Island Brave battles to Old Borough Cup victory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Captain Haddock not for catching in Amateur’s Derby

Henry Main steered Captain Haddock to a victory he is unlikely ever to forget in the Amateurs’ Derby at Epsom.

Trained by the rider’s aunt, Heather Main, Captain Haddock was a 5-1 shot to strike gold in a mile-and-a-half handicap that has previously been won by record-breaking amateurs like Patrick Mullins and Jamie Codd.

Cemhaan, ridden by Matthew Ennis, was the 6-5 favourite, but he did his chances no favours by completely blowing the start, which briefly left him adrift of the field.

The market leader – owned by the rider’s parents Charles and Claire together with his godmother, Louisa Talbot – made inroads to move into contention from the home turn, but was ultimately unable to reel in Captain Haddock, with Main, 18, punching the air as he and his mount passed the post with four lengths in hand.

A picture to take pride of place in the Main family album
A picture to take pride of place in the Main family album (PA)

Main said: “I kind of felt like I was dreaming. It is the stuff of dreams. I love the horse to bits. I can’t thank my parents enough and Louisa. It is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had, put it that way.

“I got him out and he got in a nice position behind Simon’s (Walker) horse (Great Esteem) and he was flat out the whole way really.

“I thought going into the straight we would be outpaced, but he changed gear and he did it really well. He was pricking his ears going to the line and it is a bit of a dream really doing it on this course.

“My parents own the horse with Louisa Talbot and my aunt is the trainer, so it is a family affair and it feels great.

“Not until the moment I crossed the finish line did I think I had won, as I had a feeling something was going to come and get me.”

While Main can now boast a victory at Epsom Downs on his CV, his next ambition involves switching codes.

He added: “My next goal is to have a first ride over jumps. I did a lot of pony racing and had 60 rides pony racing and got the bug for it then.

“That is where it all started really. It is great my dad owns the horse and he has taught me a lot.

“This is a bit of a fairytale.”

William Muir enjoyed Coronation Cup glory earlier in the season with stable star Pyledriver – but was almost equally as thrilled to land the seven-furlong Stanley Wootton Handicap with Firepower.

Muir, who trains in partnership with Chris Grassick, said of the 13-2 winner: “This means a lot and the Coronation Cup is just in front of it.

“Pyledriver is dead easy and is like driving a train and this one is not. It took every bit of thought I’ve had since starting training in 1990 to get him right and hopefully the horse can continue.

“I’m absolutely buzzing. This is the biggest feat I’ve had as he has just been a horse that has taken me time to get him to just chill out, but he has now got there.

“Coming here today after Newbury I thought ‘we are in business’. The lads that ride him have done a fantastic job on him as he is so chilled out now.

“The horse has an immense amount of ability it has just been about getting his mind right.”