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Cazoo backing for St Leger Festival

Cazoo has expanded its Classic portfolio by becoming the new sponsor of the St Leger.

The online car retailer has announced the partnership with Arena Racing Company, owners and operators of Doncaster – where the St Leger will be the highlight of this year’s four-day festival from September 8-11.

As well as naming rights for the St Leger Festival and its showpiece race, the deal also includes year-round prominent branding for Cazoo across all 16 ARC racecourses.

Cazoo is a significant sponsor in several major sports such as football, cricket, rugby league and snooker – as well as the Derby and Oaks at Epsom

Alex Chesterman, founder and CEO of Cazoo, said: “We are delighted to partner with ARC on the new Cazoo St Leger Festival, home to the world’s oldest Classic.”

ARC chief executive Martin Cruddace added: “We are delighted to welcome Cazoo as our new partner for the Cazoo St Leger Festival and, of course, the feature race itself.

“As an innovative and growing brand, they are a fantastic fit for what is an incredibly popular and important meeting in the race calendar.”

Seven Brothers has the answer to Popmaster at Doncaster

Seven Brothers made a winning seasonal reappearance at Doncaster when taking the attheraces.com Handicap for Kevin Ryan and Kevin Stott.

His victory was subject to a photo finish, however, with Ed Walker’s 5-4 favourite Popmaster crossing the line only a nose behind the 13-2 winner.

The three-year-old was beaten only once from three runs last season, the sole loss coming when he tackled the Group Two Gimcrack Stakes, and Stott felt a winter break had been of benefit after his two-year-old campaign.

“We liked this horse a lot last year after his two wins,” the jockey said.

“I think because he was a breeze-up last year, by the end of the year everything had just got to him a bit.

“We put him away after the Gimcrack and he really strengthened up over the winter, mentally as well. I couldn’t fault him today.

“I wasn’t too sure if I’d won actually, but all credit to the horse.

“I’m very sure he’ll come on from this run, I think he’ll definitely go forward.”

Stott then claimed a double on the card when Ben Lilly obliged at 5-2 to take the two-and-a-half-mile Follow At The Races On Twitter Handicap for trainer David Brown.

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The four-year-old was tested at the staying distance for the first time after winning over a mile and six furlongs on his latest appearance at Wolverhampton, but the expended trip was no hinderance as he came home a length and a quarter ahead of Sashenka.

Tom Clover’s Rogue Bear was a winner on his racecourse debut when taking the Visit attheraces.com Novice Stakes under Jack Mitchell.

The three-year-old was one of only two of runners taking to the track for the first time from the field of nine, but his inexperience proved no disadvantage as he surged to a smart one-and-a-quarter-length success at 18-1.

“He’s a really talented horse and he’s shaped up so nicely at home,” said Clover of the Kodiac gelding.

“He has been gelded as he’s not the most straightforward to train, but he’s really grown up the last month or two.

Rogue Bear and Jack Mitchell on the way to victory
Rogue Bear and Jack Mitchell on the way to victory (Mike Egerton/PA)

“We’d hoped he’d show us something like that and to actually go and do it is really impressive.”

Secretinthepark made his 60th run under rules a successful one as he claimed the Free Tips Daily On attheraces.com Handicap.

The Josephine Gordon-trained 11-year-old was fourth on his seasonal reappearance at Newmarket earlier in the month and looked as game as ever when battling past 9-4 favourite Autumn Flight to prevail at 7-2 for trainer Michael Mullineaux.

“He ran a very good race last time at Newmarket, his first run back after a break,” Gordon said.

“I’m not normally that confident, but I did quite fancy him today.

“He’s straightforward, he knows more about racing than we do as he’s 11 years old.

“He travels good and luckily he’s still got loads of toe left in him.

Secretinthepark was a popular winner
Secretinthepark was a popular winner (Mike Egerton/PA)

“I don’t think the same jockey has ever won on him more than once, so we’ll go for the second (win) next time!”

John and Thady Gosden’s Side Shot appreciated a return to a left-handed track as he held on to the take the Sky Sports Racing Sky 415 Handicap under Robert Havlin.

The Frankel gelding was second on his seasonal reappearance at Kempton in March and went one better this time on Town Moor, prevailing by three-quarters of a length at 9-2.

“A nice galloping track is what he wants, he’s a funny horse,” Havlin said.

“He’s always better going left-handed, at Kempton the last day I could barely keep him on the rail, but he’s a horse that will probably stay a mile and a half.

“I went out with no plan, I could have made it (the running) but I was happy with where I was, the gallop was even and I had plenty of time up the straight here.”

The penultimate race on the card, the Download The At The Races App Fillies’ Handicap, went to 16-1 chance Al Simmo for Steph Hollinshead and Clifford Lee, before the Sky Sports Racing Virgin 535 Handicap was taken by Astrogem (8-1) for Ryan Tate and Harry Eustace.

Hollie Doyle up and running for new turf campaign

Hollie Doyle’s turf campaign got off to a winning start as she steered Outbox to a comfortable success in the Unibet Conditions Stakes at Doncaster

The six-year-old moved to Archie Watson’s Lambourn stable in December and scored for the first time for his new yard when taking an all-weather handicap contest at Wolverhampton in early March.

He followed that success up with another over the same mile-and-a-half trip on Town Moor, starting as 4-5 favourite and leading at a steady pace before quickening to record a length-and-a-quarter victory over Raymond Tusk.

“He had it easy (in front), but he still galloped away and he’s done it nicely,” Doyle said.

“It’s a very a strong headwind, but when you’ve got it that easy you can step up and make the running.

“It’s great to get a turf winner under the belt as it’s always a frustrating time if you can’t get that first win in.

“Our horses are absolutely flying and it’s just great for the yard as well to get off to a good start.

“He’s really grown in confidence and physically he’s doing very well, he could be one to look forward to.”

Tamborrada remains unbeaten after claiming his first race on turf, the 10-furlong Unibet Handicap.

Trained by Charlie Appleby, the Dubawi gelding has scored twice on the all-weather already this year and notched a hat-trick in running out victorious by a neck under James Doyle.

Starting as 10-11 favourite, the three-year-old was locked in a final-furlong battle with Mark Johnston’s Annandale, also a twice winner, and eventually held off his challenger to triumph by a neck.

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Tamborrada got his head in front at Doncaster under James Doyle
Tamborrada got his head in front at Doncaster under James Doyle (Mike Egerton/PA)

“We went a fairly even tempo and he just struggled to get his act together earlier on,” Doyle said.

“Whether that was the slightly tightening ground, I’m not sure.

“I wasn’t confident throughout and (Annandale) built into it nicely, as the Johnston horses do, they knuckle down well.

“We got into a bit of a scrap and he just edged ahead.

“He’s still learning, he had a bit of a look at the signs and took his foot of the gas late on but I think there’s plenty still to come from him.”

Sidelined jockey Andrea Atzeni missed another winner as the Kevin Ryan-trained Throne Hall triumphed in the 32Red Casino Handicap for stand-in pilot Kevin Stott.

Atzeni was forced to self-isolate after a passenger on his return flight from Bahrain tested positive for Covid-19, leaving PJ McDonald to take his winning ride aboard Artistic Rifles in the Spring Mile on Saturday.

This time Stott was the beneficiary, steering four-year-old Throne Hall to a one-and-three-quarter-length success on his first run since being gelded.

“He’s still a big, big baby,” the jockey said.

“He’s got a bit of growing to do, but he’s a very nice horse.

“He’s done well over the winter and he’s got loads to do yet, but going forward he’s something to look forward to.”

A gelding operation seemed to make all of the difference for Tahitian Prince too, as he shed his maiden tag when taking the seven-furlong 32red.com Handicap at 14-1 for Richard Hannon and Sean Levey.

Tahitian Prince (right) initiated a double for Richard Hannon
Tahitian Prince (right) initiated a double for Richard Hannon (Mike Egerton/PA)

The four-year-old had run six times without a win, but cheekpieces seemed to have brought about some improvement when he was fourth last time out and he was game on this occasion to edge past 4-1 market leader Dirty Rascal and prevail by a neck.

“He’s been hard work,” Levey said of the horse.

“But he’s come here with the cheekpieces on again, he’s been very straight and he’s done all the right things today.

“I think we can get a bit more out of him, hopefully.”

The going was good at the South Yorkshire track, but conditions were still testing as runners had to battle against a stern 35mph wind that blew down the home straight.

“I thought I had it all sewn up coming into the two-furlong marker, but I couldn’t believe how long it took me to get to the line,” Levey said of the effects of the gust.

“I thought the matter was done, but he had to dig deep and move across the track a few times.

“It’s hard in the last furlong, especially if you’re going to be out there on your own.”

George Peabody carried the Gredley colours to victory
George Peabody carried the Gredley colours to victory (Mike Egerton/PA)

George Peabody demonstrated his promise when taking division one of the Unibet Novice Stakes, building on the fourth-placed effort he produced when making his racecourse debut in an all-weather contest at Kempton in November.

The George Scott-trained gelding travelled in midfield under Callum Shepherd, shaking off the chasing pack with a furlong left to cover and crossing the line three and quarter lengths ahead of his nearest rival to prevail at 11-1.

Division two of the same race then provided Hannon with a double as the Rossa Ryan-ridden Soundslikethunder got the nod after the judge was called upon to split two Nightofthunder colts.

Running for the second time after finishing seventh on his debut last July, the three-year-old was level with stablemate Lexington Knight from the two-furlong pole onwards, with the latter just losing out when a photo finish deemed them to have crossed the line a short-head apart.

Mishriff and Lord North thrill Gosden on day to remember

Mishriff and Lord North are to be freshened up for major engagements this summer after they headlined a super Saturday for John and Thady Gosden on their first weekend with a joint licence.

The father and son team not only scooped two of the top prizes at Meydan, but took the Lincoln at Doncaster with Haqeeqy and had a double at Kempton through Otyrar and Global Giant.

The two heads of Clarehaven Stables in Newmarket had the perfect lift-off on Friday when Regent, their first official runner together, won at Lingfield.

Gosden reflected on a remarkable Saturday.

Mishriff proved his class in the Dubai Sheema Classic
Mishriff proved his class in the Dubai Sheema Classic (Dubai Racing Club/Mathea Kelley)

“It was an extraordinary day. A tremendous amount of work and planning had gone into it with all our team here at Clarehaven Stables and sometimes it comes off,” he told Racing TV’s Luck On Sunday programme.

He was delighted with the two high-profile winners in Meydan, where Lord North took the Dubai Turf and Mishriff backed up his Saudi Cup triumph in the Dubai Sheema Classic.

“Lord North showed his class. In the Prince of Wales’s Stakes last year he scooted away from them. He’s a grand horse with a wonderful attitude,” said Gosden.

“I think he’ll go back for the Prince of Wales’s Stakes again (at Royal Ascot). We’ll freshen him up now for the summer.”

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Mishriff could be set for a busy summer campaign, after a well-deserved break.

Lord North was brilliant in the Dubai Turf
Lord North was brilliant in the Dubai Turf (Mathea Kelley/Dubai Racing Club)

“I will discuss it with Prince Faisal, but it was always the plan to see if he could be an Arc horse and I think he proved he gets the mile and a half,” said Gosden.

“They went quick to the bend, then they slowed it up and he finished well, so I think he’ll freshen for the summer.

“My feeling would be races like the Eclipse, the Juddmonte International, the Arc and the King George. Those are the races to be looking at and seeing where we are at the time.

“That’s a long way off. He deserves a pretty good holiday.”

However, Gosden is not keen on going for the Breeders’ Cup Classic on dirt in Del Mar as he feels the course would not suit Mishriff.

“Having had a lot of success at Del Mar over the years I do know that straight very well and I always feel they should pick up the finishing wire and move it another 100 yards down,” he said.

“It’s a very short straight and a different style of racing. You’ve got to have real tactical speed and you ping off the bend. This is a horse who enjoys the length of the straight. I don’t think it’s going to suit him.”

Young apprentice Benoit De La Sayette shone aboard Haqeeqy in the Lincoln
Young apprentice Benoit De La Sayette shone aboard Haqeeqy in the Lincoln (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Closer to home, a new star was born when 7lb-claiming apprentice Benoit De La Sayette, 18, partnered Haqeeqy to an emotional victory in the Unibet Lincoln at Doncaster in the colours of Hissa Hamdan Al Maktoum, daughter of Shekih Hamdan who died earlier in the week.

“Frankie Dettori is a friend of the De La Sayette family and it was he who asked if their son could join the Clarehaven team. It evolved through Frankie and his father being good friends,” said Gosden.

“Frankie asked if he could come to us and he’s a pleasure to work with. He’s work riding and he’s been with us some time riding during school holidays. He’s exceptionally talented.

“I don’t like to see apprentices rushed. We’ll try to manage it very carefully and do what’s right and prudent for a young jockey who’s hopefully got a long career ahead of him, but he certainly won’t be riding left, right and centre every day and burning himself out by August.

“His parents have been so much part of this They have taken him to England, France, pony racing. They taught him everything. He’s just a natural.”

Thady Gosden was on duty for the team in Dubai and is jetting to Florida with a view to adding to the stable.

Thady Gosden is a key part of the training operation with his father
Thady Gosden is a key part of the training operation with his father (Julian Finney/PA)

“He’s going to Florida for the two-year-olds in training sales,” said Gosden senior.

“He’s going to look at some horses at the sales here there. He says he’s got a client. Who knows, he’ll be taking over soon.

“You couldn’t have choreographed it. It was meant to be January 1, but with the modules that got put behind by Covid so it’s happened by the beginning of the turf season which is great.

“We didn’t quite plan this. It came to fruition, but if we had won of those races we’d have been overjoyed. They are very hard to win.”

Royal Commando takes charge in Cammidge Trophy

Royal Commando pounced late to win the Unibet Cammidge Trophy Stakes at Doncaster.

Charlie Hills’ four-year-old sprinter was held up by jockey Kieran Shoemark, behind the pace set by Just Frank, until challenging inside the final furlong and then seeing off runner-up Emaraaty Ana.

Royal Commando, who won by a length and three-quarters at 15-2, was fourth at a massive price in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot before failing to add to his solitary previous victory on Town Moor as a two-year-old.

His return to winning form at this Listed level was convincing, however. Evergreen Brando was a head behind Emaraaty Ana in third.

Shoemark said: “He had a busy campaign at the end of last year and it’s credit to Charlie and his team that he was spot on today.

“He runs in and out of form a bit. Obviously he was fourth in the Commonwealth Cup, but lost his form. He just seems a happy horse at the moment.

“We went a pretty hard gallop, but I was always quite confident. I hit a little flat spot between the four and the three poles, but then he came good for me.

“He was game and made my job easy, he even had a bit of a look around.”

He added: “On today I wouldn’t shy away from seven furlongs, but when we went clear he began looking around so I’ll leave it up to Charlie.”

Haqeeqy powers to Lincoln glory for apprentice Benoit De La Sayette

Many might have found the prospect of having a first ride on turf in the Unibet Lincoln slightly daunting – but not Benoit De La Sayette, who looks booked for stardom following his faultless ride on Haqeeqy at Doncaster.

The 18-year-old has been making waves on the all-weather during the winter and when his name appeared next to Haqeeqy’s at Monday’s confirmation stage it looked a shrewd move from John Gosden, who now shares the licence with his son, Thady.

But while the winning rider was able to claim 7lb off the improving four-year-old, given the turn of foot he showed it probably made little difference to the result.

Brunch broke cover from the pack over a furlong out, but when Haqeeqy saw daylight he put the race to bed in a matter of strides, looking the proverbial Group horse in a handicap in the process.

The 9-2 shot – owned by Hissa Hamdan Al Maktoum, whose father Sheikh Hamdan died earlier this week – won by a length and a half. Hortzadar was third, with Danyah fourth.

“It’s unbelievable and to have the support of these connections is a real thrill – I can’t thank everyone enough for legging me up,” the rider said.

“I wanted to follow the (William) Haggas horse (Johan), but he didn’t run so it was a blank canvas. He jumped beautifully, I got behind someone as I just wanted to get him switched off.

“Luckily enough a gap opened at the end which I wasn’t expecting, as I thought I was going to be trapped, but the turn of foot he showed was thrilling. To have a feeling like that, you can’t get better.

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“I walked the track, like everyone, and we all knew where the best ground was, it was such a tight bunch so I was lucky enough to get a gap.”

The Gosdens also had winners at Kempton and in Dubai, meaning their new partnership has got off to a flying start.

“They let me know I had the ride on Monday and my face lit up when he told me,” said De La Sayette.

“I’m not really thinking about the champion apprentice title. I’m just thinking about my next ride, I just want to carry on riding winners and riding for wonderful trainers.

“I just want to do the best I can and prove what I can do, that’s pretty much it.

“What the boss has taught me is the cooler you are the better they will run, if you get a bit revvy that is when you can make mistakes. I just wanted to keep cool and get him switched off.

“To even be on the racecard, for it to be my first turf race it was all a bit ‘wow’, and a big boost to my confidence. To ride my first race on turf in such a big race, and then to win, it’s amazing really.

“My father was a champion amateur rider in France for a couple of years and I always wanted to follow in his footsteps.

“I grew up on a horse, he came over to ride for Godolphin and I did the Pony Club circuit and then went pony racing at the age of nine.

“I can’t thank my parents enough, driving me around everywhere, they are the main reason I’m in the position I’m in. I went to Mr Gosden’s on work experience at 15 and I’ve been there ever since.”

He added: “I’m 18. It’s a dream start, to win the Lincoln, my first ride on turf, it’s a fairytale. I’ll probably wake up tomorrow thinking it was a dream.

“The Gosdens are so supportive, any slight mistake I make he’ll run me through it. I couldn’t ask for a better boss.”

Michael Dods was proud of the effort of Brunch in second and said: “He did everything right, if anything he might have got there a bit too soon, but the winner went past him in a matter of strides when he opened up.

“We were giving him 7lb when you take the jockey’s claim into account.

“We’ve no excuses, we’ve been beaten by a very good horse, I’m delighted with ours.

“We’ve lost little in defeat, we’ve been beaten by a Group horse. To win the Lincoln you’ve got to be a Group horse, look at Addeybb.

“You need to be just on the verge of going into Group races to win.”

Top Rank makes light work of Doncaster Mile rivals

Top Rank announced himself as an exciting miler for the forthcoming season with an eyecatching win in the Unibet Doncaster Mile.

James Tate’s grey had won five of his seven career outings before his seasonal reappearance – and as one of those was a Group Three he was conceding 5lb and more to some smart rivals.

But once PJ McDonald asked him to quicken up three furlongs out he moved through the field effortlessly, looking a class above, and he only needed to be pushed out with hands and heels to beat What’s The Story by a length at 11-2.

“He looked to be bigger and better this year, but there was also an outside chance he was just fat!” said Tate.

“Thankfully he was just bigger and better and that was great. He’d done two pieces of work on the grass and thankfully he wasn’t blowing too much after it.

“He’s a Group Three winner already so the obvious step would be a Group Two. There is one at Sandown, but that is quite a tight right-handed track and might not be for him. There’s also an option in France.

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“We could just be brave and if he’s well and the ground isn’t fast we could go for the Lockinge and he might have a decent chance.”

He added: “He looks an improved horse, his work had been better so it’s exciting to see him do it on the track.”

McDonald then doubled up on Artistic Rifles (8-1) in the Unibet Spring Mile – stepping in for Andrea Atzeni who was a late absente having been informed he had to isolate after being contacted by coronavirus track and trace.

Artistic Rifles (14) battled back to beat Acquitted
Artistic Rifles (14) battled back to beat Acquitted (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Atzeni had been in Bahrain, and a passenger on his flight subsequently tested positive.

That did not take any shine off the victory for trainer Ed Bethell, though, saddling just his second winner since taking over form his father, James.

“Days like this are what it is all about, winning nice races on a Saturday,” said Bethell.

“This horse is not easy to deal with on a morning so a lot of credit must go to his lad, Liam Reeves, who battles with him every morning on the gallops and does a wonderful job. Liam said he’d run well, so he deserves a lot of credit.

“He only ever only just wins which is great when it comes to handicapping!

“It’s a shame for Andrea, but I’ve no doubt he’ll be winning big races before too long.”

Eve Johnson Houghton won Unibet Brocklesby Conditions Stakes with her first runner in the race as Chipotle secured an impressive success.

Sent off an 8-1 shot, Charlie Bishop brought him down the centre of the track to beat Wonderful World by two and a quarter lengths.

Chipotle impressed in the Brocklesby
Chipotle impressed in the Brocklesby (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He’s always worked quite nicely at home, but he’s not been really well drilled as mine aren’t normally this forward,” said Johnson Houghton.

“He did that really nicely, though, so that is a relief. He’s got a nice pedigree. I’m thrilled with that.

“The only issue now is that this was a Class 4 so he’ll have a penalty in a novice.

“He’s my first runner in the race so it’s pretty exciting.”

Danyah primed for Lincoln bid

Owen Burrows reports Danyah to have done well during the winter and is looking forward to saddling the four-year-old in the Unibet Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster.

The son of Invincible Spirit showed progressive form last term, topping and tailing his season with victories on Town Moor and at Haydock.

Burrows is optimistic Danyah can put up a good show on Saturday, on the evidence of his home work.

The Lambourn trainer said: “We’ve been pleased with him. He’s done well through the winter.

“He’s pleased me in his work leading up to this. Conditions look to suit, so fingers crossed.

“He’s won over the course and at Haydock over a mile on good ground. I’m expecting the ground to be similar to Haydock – so no excuses there.

“We’re going there ticking a few boxes. We’re hopeful.”

The draw is always a talking point over the straight mile on Town Moor, and Burrows is happy enough with stall nine.

“I wouldn’t have wanted to be drawn much lower. We’ll take that,” he said.

“It depends how it pans out. We’ll just have to see what happens.”

Charlie Appleby is anticipating a big run from Eastern World as he seeks a third win in the race, following the successes of Secret Brief in 2016 and Auxerre in 2019.

“Eastern World won impressively on his one start in Dubai over the winter and travelled back to the UK well,” the Newmarket trainer told www.godolphin.com.

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“The one thing he does take into this race is that he is fit and ready to go – he looked fantastic when he got off the plane. Both our previous winners of the Lincoln were also drawn high, so hopefully stall 19 is a good sign.”

Charlie Fellowes has concerns about the ground and the draw for King Ottokar
Charlie Fellowes has concerns about the ground and the draw for King Ottokar (Steven Paston/PA)

Charlie Fellowes is hoping stall four will not prove disadvantageous to King Ottokar, who has had this race as his objective since the autumn.

He said: “We’re far side. It’s a typically strong field, (so) hopefully there is some pace around us to aim at, and we’ll see. In these big handicaps, you need to be behind the pace.

“I want a bit of rain just to take the edge off the ground.

“I’ll go and walk the track beforehand.

“He’s had a perfect preparation. He’s working well at home, and this has been the target since the Balmoral. We’re very happy.”

River Nymph disappointed in that race at Ascot in October, but trainer Clive Cox felt it was one race too many.

However, the Lambourn trainer could not be more pleased with how the four-year-old has wintered and is hoping stall two will not be a hindrance.

“He’s in great form. I think he was probably just off the boil when he ran in the Balmoral, but he’s trained very well and wintered well,” he said.

“I hope a low draw is no inconvenience. I think he will get the mile, though, we’ve got to prove that yet. It will mould our campaign, but I couldn’t be happier with him.

“He’s fit and well. We’re looking forward to getting under way on Saturday.”

Trainer Richard Hughes would like to see rain for Brentford Hope
Trainer Richard Hughes would like to see rain for Brentford Hope (Dan Abraham/PA)

Richard Hughes is another who would prefer some rain, to help Brentford Hope’s chances.

“I’m happy enough. I just need a bit of rain now,” said the Upper Lambourn handler.

“Hopefully, they’ll get some. He needs some.

“He’s well and he goes there with his chance if the ground is soft.”

Richard Hannon is two-handed in the Lincoln with Man Of The Night and Ouzo
Richard Hannon is two-handed in the Lincoln with Man Of The Night and Ouzo (Nigel French/PA)

Richard Hannon expects his two runners, Man Of The Night and Ouzo, to go well.

The Marlborough trainer was pleased with Man Of The Night’s first run for 246 days at Wolverhampton this month.

“He ran a very good race at Wolverhampton, he was running on late,” he said.

“He probably does want a mile and a quarter, but they will go very quick on that straight mile at Doncaster. He is a big horse who would have needed that first run. He will come on massively for the run.

“He is quite lightly raced. We thought he was going to be a very good horse, and he has not delivered on that after his win first time out at Newbury, but he is looking like he is going to pay dividends now in these very good handicaps.”

Hannon reports Ouzo to be catching the eye on the gallops.

“He has been working great. His last run (at York) last year was very pleasing, and he looks to me a horse still on the upgrade – he is in great form,” he said.

“I think he will go very well at a fairly good price. He might want further, but a straight mile is what he wants first time.

“Mentally he looks to be going the right way. I was a bit worried about him at one stage last year, but he has sorted himself out and he is in great nick mentally and physically.”

Born To Be Alive is due to represent Karl Burke
Born To Be Alive is due to represent Karl Burke (Richard Sellers/PA)

Karl Burke has ground worries for Born To Be Alive, winner of the Lincoln Trial at Wolverhampton.

“The drying ground is a concern, I’ll walk the track before I let him take his chance,” said Burke.

“It’s a bit frustrating because the horse is in good form.”

Rank aiming to Top Doncaster Mile rivals

Top Rank will have an early chance to confirm he is still an improving horse for the season ahead in the Listed Unibet Doncaster Mile Stakes.

Trainer James Tate senses the imposing grey, who has grown again from four to five, has progressed through the winter – having already established a high level of form in 2020.

Top Rank must concede weight all round when he returns on Saturday, as the winner of Haydock’s Group Three Superior Mile on his penultimate start last September.

But Tate is optimistic that he can step forward again – either over his proven trip of a mile, up to 10 furlongs, or even over shorter –  after winning five of only seven career attempts to date.

“He’s ready to go, he’s in good form and he’s done extremely well through the winter. But it’s not a bad Listed race, and he’s got to give them all a 5lb Group Three penalty,” the Newmarket trainer said.

“It’s no easy task, but on the other hand, we are very happy with him and excited to see him back on the track.

“Obviously we’re at the start of a new season, but so far we think he’s improved.

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“We’re just hoping he’s come on again. A little drop of rain wouldn’t do him any harm either.”

Top Rank was a winner at Newmarket in 2019
Top Rank was a winner at Newmarket in 2019 (Nigel French/PA)

The son of Dark Angel has always towered over the majority of his rivals, and Tate added: “Believe it or not, he has grown from four to five.

“He’s a massive, big horse and he’s been working very nicely – so we’re just looking forward to seeing him back on the track really.”

Doncaster will be informative for the future in terms of trip, and to an extent ground too.

Tate added: “It’s hard (to know) with these horses – they’re not mature until later in their lives.

“Certainly earlier in his career, we swerved fast ground – because we felt it would be likely to injure him.

“He’s a much more mature horse now.

“First run of the year, ideally we would just like nice, good ground.”

As for subsequent targets, Tate expects to be wiser after this weekend.

“We’ll just have to get Saturday out of the way,” he said.

“Sometimes these horses do stretch out a little bit, and I have got him on all race searches – thinking ‘would he get a mile and a quarter?’.

“But then, sometimes they surprise you – they get bigger and stronger and they come back to seven.”

Montatham, who had Top Rank back in third place when landing a York handicap in August, is among the opposition.

The William Haggas-trained five-year-old meets Top Rank on 6lb better terms.

Richard Fahey’s Space Traveller is an interesting runner, having his first race since finishing sixth in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot last summer. That was the only outing in 2020 for the Bated Breath entire, who won the Jersey Stakes and Boomerang Stakes in 2019.

Juan Elcano, fifth to Kameko in the 2000 Guineas, is given an early seasonal debut by Kevin Ryan, while Richard Hannon is double-handed with Beat Le Bon and Qaysar.

Haqeeqy and Eastern World to square up in Lincoln

Market leaders Haqeeqy and Eastern World are among a maximum field of 22 declared for the Unibet Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster.

Haqeeqy bids to be a first big-race winner for father-and-son partnership John and Thady Gosden, with their dual licence for the start of the new Flat season. He is drawn towards the middle in stall 10 on Saturday.

Haqeeqy has had just five races – while fellow four-year-old Eastern World is also unexposed, having had only seven starts for trainer Charlie Appleby.

A 5lb penalty for winning at Meydan in February ensured he got in the race, and he will race from stall 19.

The weights are headed by another four-year-old, Johan, trained by William Haggas – who has won the big mile handicap four times.

Richard Hughes has a leading contender in Brentford Hope, also four. He is drawn three, and ended last season with victory at Haydock.

Others prominent in the ante-post betting include Karl Burke’s Lincoln Trial winner Born To Be Alive (20), the Owen Burrows-trained Danyah (nine), Charlie Fellowes’ King Ottokar (four) and Grove Ferry (12) from Andrew Balding’s yard.

William Haggas seeking Lincoln history with Johan

William Haggas could rely on Johan to give him an outright record of five winners in the Unibet Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster on Saturday.

The Yorkshire-born Newmarket trainer shares the winning-most tally along with Jack Robinson, who won the race four times between 1896 and 1910.

Haggas has taken the traditional curtain-raiser for the Flat turf season with High Low (1992), Very Wise (2007), Penitent (2010) and Addeybb (2018).

Johan will have to defy top-weight of 9st 10lb after 64 horses remained in the one-mile feature.

The four-year-old has not raced since being beaten in a Listed race at Kempton in November, won by Kinross, after which he was gelded.

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Haggas said: “It’s unfortunate he’s got top weight, but that’s because he ran well on the all-weather at Chelmsford, although he didn’t run so well in the Listed race.

“He’s got plenty of weight, so we’ll see. He’s ready to go.”

A maximum field of 22 is allowed for the Lincoln, with the next 22 in the handicap going forward to the consolation race, the Spring Mile, on the same card.

Eastern World is ante-post favourite on the back of a comfortable success at Meydan in February. The four-year-old bids to give trainer Charlie Appleby a third win in the race after Secret Brief (2016) and Auxerre (2019). James Doyle, who has ridden the last two Lincoln winners, is booked to ride.

Other horses prominent in the market to stand their ground include Haqeeqy, who is due to run under the new joint banner of John and Thady Gosden, the Owen Burrows-trained Danyah and Richard Hughes’ Brentford Hope.

Charlie Fellowes is expecting a big run from King Ottokar.

“This has been the plan since the Balmoral (at Ascot) at the end of last year,” the Newmarket trainer told Sky Sports Racing.

“He galloped on Sunday. Ben Curtis came and sat on him, who I hope is going to ride him at the weekend.

“It was a lovely piece of work and he feels like he is in really good form, to the extent where I’m going to take the visor off and just run him in a set of cheekpieces. I don’t think he needs the visor anymore. He’s back exactly where I want him.

“We’re looking forward to it, but I’ve said all along this is a Group horse. I still believe that and you need a Group horse when you’re trying to find the winner of a big handicap.

“I hope this horse’s day will come. He deserves it and would be great to see him win on Saturday.”

Red Infantry gallops to Grimthorpe glory

Red Infantry gave a gutsy display in the Virgin Bet Grimthorpe Handicap Chase at Doncaster to star in an across-the-card treble for trainer Ian Williams.

By ending a winning run going back to November 2018, the 11-year-old could have earned himself a place in either the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter or more likely the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown next month.

Red Infantry (8-1) gave everything for Charlie Todd to make virtually all the running as the pair fought off all-comers in the Town Moor feature.

He was headed by Special Prep after jumping the final fence, but rallied in splendid fashion to get back close home and get the verdict by a head. Canelo, the 13-8 favourite, was seven lengths away in third place.

Williams said: “It was a great result. The ground and everything came right for him. He had a bit of time off with an injury, but he’s run to his best today.

“He’s not the easiest to ride and Charlie has given him a great ride on what is probably one of his last opportunities to ride as 5lb claimer.

“Whether he goes for the Midlands National or we might hang on to him for Sandown (the bet365 Gold Cup) remains to be seen, depending on how he comes out of today.

“He’s won around there (Sandown) and likes it there. That’s probably the plan.”

It was a great day for Williams, who also took the Listed Virgin Bet Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle with 40-1 shot Dragon Bones, while Always Resolute struck at Newbury.

A delighted Todd said of Red Infantry: “He fought all the way to the line. I always felt he was going to cling on.

“He didn’t run badly here the last day. The step up in trip definitely helped.

“The change of tactics helped – go a good gallop and make use of a low weight. We just gave it a good go.

“I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet.”

Williams happy to be back among the winners at Doncaster

Lorcan Williams put a four-day ban for a verbal altercation with Page Fuller at Newbury 24 hours earlier behind him with a confident winning ride on Getaway Trump in the Virgin Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster.

The incident was captured by television cameras and the stewards had their say, but Williams said the pair calmed down and apologised minutes after the argument.

“I don’t want to say too much, it’s still on going but Mr (Paul) Struthers (of the Professional Jockeys Association) is helping me and Page,” said the 3lb claimer.

“We’re sports people and things do get heated. It happens in football and rugby all the time. Me and Page, as soon as we went back into the weighing room, we both apologised and things were done and dusted.

“We said we’d put it behind us. We’re both competitive people or else we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing. These things happen.”

Williams showed his prowess in the saddle as he got Getaway Trump, trained by Paul Nicholls, to produce his best form and beat Duke Of Navan by six and a half lengths.

“He’s an excellent horse and over hurdles he was one of our most exciting prospects to go our fences. He’s a strong character who does it in his own terms,” he said.

“He ran really well at Musselburgh and Paul thought he’d step him back to two miles. He was enthusiastic that day.

“I let him do his own thing and rode him a loose horse and every time a horse got to me he kept picking up. I didn’t want to hit the front too soon. He jumped the last and scooted away lovely.”

Dragon Bones made an impressive start to her jumping career when taking Listed honours in the Virgin Bet Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

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Connections of the Ian Williams-trained six-year-old must be delighted they kept the Passing Glance mare after she failed to make a decent bid at the sales.

They have had to be patient, however, as she has just had two runs in bumpers, spread out over 451 days, before showing what she can do with hurdles in front of her.

Not surprisingly she was sent off a big outsider at 40-1, but there was no fluke about the result.

Brought steadily into the race by Robbie Dunne, Dragon Bones picked off the long-time leader Go Millie Go to land the spoils by two and three-quarter lengths.

Williams’ assistant Ben Brookhouse said: “She won a bumper first time up and ran a nice race in a Listed bumper at Market Rasen.

“We didn’t quite know what to expect from her. She’s lovely and is straightforward to train.

“She went to the sales and didn’t make what we thought she was worth and we brought her home.

“She’s worth more now and with the bonus scheme has picked a nice few quid today.

“We’ll take our time and see what comes up next.”

Ginistrelli reaped the benefit of a wind operation when returning to form after two disappointing run with victory in the Virgin Bet Handicap Hurdle.

The son of Frankel had opened his account over jumps at Uttoxeter in July, only to flop in his next two starts which caused trainer Olly Murphy to take action. It worked, though Ginistrelli was sent off unfancied at 33-1.

Held up in the early stages, the five-year-old made smooth progress to led at the second-last flight and went on to score by five lengths from Lively Citizen in the hands of Fergus Gregory.

“We thought he’d need the run and he’s unexposed,” said the winning jockey.

“He’s obviously improved for his winter break and the wind op has worked the oracle. If he keeps progressing, he could be a smart summer horse.”

Richard Johnson rode his first winner in a quarter of a century for trainer Sue Smith when guiding Small Present home in the Virgin Free Bets For Winners Handicap Hurdle.

The four-times champion kept Small Present (3-1 joint-favourite) up to his work to hold off Skandiburg by half a length.

“That’s my first one in 25 years. Sue said it had taken me all this time for me to ride a winner for her. I don’t ride for her that regularly but I’ve had a few over the years. It’s fantastic to ride a winner for them. They are racing legends.”

Of the winner Johnson added: “He’s only a novice and is probably on the upgrade. From the second-last home he put his head down. He’s got a very good attitude.

“We went a good gallop Sue and Harvey (Smith) said he will definitely keep finding for you and he did that.

“The said this horse could be a National horse in the future and they know what it takes.”

Erne River (7-2) made most to open his account under rules in the Virgin Bet Novices’ Hurdle, beating Kildimo by five lengths.

Winning rider Charlie Hammond said: “He was too keen early on and I thought that might have scuppered us a bit.

“All he’s done is keep finding. He’ll be a nice chaser in time.”

Moriko De Vassy (20-1) stayed on strongly to make a winning debut for trainer Tom Symonds in the Virgin Bet Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race under Ben Poste.

Top amateur turned professional Edwards able to look forward to Cheltenham

Alex Edwards’ Doncaster victory on the promising Osprey Call was further vindication of his decision to turn professional just three weeks ago – a move which means he can seek more Cheltenham glory next month.

On the day it was confirmed all Edwards’ former amateur colleagues will remain out of action until after the Festival, because of coronavirus restrictions, even in the moment of victory he had inevitably mixed feelings.

The 30-year-old will be able to bid for his second success in the St. James’s Place Festival Hunters’ Chase – be it on 2019 winner Hazel Hill or one of the 13-year-old’s younger stablemates Wishing And Hoping or Salvatore.

Ex British point-to-point champion Edwards was due to complete this campaign as an amateur for trainer Phil Rowley, until the season was put on hold last month – and subsequently amateurs were suspended from riding under rules.

Against that backdrop, he made the switch early.

“It was always my plan to turn at the end of the point-to-point season – because I could ride a lot of point-to-pointing for my boss,” he said.

“That’s always been my main job. But with my boss (Rowley’s wife, Mel) now training under rules, it made sense for me – now or never to go professional.

“With the stopping of the amateurs riding, it spurred me on to do it quicker. I’d been speaking to the BHA beforehand, and it pushed me into making a decision there and then.”

Edwards may face a tough choice over which horse to ride at Cheltenham.

He said: “We’re very lucky – we’ve got a selection of two or three I could possibly ride.

“I can keep the ride. That’s great for me, but obviously there’s not great news for the whole amateur side.

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“A lot of good friends of mine work very, very hard (as amateur jockeys) – so it’s just frustrating for them. Let’s hope, in a month’s time,  we’re all back up and running and this is all forgotten about.”

Edwards should have more to smile about with the Alastair Ralph-trained Osprey Call, who overcame a significant mistake and awkward landing at the last for a near four-length win from Across The Line in the opening Virgin Bet Novices’ Hurdle.

“He’s a very green horse,” he said of the 7-1 winner.

“One minute he’s hanging right, then he’s hanging left, so it’s just trying to keep him on the straight and narrow.

“He’s got plenty of ability, and I think he could be going places.

“He was fairly keen early on. He’s a baby, and has to learn to settle and to breathe and to get into a rhythm jumping.

“It’s all a bit of a rush for him at the moment. But to go out and still win like that is quite nice – really impressive.”

Beau Bay produced an exemplary round of jumping from the front, apart from a blip at the second-last, to take the feature Virgin Bet Veterans’ Handicap Chase by almost four lengths from Ami Desbois.

Doncaster Races – February 24th, 2021
Beau Bay jumped well to win the Virgin Bet Veterans’ Handicap Chase (Tim Goode/PA)

The back-to-form Grand Sefton winner proved three miles is his bag these days – and after his 8-1 victory under Charlie Hammond, trainer Dr Richard Newland will be making future plans on that basis.

Among them the 2022 Grand National may even enter the equation – because although Beau Bay has an entry back at Aintree this year too, at 98th in the list he has no realistic chance of making the cut.

Newland said: “I was a bit gutted – because I thought he had a chance of winning the veterans’ race at Exeter (last week), and they called off the chases at the last minute (because of frost) and just ran the hurdles.

“That would have put him in the National – which is what we’d love to do.

“But he’s in the Kim Muir, and we might have a go.

“Then maybe, if he’s high enough rated, next year the National.”

Beau Bay, a bargain buy for the yard out of a Worcester claimer four years ago, has exceeded all expectations.

Newland added: “”He’s quite a small horse – but for whatever reason, he just loves the chasing.

“He tends to get a bit forgotten about in these races – people think he’s been around the block a bit, and is exposed.

“But he’s just in rude health. He’s an incredible horse – extraordinary. You can pay thousands and thousands, and you won’t get one as good as that.”

At £150,000, Patroclus was a little more expensive – but after Nicky Henderson’s five-year-old had doubled his career tally in his just his third race under rules, jockey Nico de Boinville was in no doubt he has potential.

Patroclus and Nico de Boinville were winners in the Virgin Bet EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle
Patroclus and Nico de Boinville were winners in the Virgin Bet EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle (Tim Goode/PA)

Following the evens favourite’s three-quarter-length success from market rival Riggs in the Virgin Bet EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle, he could chase a high-profile hat-trick if taking up next month’s Ballymore entry at Cheltenham.

A patient approach may be more likely, however.

De Boinville said: “He’s a smashing horse – a really solid National Hunt type.

“He probably got a bit lonely but stayed all the way, and I think he’ll want three miles in time.

“I wouldn’t know where we’re going to go after that, but he’s very much a long-term project.”

Taunton off as freeze takes toll

Taunton’s meeting was abandoned after an early-morning inspection on Tuesday – leaving a second successive blank day in the British jump racing calendar.

As the freeze takes hold, Taunton’s card was called off before 7am.

A Tweet on Taunton’s official account read: “Racing today has been abandoned. Temps overnight down to – 3C. Course frozen with no prospect/forecast of temps rising above 0C until around 1pm with a high of +1C”

Market Rasen’s meeting was abandoned after an inspection the previous afternoon – but there will be a jumpers’ bumper card at Kempton on Tuesday, after that course passed a morning inspection called because of forecast overnight snow.

Southwell’s all-weather evening Flat fixture is also set to go ahead.

Doncaster’s meeting on Thursday will, however, not take place after the course failed inspection on Tuesday morning – with snow on the track.

Wednesday’s National Hunt card at Ludlow was also abandoned following an inspection on Tuesday morning.

Thursday’s fixture at Ffos Las is also in some doubt, needing to pass an 8.30am precautionary inspection on Wednesday.

A tweet from the course said: “In view of updated weather forecast, we will hold a precautionary inspection at 8.30am tomorrow to assess impact of overnight temps ahead of racing on Thursday. Forecast -2 overnight & early morning, up to -4/-5 inland. We hope our coastal location will help with milder airflow.”