we rate him really highly – that’s why we brought him up here.

“He’s just done it nicely, and will improve for it, and then we’ve got a decision where we next.

“We’ll just get home and have a chat about it. He’s rated 148, so you might want to take advantage of his mark (in the Ladbrokes Trophy).”

Haydock will also enter discussions, however.

“We did this with Lostintranslation, and (then) won the Betfair,” added Tizzard.

“It’s the best part of a month, to the both of them –  so it should put him spot on, I’d imagine

“Lostintranslation was odds-on and had an easier race. This horse has had a proper race, no two ways about it – it was a competitive race, a cracking renewal.

“He’s a good horse. He took on the best of them last year.

“They went a good gallop, which suited him. He’s got a lovely way about him, in that he doesn’t waste any energy on the way round, and then he’s stuck it out really nicely.”

In-form trainer Jonjo O’Neill struck with Papa Tango Charly at Carlisle
In-form trainer Jonjo O’Neill struck with Papa Tango Charly at Carlisle (David Davies/PA)

Papa Tango Charly had earlier made a notable winning debut over fences in the Gordon Richards Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.

Jonjo O’Neill’s six-year-old was a hugely expensive recruit from the Irish point-to-point ranks back in 2019 – and although successful at his seventh attempt under rules, in a Worcester maiden hurdle this summer, he had as yet repaid little of the investment.

The switch to chasing appears to be exactly what he has needed, however, on the evidence of his convincing 12-length victory under Nick Scholfield.

The 15-2 winner was well on top at the line, chased home by the front-running Karl Philippe in a race full of promising rivals.

Fiddler returns to the fray at Carlisle

Fiddlerontheroof faces a field of five rivals as he gets his season under way in the Listed Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle on Sunday.

The seven-year-old was last seen finishing third behind Chantry House in the Grade One Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree in April, the culmination of a season in which he was placed in every outing in his first term jumping fences.

The Tizzard stable took the race in 2019 with Lostintranslation and were keen to head to Cumbria again as the same connections are involved in both horses.

“He’s in great form, this has been the target for some time actually, off the back of last year because he has the same owners as Lostintranslation,” said Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father Colin.

“It’s a lovely place to start, it’s the right trip for him.

“We’ve sent horses up to it in the past, good horses, and for a second-season novice it’s a lovely place to start.

Colin Tizzard's Fiddlerontheroof
Colin Tizzard’s Fiddlerontheroof (Steven Paston/PA)

“Two-mile-three (furlongs) around Carlisle, it’s an extremely fair course, a good jumping track and just a good option for those second-season novices at the right time of year.

“It looks as hot a race as we’ve had for a few years, I was quite keen to do what we did with Lostintranslation and hack round on the bridle to be honest!”

Kim Bailey’s Espoir De Romay also contested the Mildmay at Aintree but fell at the penultimate fence when going well and consequently received a 5lb rise in his rating.

Kim Bailey's Espoir De Romay (right)
Kim Bailey’s Espoir De Romay (right) (Tim Goode/PA)

“Like everybody else we’re in the lap of the Gods, depending on how much rain we get,” Bailey said of conditions, which are soft with further rain forecast.

“We’re very happy with him, he’s a very nice horse and two and a half miles is the right trip for him, so fingers crossed.”

Also likely to be keeping a close eye on the weather is Lucinda Russell, trainer of Grade One-winning hurdler Ahoy Senor.

The six-year-old, last seen taking the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree, was also entered in the bet365 Novices’ Chase at Wetherby on Friday but was a late non-runner.

The ground was not deemed to be soft enough for the gelding’s chasing debut in West Yorkshire, but Carlisle is likely to be more suitable owing to the persistent rain.

Ahoy Senor, a Grade One winner over hurdles
Ahoy Senor, a Grade One winner over hurdles (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“It’s going to be a tough ask for him and it is two and a half miles when he probably needs three miles, but we’ve taken him out because of the ground from a few tracks, so I’m hoping that Carlisle will suit us,” said Peter Scudamore, Russell’s partner and assistant.

“I think at the weights he’s not badly in, so we’ll just see how we get on. He’s been schooling fine at home and is an ex point to pointer. He’s only had a couple of runs over hurdles and when we’ve schooled with him, we’ve thought he’s jumped particularly well – so this is the first step on the ladder for him.

“It was a fantastic performance to win the Grade One race at Aintree last year and we now have to prove that it wasn’t a fluke. We hope he’s as good as the likes of One For Arthur and Brindisi Breeze, but he’s got to go out and prove it now.”

Fergal O’Brien’s Silver Hallmark was a Grade Two winner in January when taking the Altcar Novices’ Chase at Haydock and prior to that came home just a head behind Fiddlerontheroof when making his chasing debut at Exeter.

Fergal O'Brien's Silver Hallmark
Fergal O’Brien’s Silver Hallmark (David Davies/PA)

The two horses will cross paths again at Carlisle, with O’Brien’s runner taking to the track for the first time in 281 days.

“He’s in great form, he won a Grade Two for us last year and we’re very excited about seeing him back on the track,” said O’Brien.

“They’re getting plenty of rain there and hopefully it continues raining, we’re really looking forward to seeing him back.

“He won first time out over hurdles for us and then he was second last year to a good one of Tizzard’s (Fiddlerontheroof) at Exeter.

“He doesn’t take an awful lot of racing, but at the same time he’s very straightforward.”

Sue Smith’s five-times winner Informateur and Ann Hamilton’s first-season chaser Pay The Piper complete the field of six.

Carlisle objective for Ahoy Senor after Wetherby defection

Ahoy Senor is expected to make his debut over fences on Sunday after he was a late withdrawal at Wetherby on Friday due to the ground.

Trainer Lucinda Russell had entered the six-year-old – who was last seen beating Bravemansgame in the Grade One Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in April – for the bet365 Novices’ Chase at the West Yorkshire venue.

But while enough rain fell overnight to turn the ground good to soft, good in places, Russell felt conditions would not be suitable for her stable star’s chasing bow.

He is now set to run in the Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase on Sunday, although the winning point to pointer will be taking on more seasoned rivals in the likes of Fiddlerontheroof, Espoir De Romay and Silver Hallmark.

Russell said: “I walked the course and it’s good to soft, good in a couple of places and it’s not for him.

“Mighty Thunder will be fine on it tomorrow (in the Charlie Hall Chase), but it’s not for a soft ground horse.

“He’s declared for Carlisle and that’s the plan, provided he’s OK in the morning. It’s quite a high level, but I just want to get him started.”

Ahoy Senor’s return delayed as Russell resists Carlisle

Lucinda Russell has resisted the temptation to press ahead with Ahoy Senor’s planned chasing debut at Carlisle, on ground she has decided may be slightly too lively for the rising star’s first start of the season.

The point-to-point recruit was due to head to Cumbria on Thursday, for the Introducing Racing TV Novices’ Chase.

But Russell had already voiced her intention to first ensure conditions were suitable – and then after consulting clerk of the course Kirkland Tellwright, she announced on Wednesday evening that Ahoy Senor will not run.

The Perth & Kinross trainer will therefore consider Wetherby next week as a possible first target for her Grade One-winning hurdler, or possibly Hexham.

She said: “I’ve spoken to Kirkland, who has been very good, and he says it’s good ground all over.

“At this stage of the season I just can’t risk it, and there are plenty of other options coming up. He could go to Wetherby or Hexham, with Wetherby (on Friday week) being the next option.”

Ahoy Senor finished second in an Ayr bumper on his debut under Rules in January before returning to the Scottish track to make a successful start over hurdles in March.

He was a widely unconsidered 66-1 shot when then stepped up to Grade One level for the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree’s Grand National meeting.

But having produced a dominant front-running display to defeat the high-class Bravemansgame, the six-year-old heads into the autumn as perhaps the brightest jumping prospect in the north.

Russell said: “It’s funny, isn’t it – it becomes a responsibility.

“The better the horse is, it’s almost as though the less he belongs to you and the more you have a responsibility to everyone else.

Cadzand (right) in action at Southwell
Cadzand (right) in action at Southwell (Mike Egerton/PA)

“You obviously have a responsibility to the owners and the jockeys and everyone here in the yard, but also to everyone else as well that’s supporting.”

“He’s a lovely horse to school. He’s been really well produced from the British point-to-point field and he’s done loads of schooling before – it’s just natural to him.

“Hopefully this (going chasing) will take him to another level again.”

In Ahoy Senor’s absence, just three runners will go to post as Dan Skelton has also taken out Cadzand.

Deluxe Range (Sandy Thomson), Tupelo Mississippi (Brian Ellison) and Hardy Du Seuil (Jamie Snowden) – who made it no further than the first fence on his British bow at Wetherby last week – are the other hopefuls.

Russell’s anticipation mounts for Ahoy Senor’s chasing debut

Lucinda Russell is feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement at Ahoy Senor’s planned return to action at Carlisle on Thursday.

The point-to-point recruit finished second in an Ayr bumper on his debut under Rules in January before returning to the Scottish track to make a successful start over hurdles at the start of March.

Ahoy Senor was a widely unconsidered 66-1 shot when then stepped up to Grade One level for the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree’s Grand National meeting.

But having produced a dominant front-running display to defeat the high-class Bravemansgame, the six-year-old heads into the autumn as perhaps the brightest jumping prospect in the north.

“It’s funny, isn’t it – it becomes a responsibility. The better the horse is, it’s almost as though the less he belongs to you and the more you have a responsibility to everyone else,” said Russell.

“You obviously have a responsibility to the owners and the jockeys and everyone here in the yard, but also to everyone else as well that’s supporting.”

Ahoy Senor is set to face four rivals in the two-and-a-half-mile Introducing Racing TV Novices’ Chase, although his participation in Cumbria is ground dependent.

Russell added: “We’ll see if they get any rain and what the situation is in the morning, but he only needs it to be on the soft side of good.

“If he did go, it’s half a mile shorter than ideal, but he won over two and a half miles over hurdles – and it will be good to get some experience into him and see where we go from there.

“He’s a lovely horse to school. He’s been really well produced from the British point-to-point field and he’s done loads of schooling before – it’s just natural to him.

“Hopefully this (going chasing) will take him to another level again.”

Cadzand (right) in action at Southwell
Cadzand (right) in action at Southwell (Mike Egerton/PA)

The biggest threat to Ahoy Senor appears to be Cadzand, who won three of his five starts over hurdles for Dan Skelton.

Deluxe Range (Sandy Thomson), Tupelo Mississippi (Brian Ellison) and Hardy Du Seuil (Jamie Snowden) – who made it no further than the first fence on his British bow at Wetherby last week – are the other hopefuls.

McCain continues in flying form with across-the-card four-timer

Donald McCain continued his fine start to the jumps season with an across-the-card 143-1 four-timer on Thursday.

A treble at Carlisle with Hart Of Steel (10-1), Malpas (13-8 favourite) and Armattiekan (11-8 favourite) and victory for See The Sea (11-10 favourite) at Wincanton from just six runners took his tally for the campaign to 40.

The Cholmondeley handler sits in third place in the trainers’ championship behind Fergal O’Brien and Paul Nicholls on prize-money.

“It’s been a great day’s work. Everyone has been working their socks off. It’s hard work at the moment, but I’ve got a great team at home and days like this are good,” said McCain.

“It’s just grand. Everyone’s working very hard and it’s always easier to get up in the morning when things are going well.”

Fern O’Brien makes winning start at Carlisle

Fergal O’Brien was left brimming with pride after his daughter Fern made a winning start to her riding career at Carlisle.

A card confined to professional and amateur female jockeys gave the recently-turned 16-year-old the perfect opportunity to make her competitive debut aboard her father’s 25-1 shot Lord P in the VL Aesthetics Honours Shona Cunningham Handicap.

A winner at Kempton last year when trained by Richard Hannon, the four-year-old had disappointed on his first outing over hurdles and twice on the Flat since switching stables.

But having undergone a wind operation since his latest appearance at Newbury in early July, Lord P appeared much improved, travelling strongly before comfortably kicking three and a quarter lengths clear of Singe Anglais.

Connections of Lord P in the Carlisle winner's enclosure
Connections of Lord P in the Carlisle winner’s enclosure (PA)

The jubilant jockey said: “It was a bit of a steering job to be honest! He’s very good and it was just very easy, I didn’t need to do much more than push the button.

“I did my pony amateur course back in June so I was all ready to go the second I turned 16. I had my last pony race four days ago, turned 16 two days ago and now I’m here. I had five winners on the pony circuit, they all came on the same pony who’s for sale if you’re watching!

“We got very lucky with her and I’m even luckier now with my first ride.”

She added: “A lot of people said to me before that it would be over before I know it, but it wasn’t really. Maybe pony racing helped with that because it’s flat out from the start in that.

“I was lucky with the draw in that I was in quite late and only sat in (the stalls) for a maximum of 30 seconds and it was very easy after that. From halfway I was thinking he was still travelling very well and I found a bit of a gap which opened up for me, he went through that and just stayed on all the way to the line.

“I got in a bit of trouble last week in pony racing because I didn’t ride out to the line, so all I had in my head was to get over the line as soon as possible and I wasn’t worrying about what was going on behind me.

“Horse racing is the long-term goal for me, but I’m staying on for A Levels at my school now so that if racing goes wrong I’ve got something to fall back on.

“I’ve been broken up from school since the end of May and I’ve been riding out since then. We’ve been working flat out, but it’s been really good.

“I’m so lucky, my dad, my mum and Sally (Randell) are all horsey so I’ve grown up around it all my life and it’s worked out so well.”

O’Brien senior – who has had three winners on the level – said: “It’s amazing really, for a little girl who started off riding ponies – this has been her dream. Every day I watch her fulfilling her dream.

“It’s unbelievable, for her to come up here on her first ride, on a not overly-fancied horse. Sally gave her some great instructions and she followed them through.

“When I watched how she was going two out and pull her stick through I thought she was feeling confident, so I did look away. All week I’ve been really excited, then at the weekend I started to get a bit nervous. (But) it all went really well.

“I’m unbelievably proud of her.”

Meu Amor sets up Goodwood outing with Eternal strike at Carlisle

Meu Amor stamped her class on the British Stallion Studs EBF Eternal Stakes at Carlisle.

Ralph Beckett’s filly brought a high level of form to the Listed contest, having finished a close-up fourth in the Group Three Chartwell Fillies’ Stakes at Lingfield and third in the Surrey Stakes at Epsom on her last couple of starts.

The daughter of Siyouni was sent off at 3-1 for her latest assignment under Richard Kingscote and travelled strongly throughout the seven-furlong contest before pulling two and three-quarter lengths clear of Ken Condon’s Irish raider Thunder Beauty.

The previously unbeaten 15-8 favourite Cloudy Dawn was just over two lengths further back in third.

“It was straightforward,” said Kingscote.

“She had enough form to say she’d be in the mix. Of course the unknown was how much more Mr (William) Haggas’ filly (Cloudy Dawn) had under the bonnet, but my filly did everything lovely.

“Back on some better ground, she showed a good attitude and it was very smooth.”

Beckett is planning to step Meu Amor back up in class at Glorious Goodwood.

He said: “We were a little bit underwhelmed by the effort at Epsom and I think her performance today showed we were right to be.

“She enjoyed the track and the race set up well for her.

“I think we’ll look towards Goodwood and the Oak Tree Stakes in five weeks’ time.”

Chichester keeps up big-race momentum for Fanning

Joe Fanning secured his first winner since steering Subjectivist to Gold Cup glory at Royal Ascot as Chichester came out on top in a thrilling three-way finish to the Stablemate By AGMA Carlisle Bell.

The 50-year-old enjoyed the biggest success of his career last week after Mark Johnston’s star stayer dominated his rivals in Ascot’s two-and-a-half-mile feature.

It was far harder work for the Keith Dalgleish-trained Chichester in the main event on one of the biggest days of the year in Cumbria, but the 11-2 chance dug deep for Fanning to see off Global Spirit and Lion Tower by a neck and a head respectively.

Dalgleish was completing a double on the card following the earlier success of Lady Lade (100-30) in the Book Your Christmas Party At Carlisle Racecourse Restricted Maiden in the hands of Callum Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was also on board as Dalgleish later made it a treble with Gometra Ginty (9-2) in the concluding Longtown Fillies’ Handicap.

Fanning said: “A good gallop suited this lad as I think he wants a bit further. We got a nice tow into the race and it worked out right.

“I think he’ll be a nice horse to go to war with in these big handicaps – I’m sure there’s another one or two in him.

“He could step up to a mile and a quarter. He’s grand and straightforward.”

The rider went on to reflect on Subjectivist’s Ascot triumph and is already looking forward to a rematch with Stradivarius, who finished fourth in his bid for a fourth Gold Cup, in the Goodwood Cup on July 27.

Joe Fanning celebrates with the trophy after winning the Gold Cup on Subjectivist
Joe Fanning celebrates with the trophy after winning the Gold Cup on Subjectivist (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“It was nice to go down there and have a winner at that meeting and in that race,” Fanning added.

“I wouldn’t swap him going to Ascot and I wouldn’t swap him going to Goodwood. He’s won around there before and he’s very easy – if there’s pace you can take a lead and if there’s no pace you can make the running.

“Ground doesn’t matter to him either – there’s no excuses.”

Tangled finished with a flourish to win the Carlisle Bell Consolation Race for the mother and daughter team of Karen and Gemma Tutty.

Successful at the course last month, the 17-2 winner powered home to follow up by half a length.

Karen Tutty said: “He seems to really love it here, doesn’t he? He was entered to run at Beverley after his last win here and it was abandoned, so we left him then to be fresh for today.

“He did it really well – he’s loving life at the moment.

“We obviously wanted to get in the Bell, but we just missed out. It’s nice to win a bigger race.”

Colony Queen made it two from two since joining trainer John Mackie with a half-length verdict in the Cumberland Plate.

Formerly with the now-retired Steve Gollings, the 13-2 shot followed up a recent Beverley success in good style under Ben Curtis.

“She ran a good race at Beverley when I thought she needed the run,” said Mackie.

“We felt she’d come on for it and stepped her up a little bit in trip, which we thought would suit.

“We were disgusted when we were drawn 17 of 17, but four non-runners has definitely helped, Ben gave her a beautiful ride and we’re very pleased to win a prestigious race like this.”

Spitting Feathers in the Carlisle winner's enclosure
Spitting Feathers in the Carlisle winner’s enclosure (Ashley Iveson/PA)

The Kevin Ryan-trained Spitting Feathers (5-1) impressed in winning the the British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes.

The Iffraaj colt was not disgraced in finishing fifth on his racecourse debut at York and showed the benefit of that initial effort to get the better of Madame Bonbon by a length and a half.

Ryan said: “It was a good performance, he’s a big horse and mine always improve from their first run.

“He took a fair bit of pulling up today, which is a good sign. He’s done it stylishly and Tom (Eaves, jockey) said he had loads in hand. He was nearly down at the two-mile start by the time he pulled up, so the penny was only starting to drop late on.

“We like him and think he’s a good horse going forward.”

Thunder ready to roll at Carlisle

Ken Condon senses plenty is in place for Thunder Beauty as she bids to provide him and owner David Kelly with a second success in Carlisle’s British Stallion Studs EBF Eternal Stakes.

Elusive Beauty struck in the 2017 edition of Wednesday’s Listed feature for Condon, in the same colours, and connections have again enlisted the services of Danny Tudhope – who was on board four years ago.

Thunder Beauty will receive 3lb from Mick Channon’s Goodwood Listed winner Illykato, so is marginally favoured on ratings alongside Ralph Beckett’s Meu Amor – while the most obvious potential improver in an eight-strong field is the unbeaten Cloudy Dawn, from William Haggas’ yard.

Kildare trainer Condon will be pleased to see a little of the forecast rain to bolster hopes, but is confident a return to seven furlongs in this grade is the right assignment after Thunder Beauty stayed on well from an unfavourable position to be beaten under four lengths in Group Three company at the Curragh.

He said: “There was a bit of an element of taking our medicine there, with the last race, in so far as the draw she had just meant that (jockey) Niall (McCullagh) had to take his time with her.

“But we were very happy the way she finished out her race, and she needed to do that after running so poorly at Newmarket (when last of 11 in the 1000 Guineas).

“It was important to try to get her back on track, and we were happy with the way she went through the race well (at the Curragh), and she did finish off nicely from an unpromising position.

“This is a race that the owner has been lucky in before – we had a horse that won the race a few years ago, with Daniel riding her as well.”

Condon set Thunder Beauty a tough task when she went for Classic glory on her seasonal debut, but she put herself in that bracket with some high-class juvenile form – including a close fifth in the Group One Moyglare Stud Stakes, over this trip.

“This filly has obviously shown nice form as a two-year-old, particularly in the Moyglare – so we hope she can run a nice race,” he added.

“I see there’s a chance of rain on Wednesday. So if we did get that, it would be a positive.

“All in all, we’ve been happy with her since her Curragh run, and hope she can run well.”

Thunder Beauty was equipped with a tongue strap for the first time three weeks ago, and will run with one again at Carlisle.

“We needed to make a few changes after Newmarket,” said Condon.

“The ground was quite quick, but we couldn’t really find anything obvious to explain it.

“But back to the Curragh, over six, she did finish out well – and she obviously had that very good run in the Moyglare over seven, so I think this trip will be fine.

“I just would prefer nice, safe ground with no jar, so I wouldn’t mind a bit of rain.

“If it did come on Wednesday afternoon, I’d say that would help her.

“We’re willing to take a chance. I’m sure it’s nice ground – I see the official description is good to firm, good in places. But with that chance of rain, we’d welcome it if it did come.”

Haggas is mindful that Cloudy Dawn is still rated a stone below three of her rivals, having taken her career record to a perfect three from three in a Yarmouth handicap at the start of this month.

She is also moving up to seven furlongs for the first time.

Her Newmarket trainer said: “She’s got a bit to find on the figures, but she’s entitled to have a shot at a race like that – she’s done nothing wrong.

“I think she’ll get the trip – I think she wants a trip now.

“It is a decent race, but all Listed races are difficult.”

Elsewhere on a very competitive card, Keith Dalgleish trains two of four joint top-weights – Howzer Black and Chichester – in the course’s signature race, the Stablemate By AGMA Carlisle Bell Handicap.

David O’Meara’s eight-year-old Waarif receives just 1lb from the top four as he returns to try to regain the crown he won in 2018.

El Caballo could have Royal Ascot target following Carlisle success

An appearance at Royal Ascot will be considered for El Caballo after providing trainer Karl Burke with a birthday winner at Carlisle.

Runner-up on his racecourse debut at Doncaster last month, the Havana Gold colt was the even-money favourite to go one better in the British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes – the first race to take place of a paying crowd on a British racecourse this year.

Always travelling strongly in the hands of Sam James, El Caballo moved to the lead with over two furlongs still to race and soon put distance between himself and his rivals – passing the post two and a half lengths clear of Bond Power.

Burke, celebrating his 58th birthday, said: “He’s a nice horse and he’s definitely a horse who will be stepping up to Listed or Group races as a two-year-old somewhere along the line.

“He handled the (soft) ground, but I don’t think he needs it.

“Where we go from here, I’m not sure. I think six furlongs will probably his trip. We could go to Ascot, but the six-furlong race is the Coventry and whether that’s a step too far at this stage, I don’t know. We’ve got plenty of time to think about it.

“He’s a proper horse.”

El Caballo returned to the winner’s enclosure to gentle applause from racegoers.

“It was a surprise to see the queues and things when we arrived, but it’s good,” Burke added.

“Everybody needs to get back to normal as soon as possible.”

The mother and daughter team of Karen and Gemma Tutty combined to land the Thursby Handicap with 20-1 shot Tangled.

There was still several in with a chance as the post loomed, but it was Tangled who prevailed by a head from Garden Oasis, with Soaring Star and Give It Some Teddy close up in third and fourth.

Karen Tutty said: “From where I was stood I thought he’d won, but they took a while to announce it and I’m always nervous of celebrating too early because you’d look and idiot!

“He has to be ridden for luck and in a big field he often gets boxed in or whatever, but he’s done it really well.

“You have to deliver him on the line and it panned out well today.”

There was a similarly exciting finish to the Blackwell Handicap, with 3lb claimer Faye McManoman seen to good effect aboard the Michael Mullineaux-trained winner Somewhere Secret.

The 16-1 shot edged out 11-4 favourite Ventura Flame by a neck, with Tomily just a nose further away in third.

“The last twice he hasn’t come out of the stalls (quickly) with one thing and another. Last time he came out with the blindfold on, so that was game over really,” said Mullineaux.

“He’s been in good order and he’s a nice, big, strong horse. We had a nice draw an he loved the ground – the softer the better for him as he gallops through it like it’s not there.”

Roger Fell’s End Zone (7-2) was a half-length winner of the Penrith Handicap under Callum Rodriguez, while Brian Ellison’s Pallas Lord (9-1) opened his account at third time of asking in division one of the Durdar Maiden Stakes, with Harry Russell the winning rider.

End Zone was one of two winners on the day for Middleham Park Racing, with Lightening Company (16-1) leading home a one-two for the successful owners in division two of the maiden.

Having already been placed three times Lexington Knight was the 8-11 favourite, but was beaten a nose by Ben Haslam’s newcomer.

Helm Rock (7-1) struck gold in the Wreay Handicap for the training partnership of Daniel and Claire Kubler.

Making his handicap debut, he stretched two and three-quarter lengths clear of 4-1 favourite Hope Probe under James Sullivan.

Claire Kubler, based in Lambourn, said: “I’m absolutely delighted. It’s a fair journey to Carlisle for us, but it’s paid off.

“We debated about the trip (seven furlongs). He’d run three times over a mile and not quite got home, so we decided to drop back.

“The soft ground suits him. We’ll go back and look at the programme book and see what options there are for him.

“I’ll be doing my rain dance, or just coming up north more!”

Carlisle spectators revel in racecourse return

Racegoers were delighted to be back at Carlisle for the first time this year on a beautiful afternoon in Cumbria on Monday.

The British Horseracing Authority last week gave the green light for crowds to return to racecourses following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that step three of the road map out of lockdown would go ahead.

A maximum crowd of 4,000 or 50 per cent capacity, whichever number is lower, will be allowed on track in England – and a four-figure attendance soaked up the atmosphere as Carlisle staged its first Flat fixture since September 2019.

Among the first paying customers through the gates were Carlisle native Craig Hamilton, his partner Louise Williams and their five-month old baby Mikey – who was well dressed for his very first visit to the races.

Craig Hamilton, Louise Williams and baby Mikey at Carlisle
Craig Hamilton, Louise Williams and baby Mikey at Carlisle (Ashley Iveson/PA)

“It’s fantastic to be back. It’s nice to get back to some sort of normality and to get dressed up and do something,” said Hamilton.

“I’m from Carlisle originally, but we live in Workington. This is Louise’s surprise birthday present. I bought the tickets when they first came out and surprised her this morning.

“We were just saying, we don’t think we’ve been racing since August/September 2019, so it’s almost two years and we probably go six or seven times a year usually.”

Williams added: “This is Mikey’s first day at the races. Hopefully he’s a lucky charm!”

Lloyd Johnson travelled from Swindon for the meeting, and said: “It’s nice to be back. It’s been missed.

“Personally I think it’s important for the public to get back and get back on our feet again.

“I like horse racing and like a bet, of course – I like to come here and win!

“It’s nice to get out and meet people. Let’s get things back together again.”

Carlisle’s general manager Molly Dingwall was thrilled to see members of the public back enjoying a day at the races.

She said: “We’ve got just over 1,000 (paying customers) today. We’ve had a really great uptake and a lot of the local community have come to support us, which is absolutely fantastic.

“We’re so thrilled this day has arrived. When I found out last week that we were going to be able to lessen the green zone and have it a bit more open and have owners back in the parade ring, I was delighted.

“We were very lucky to have behind closed doors racing to keep the sport going, but there’s nothing like having a crowd – it just changes the atmosphere of the day.

“We’ve been so excited to have people back here enjoying their day. We are in the entertainment business at the end of the day and we love seeing people have fun and seeing them being able to see their friends and their racing family, who they haven’t seen for so long.

“To be the first racecourse to be able to do that this year is a real treat and we’re beyond thrilled.”

Carlisle was last able to welcome a small crowd to the track for the pre-Christmas raceday in December.

Dingwall is hoping for a further easing of restrictions when step four of the route out of lockdown is due to kick in on June 21 – just two days before the track’s Carlisle Bell and Cumberland Plate fixture.

She added: “The Bell and Plate day is on June 23 this year and it looks like the 21st could be a really big day for allowing people back in almost a normal capacity.

“It would be absolutely incredible for our Bell and Plate day. We always get a really good crowd that day with really knowledgeable racegoers – it’s a real family day.

“I know there is talk about the date potentially being pushed back, but from our point of view, it’s about being positive, following the guidelines and doing everything we can to ensure we stay as safe as possible and keep our racegoers and participants safe.”

Jockey Paul Hanagan
Jockey Paul Hanagan (Tim Goode/PA)

Dual champion jockey Paul Hanagan said: “It’s so good to see the crowds back – this is what it’s all about. There’s just that extra bit of atmosphere and it does make a difference.

“It’s fantastic to see. I think there were a few of the two-year-olds in the first race thinking ‘what is going on here?’, as they’ve never seen so many people. It’s great to have everyone back.”

Samuel Black was one of 10 bookmakers allowed to take pitches on track.

He said: “We’ve been on track for owners at Kelso and Musselburgh, but it’s obviously been very quiet. It’s more of a service for them and getting us out of the house. From a business point of view, it’s been a waste of time.

“The last time we were racing with a full crowd was at Uttoxeter on Midlands Grand National day last year – the day after the 2020 Cheltenham Festival. We did go to Haydock twice with a small crowd at the end of last year, similar to this today.

“Business today is workable. For a midweek fixture, it’s as good as could be expected really.

“It’s nice to be out and see the sun again – we’ve been pale for a year!

“We have a good pitch at Glorious Goodwood and we just hope we’re back to something like normal by then.”

Tracks poised for return of racegoers

Monday marks the end of racing behind closed doors as courses are permitted to welcome a limited number of spectators.

The latest milestone in the government’s roadmap out of lockdown allows racecourses to host 4,000 fans or fill the course to 50% capacity – whichever is the lesser number.

There is also a slight easing in restrictions on course, with owners able to access the parade ring to meet trainers and jockeys and masks only compulsory in the paddock and indoor areas.

Carlisle, Redcar, Leicester and Windsor all host fixtures on Monday and will therefore be the first tracks to benefit from the change in policy, with Ffos Las still restricted to racing behind closed doors due to the differing stance between the English and Welsh governments.

The impact of Covid-19 left Carlisle unable to host a single Flat fixture last year, but the Cumbrian track was able to run a behind-closed-doors jumps programme from October onwards.

Officials at Carlisle are excited to reinstate the Flat action in front of paying spectators.

“We’re delighted to be able to welcome back Flat racing to Carlisle after such a long absence and it’s particularly fitting that it coincides with the first day of spectators being allowed to return to racecourses,” said Molly Dingwall, general manager at Carlisle.

“The pandemic has had a huge impact on sport as a whole and we’ve felt that just as keenly at Carlisle racecourse. It was disappointing not to be able to host our Flat programme last year and that meant some historic races did not take place, but we couldn’t be more excited about Monday.

“Owners, trainers and spectators have been so supportive of the course over the years, not to mention incredibly patient.

“The team here have been absolutely brilliant and have worked incredibly hard to keep the course in great condition. We can’t wait to welcome everyone back for what should be a fantastic summer of Flat racing.”

Redcar will have spectators on course on Monday
Redcar will have spectators on course on Monday (Tony Knapton/PA)

Redcar stages an eight-race card, with the first race fittingly named the Great To Welcome You Back Median Auction Maiden Stakes.

Redcar’s general manager Amy Fair said: “We’re really looking forward to welcoming spectators back after so long, we’ve really missed the atmosphere they bring, but the emphasis has to remain very much on public safety.”

Leicester will also be in action, with a seven-race evening card kicking off at 5.05pm after over a year of racing in front of empty grandstands.

Empty stands at Leicester in March
Empty stands at Leicester in March (Tim Goode/PA)

David Maykels, general manager of the racecourse, said: “We are looking forward to welcoming annual members and the public back after 15 long months.

“Tomorrow evening sees further relaxation also for owners, who can now enter the parade ring and winners enclosure for their race.

“We have hired a large marquee until September to facilitate hospitality clients and owners due to losing our boxes and club room for jockeys and stewards.

“Tomorrow we will be providing the paddock pavilion for owners and trainers, plus in annual members we will be providing some welcome-back bubbly to thank them for their support.

“Let us hope this is the start of a special summer and beyond.”

Carlisle delight for Henry Brooke with winning return

Henry Brooke is looking forward to the rest of the season and beyond after making a successful return from almost four months on the sidelines at Carlisle on Tuesday.

The 30-year-old has emerged as one of the north’s leading riders in recent seasons, enjoying big-race success aboard Highland Lodge in the Becher Chase at Aintree, Lake View Lad in the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby and Cornerstone Lad in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.

However, Brooke has been a frustrated spectator since early November, having broken three vertebrae in his neck and two in his back when suffering a schooling fall at Oliver Greenall’s yard in Cheshire.

He said: “It’s felt like an age, to be honest.

“I did three vertebrae in my neck and two in my back. They were all compression fractures, which isn’t too bad, although one in my neck was a bit touch and go. Luckily, it all worked out well.

“I had a solid brace on for seven weeks and then a soft collar on for another three weeks after that.

“I’ve been in great hands with Dr Jerry Hill of the BHA (British Horseracing Authority) and all of my recovery is down to the people at Jack Berry House – I can’t praise everyone that helped me enough.”

Having finished sixth on his comeback ride earlier in the day, Brooke got back in the winning groove aboard the Mark Walford-trained Miss Amelia in the Racing TV Handicap Chase.

After taking over the lead between the final two fences, the 15-2 chance found plenty for pressure on the run-in to score by two and a quarter lengths from Pistol Park.

“Today was the main aim – to come back. To come out of it with a winner, I’m absolutely on cloud nine,” Brooke added.

“I took a blow on my first ride, but when you’re in with a chance of winning you find the strength – and to be fair to the mare, she’s very gutsy and helped me all the way to the line.

“No jockey likes being off – it’s an absolute nightmare watching horses win that you would have rode, but I’m looking to the future now and hopefully I can get myself a couple of nice winners before the end of the season.”

Brooke was also keen to pay tribute to British event rider Matthew Wright, who died earlier this week, saying: “Matthew was a really good event rider and I was good friends with him. My condolences go out to his family at this tough time.”

Donald McCain is in no rush to make any grand plans for the unbeaten Dreams Of Home following an impressive display in division one of the Watch Irish Racing On Racing TV Novices’ Hurdle.

A winner on his only start in the Irish point-to-point field last autumn, the son of Jet Away made a flying start for his new connections when scoring by 12 lengths on his hurdling debut at Wetherby last month.

The five-year-old was the 4-5 favourite to follow up in the hands of champion jockey Brian Hughes and was ultimately well on top as he passed the post with almost four lengths in hand over promising newcomer Royal Arcade.

McCain said: “He’s a nice horse. We’ve no great big plans. We’re going to go quietly with him as he’s every inch a chaser.

“I’m sure he’ll run once more, but he won’t run a lot more this season, I don’t think.”

Harry Cobden (left) and Paul Nicholls enjoyed a Carlisle winner
Harry Cobden (left) and Paul Nicholls enjoyed a Carlisle winner (David Davies/PA)

Harry Cobden was pleased to break his Carlisle duck aboard the Paul Nicholls-trained Highland Hunter.

A rare runner at the Cumbrian circuit for the multiple champion trainer, the 11-8 favourite made the 600-mile round trip from Somerset worthwhile with a neck success in the Introducing Racing TV Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.

Cobden said: “I’ve ridden here a couple of times before and thankfully we’ve come away with a winner today.

“It was Paul’s only runner of the day. I just think it was the right race for him, with only five runners – Paul just saw an opportunity that couldn’t be missed really.

“He’s a real stayer who handled the testing ground well and managed to get the job done.”

Conditional jockey Kevin Brogan enjoyed a double on the afternoon with wins aboard the Ben Pauling-trained Apple Rock (4-1) and Daragh Bourke’s Evita Du Mesnil (9-2).

Inspection at Warwick but hopes high for Monday action

Warwick’s big rearranged meeting on Monday looks set to beat the weather, despite an inspection being called for 3pm on Sunday.

The card scheduled for Saturday was called off on Friday, but plans were in place to move the whole fixture and it looks a wise decision.

Clerk of the course Jane Hedley said: “It’s Baltic this (Saturday) morning so we definitely took the right decision.

“We’re going to have an inspection at 3pm tomorrow, we’ll start lifting the covers tomorrow morning, they may as well stay in place the rest of today.

“Temperatures are set to get to the heady heights of 1C tonight before getting to four or five Sunday. Then a band of rain comes through and it gets milder still, up to about 10C by Monday lunchtime.

“A lot of the areas that are covered are raceable already, it’s just some of the bare patches and some areas in the back straight that were never going to come round.

“I think we’ll be in a good place by tomorrow afternoon and a better one by Monday – it’s amazing how mild it’s going to be and it’s amazing the job the frost covers have done. I wouldn’t be as confident without them.”

Exeter’s meeting on Sunday faces an 8.30am inspection.

Clerk of the course Dan Cooper tweeted: “Every reason to keep looking at @ExeterRaces conditions based on the forecast for lows into Saturday morning.

“However, we are -1 this evening and temperatures need to improve, some suggestion it will. The time frozen places take to defrost remains a risk. Inspection 8:30am Sun.”

Tuesday’s meeting at Carlisle faces a 3pm inspection on Monday due to a frozen track, while Catterick’s fixture, moved from Monday to Tuesday, has no inspection planned as yet with temperatures due to rise.