Tag Archive for: Racing League

Ireland grab Racing League victory in final night thriller

Ireland sealed victory in the Racing League on a dramatic final night at Southwell.

Wales & The West went into the last of six fixtures with a two-point lead, but a treble for Ireland on Wednesday night saw the team snatch the crown from the defending champions.

Tosen Wish (6-1) opened Ireland’s account in the 38th race of the William Hill-backed competition, with Danny Sheehy doing the steering on Ado McGuinness’ charge.

Ben Curtis then secured a double aboard the David O’Meara-trained Gulliver and Thunder Moor for George Boughey in the Ireland silks, with Half Nutz and Faster Bee further bolstering their position with seconds on the card.

Thunder Moor (left) sealed a treble for Ireland
Thunder Moor (left) sealed a treble for Ireland (Simon Marper/PA)

Ireland went into the final contest with a 48-point advantage, but Wales & The West manager Jamie Osborne opted to play his joker card, which doubled any points won.

Valsad, ridden by Osborne’s daughter Saffie and trained by Harry and Roger Charlton, duly obliged as the 4-1 favourite, but Star Harbour finished fourth for Ireland to give them a hard-fought victory, with seven points splitting the teams after 42 races.

Ireland team manager Kevin Blake was delighted to secure top honours, with his sides having previously failed to figure in the shake up, although he admitted he felt victory was unlikely three meetings in.

He said: “I think we were down 120 points at the halfway mark and two out of the first three weeks didn’t go well, but in fairness to the lads, they really started to get behind us.

“I just can’t believe it, but it is set up to be competitive and I genuinely feel for Jamie because he really thinks about this and is a genuinely one of the really good managers. It’s sweet to beat one of the good fellas.

“You could be Sir Alex Ferguson, but you are going to finish last if you don’t have trainers entering horses and running them, so we just lacked that in the first two years.

“Those first two years were hard, I’m competitive and it’s not easy turning up every week and getting a hiding, so this has turned out particularly sweet.

“I’m a difficult fella to get excited, but I’ve been jibby about this for the last couple of weeks and I’ve put a lot of hours into it.”

Sir Chauvelin (left) was one of two winners for Scotland
Sir Chauvelin (left) was one of two winners for Scotland (Simon Marper/PA)

Jim Goldie and Paul Mulrennan made sure Scotland finished the competition in style, recording a double with Yaaser (5-1) and Sir Chauvelin (22-1).

Mulrennan said: “This is a really good competition and we’re racing around for really good money and every race is ultra-competitive. You can see the crowd that is here tonight, everyone is enjoying it.”

The Richard Hannon-trained Commander Crouch landed the opening contest for the London & The South team, with Sean Levey steering the 5-1 shot to a neck success.

“It was impressive, but I thought he could have done a little bit better,” said Levey, with the winning team having deployed a joker card to good effect.

Commander Crouch (centre) won the opener for Sean Levey
Commander Crouch (centre) won the opener for Sean Levey (Simon Marper/PA)

“He’s still inexperienced and through greenness he hung all the way up the straight there and I was touch or go whether he was going to give it away, but he kept his head in-front.

“We were happy to come here today because albeit we had good weather last week, the ground has been coming up all ways. At the moment it is coming up more soft when he’s wanting it good and this is the first time he has got a consistent surface.

“We’re good with two-year-olds and hopefully he will keep improving”

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Saffie Osborne retains Racing League top jockey title

Saffie Osborne was once again crowned queen of the Racing League, successfully defending the leading rider award she won 12 months ago.

The 21-year-old stole the show on the final night of action in 2022, registering a phenomenal Newcastle treble as her father Jamie’s West & The Wales region snatched the top spot and Osborne stormed to the top of the jockeys’ standings.

However, things have been much more straightforward this time around and the ante-post favourite’s charge to the title began in the very first race of the competition as she lit up the opening night at Yarmouth with a fabulous three-timer.

She was on the mark in the final race of the competition aboard Valsad at Southwell, with her total of 342 points seeing her finish 121 points clear of her nearest pursuer Dylan Browne McMonagle to once again bag the £20,000 prize.

“It’s been a good Racing League for me this year, I’ve been lucky to get some good rides,” said the jockey.

“Dad has done a phenomenal job of organising everyone and keeping everyone enthused and on top of that keeping everyone in the team happy.

“Obviously you have a lot of trainers who want to run their horses and getting to the last night and still having everyone relatively happy about the whole thing is a hard task, but he’s done a brilliant job of it.

“Of course I’m also grateful for all the owners who put their horses in and they are obviously not in their own colours.”

Osborne has been at the top of the charts since the very first race and it has been very much one-way traffic in the standings ever since and the momentum gained on that first week at Yarmouth is something she has fed off throughout the contest.

“I’ve been lucky that it came round at the right time. I made a good start at Yarmouth and have had a good run since then,” Osborne added.

“I think the two years before I had an awful first evening, so it was great to get a treble on the first evening and the ball has kept rolling really.

“It’s been brilliant and gets a lot of coverage and it’s been great for me to ride for other trainers.”

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Racing League all set for final night battle between top two

This year’s Racing League is set for a fascinating conclusion after Wales & The West just about maintained top spot from Ireland.

Jamie Osborne’s defending champions have been blazing a trail throughout, but the Kevin Blake-managed Irish outfit enjoyed a good night at Newcastle last week and that was the case again at Wolverhampton on Thursday, with just the finale at Southwell on Wednesday to come.

Wales & The West led by 568 points to 496 heading into the fifth week at Dunstall Park, but by the end of play that was down to just two points (666 to 664).

After solid placed efforts in the opening few races, Ireland hit the jackpot with the Billy Loughnane-ridden, George Boughey-trained Koy Koy in race four – a win that also put crack apprentice Loughnane on 94 career winners, just one away from losing his claim.

Race five looked like going to Ireland, too, as Naxos and Dylan Browne McMonagle went for home, only to be swamped by Freddy Larson aboard Rebecca Menzies’ Painters Palette for Mick Quinn’s North team.

Even better for Quinn was that he played a joker, one that rewarded his squad with 70 points from the race.

Blake’s confidence seemed to be riding high for race six, as he too played a joker but the well-fancied 9-4 favourite Belgoprince and Loughnane had to settle for fourth place, one in front of another Irish runner, Percy Jones.

But while the points were still doubled for a positive Irish outcome that took them to the summit, Blake did admit to being disappointed the joker did not pay a better dividend, especially as he has no more left to play.

“We had a big chance to stick a nail in Osborne this evening, I feel we’ve only done half a job. When you play a joker you want better than that, so I’m disappointed,” he told Sky Sports Racing.

“Osborne with his two jokers will be tough next week, I don’t think we’ll be much weaker next week – I’ve got a good feeling about next week, I’ve got a bunch of trainers ringing and wanting spots which is exactly what you want.

“If Osborne nails his two jokers, we’re all in trouble, but if he scuffs one…”

The feature event of the night was the concluding William Hill Pick Your Places Racing League Race 35 Handicap, carrying £100,000 in prize-money and which produced success for the Scotland team, with Linda Perratt playing a joker and being rewarded by victory for George Baker’s Get It, ridden by Paul Mulrennan.

It also proved a critical race in the standings, as placed horses for Wales & The West saw them just about back on top, to add to the feeling of what might have been for Blake.

Notable also on a night where Saffie Osborne was not in action in order to be able to take a full book of rides for her father’s team at Southwell, was that McMonagle seized the opportunity to eat into her advantage at the top of the jockeys’ standings.

“I didn’t think I was as close to Saffie as that, I’m creeping up quite nicely,” he said.

“I don’t know if I’ll be able to come over next week, but I’ll take it as it comes.”

Away from the Racing League, McMonagle is looking forward to a big weekend at the Irish Champions Festival, including Joseph O’Brien’s Atlantic Coast in Saturday’s KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown.

He added: “He’s a lovely colt, he couldn’t really have pleased us more the first day at the Curragh. Also our two-year-olds usually progress from their first runs so what he showed us on his debut was really special. We’ll be confident of a good run, but it’s obviously competitive racing so fingers crossed.”

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Racing Insights, Thursday 07/09/23

Thursday's free feature, the Instant Expert racecard tab is one of Geegeez readers' most popular tools because it has the unique ability to condense the entire form profile of every runner in the race into a single, easily digestible, view covering the form in terms of wins (or places), runs, and win (or place) percentage for each of going, class, course, distance, and field size.

It also compares today’s official rating with the horse’s last winning official rating. The display is colour coded: green for a higher percentage rate, amber for a middling percentage, and red for a low percentage. Horses with no form under a certain condition have grey figures.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Where a horse has no UK/Irish form – i.e. it is having its first run in Britain or Ireland under Rules – it will not show up on Instant Expert at all.

We make this feature freely available to ALL readers EVERY Thursday for ALL races, including, naturally, our selection of 'free' races as follows...

  • 2.40 Salisbury
  • 5.35 Carlisle
  • 5.45 Wolverhampton
  • 5.55 Clonmel
  • 7.15 Wolverhampton

I'm going to do things in a slightly different order today and I've no idea where it will take me/us! The whole premise of my column is that I put my actions into print in real time and sometimes I end up with nothing. This is perfectly fine, because if there's no bet you like, place no bet and move on!

The highest rated of the four UK races above is the 7.15 Wolverhampton and it also has the most Instant Expert data. The race itself is race 32 of this year's Racing League and it's an 11-runner, Class 3, 4yo+ A/W handicap over a left-handed 1m½f on standard tapeta and here's how the place data for Instant Expert looks for this race...

...where based on overall form, this trio catch the eye most...

...not withstanding that the first of the three has yet to win on the A/W, but has made the frame in all four career starts, whilst the other two are higher in the weights than their last A/W successes, but let's look at the whole card now...

We have no LTO winners here, but all bar Koy Roy and Cry Havoc have a win in their recent form line although both were placed on their latest outings. What's The Story has made the frame in each of his last three and Farasi Lane, Parlando were also placed last time out. There's no real standout on form and we've a real lack of past course/distance success too.

The field have 2 wins and 3 further places from 20 visits to Wolverhampton and have made the frame in 61 of 157 (38.9%) contests over 1m to 1m1f, winning 21 times at a rate of just 13.4, but Harswell Duke did win over this trip at Nottingham on soft ground in October of last year and Young Fire was a Class 5 course and distance winner here back in March.

Parlando last raced a week ago and United Front was seen ten days back, but the remainder have all had two to six weeks rest since their last efforts, from which five are now racing at a different class with Lir Speciale & United Front dropping down a level from Class 2 with Young Fire and the sole female, Cry Havoc both up one class. Night Arc is up two classes after finishing seventh at Newmarket shortly after winning a Class 4 contest, so I'm not sure what to make of him, other than to say he's inconsistent?

We've seen the place data from Instant Expert, but to complete that picture, here's the win percentages...

Not a lot to crow about there, but Lir Speciale is proven in this grade, whilst Hafeet Alain looks generally weak in this context. What's The Story and Young Fire have struggled on standard going with the latter also not faring too well at Class 3, although the former's place stats are far better. Perhaps he's more of a placer than a winner?

The draw has placed the IE weak-looking Hafeet Alain and the double-class riser Night Arc at opposite ends of the stalls, but the general draw data for similar handicaps over the last five years suggests there's not a great deal to be gained from stalls positions...

...although the actually stall-by-stall data & the PRB3 figures do say that those drawn higher than stall nine have tended to struggle and that makes sense, having to travel wider and/or further...

...so that might affect United Front's chances from stall ten. His best bet here in that case is to try and get out sharpish and keep in touch with the pack, as those races above haven't exactly been kind to hold-up horses...

...which doesn't bode well for the likes of Cry Havoc & Young Fire based on recent evidence...

If I was to discount that pair from my list of potential winners, based on pace alone and then remove United Front & Night Arc based on the draw, that leaves me with seven. Hafeet Alain looked weakest on Instant Expert and Cry Havoc is winless in seven. Although What's the Story has made the frame in half of his ten A/W starts, he has won just once, way back in June 2018 and has lost eight on the bounce since then, of which five were on tapeta.


I'm not saying that the discards can't make the frame, but I've enough reasons not to back any of them for the win, leaving just Lir Royale, Koy Koy, Harswell Duke, Farasi Lane and Parlando as potential winners.

And of those, Lir Speciale would be my pick. His A/W record reads 23311, of which he is 311 at Class 3 and although he's up in trip here, the reports from his last two outings/wins on the A/W read...pressed leader, led over 2f out, ran on well inside final furlong and good headway on inside over 2f out, led over 1f out, ran on well so the trip shouldn't necessarily be an issue here.

Hills are paying four places on this one and at 8/1, he'd be an ideal E/W bet if you're not entirely convinced about his win credentials. 8/1 is my general/nominal cut-off point for E/W bets, so that would currently discount the 5/1 What's The Story and the 6/1 United Front from my original 'trio of interest', but I'm happy to take the 9/1 about Parlando.

Others of possible interest would include Farasi Lane at 8/1 and Koy Koy at 12's.


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Wales & The West still lead the way in Racing League

Racing League regulars were again to the fore at Newcastle, as defending champions Wales & The West maintained their lead in this year’s competition – despite Ireland fighting back with an important double on the night.

Jamie Osborne and his daughter Saffie have dominated the multi-team event so far and returning to the scene of last year’s phenomenal final-night treble they joined up with another Racing League veteran as Rod Millman’s Billy Mill obliged for the second year in the row.

The five-year-old was sent off at 28-1 when scoring over course and distance last season, but was much shorter at 15-2 this time as he continued his Gosforth Park love affair in the William Hill-sponsored seven-furlong handicap.

“We didn’t have any rated in the 80s last year so he’s in a slightly lower grade of race than he won last year so was a very obvious pick and his last run was great,” Osborne – whose squad sit on the 568-pont mark – told Sky Sports Racing.

“Rod and James Millman have been absolute stars for my team and the competition. Everything they have put up for me has run well. They’ve obviously had the nursery winners and now they’ve had this winner. The competition has been great for their yard and also great for our Wales & The West team.”

Ireland have fared much better in the Racing League this season and they moved up to second in the table on 496 points thanks to a fine evening at Gosforth Park.

Kevin Blake’s team successfully played their joker in the six-furlong sprint as Johnny Levins’ Nordic Passage (8-1) earned deserved compensation having been narrowly denied at Chepstow earlier in the competition.

They then claimed the night’s most valuable contest when David O’Meara’s Alligator Alley (9-2) built on some consistent form in the hands of rising star Dylan Browne McMonagle, who also notched a double in the north east.

“It didn’t really go the way it was supposed to go as normally he is an extreme hold up horse,” said Blake.

“He obviously jumped off really well there and sat very handy and Dylan ended up further forward than he probably imagined he would be.

“He had so much confidence to wait, and wait and wait a little bit more.

“The horse is really well and ran huge last week. He’s a class horse and I know the horse well as Joseph O’Brien used to train him. He has loads of ability just not the easiest.

“David has done a fantastic job with him and I’m delighted he’s had a winner. I upset him earlier in the week for not running one he was keen to run so I’m delighted he has come here and won a big one.

“I was really hopeful that tonight would go well and look I’m greedy and it could always go better, but we’ll take how it went.”

Sir Mark Prescott’s Glenister (10-1) got the East region’s evening off to a brilliant start when taking the mile-and-a-half opener, while Simon Pearce’s Storm Catcher (9-2 joint-favourite) may have teed up a tilt at the Cambridgeshire when scoring over 10 furlongs and providing Frankie Dettori’s team with a second victory of night four.

London & The South saddled just the one runner in the one-mile handicap, but Daniel and Claire Kubler’s Helm Rock (5-1) delivered a decisive blow to earn a vital 25 points, while Yorkshire also secured maximum points when Buttercross Flyer registered a 14-1 shock in the night’s sole two-year-old event.

It was a first Racing League runner for Craig Lidster and he was thrilled to provide his home region with a vital victory in their battle with Scotland for the wooden spoon.

He said: “She’s a lovely big filly with a massive stride on her. Last time we ran her at Newmarket and the ground was far too quick for her. We know she wants a galloping track and will probably get a mile.

“Jimmy (Sullivan, jockey) has given her a brilliant ride so credit to the horse and credit to Jimmy. He used that big stride and that’s her big advantage – you might see her back here over hurdles next year!”

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Wales & The West still blazing a trail in Racing League

Saffie Osborne was once again on the Racing League scoresheet at Windsor, as Wales & The West continue to top the charts in the team competition.

Jamie Osborne’s team headed into the night with a 77-point advantage and remain the ones to beat at the halfway stage of the six-week event following a double on week three that left them on 471 points.

Rhys Clutterbuck steered Clive Cox’s Just Bring It (9-1) to victory in the William Hill sponsored one-mile handicap, before last year’s Racing League top jockey made her customary Thursday night trip to the the winner’s enclosure when Tony Carroll’s 9-4 favourite Gallant Lion ran out a gutsy winner of the penultimate race of the evening.

“He’s got loads of ability and I was was really happy with him early on, I got some nice cover from Jack Mitchell and he settled nicely,” Osborne told Sky Sports Racing.

“When Jack went to make the running, he was left without cover and he just latched on a little bit and there was no point arguing with him, he’s obviously got a lot of ability and a high cruising speed and once I let him stride on he did everything within himself. I was able to get a nice breather into him and he saw it out well.

“He’s obviously got tons of ability and he is still lightly raced and learning and you’d like to think there is more to come.”

The most valuable event on the card went the way of Richard Fahey for the second week in a row as Spirit Dancer scooped the £51,540 first prize in the hands of Oisin Orr.

The 9-2 winner was representing the North and was the second half of a double on the night for Fahey and Orr who also enjoyed success with Show Me Show Me (10-1) in the five-furlong handicap.

“We love £100,000 races,” said team manager Mick Quinn.

“We won the £100,000 pot last week at Chepstow and we’ve won it again this week.

“The owners wanted to come here, Richard wanted to come here and it’s paid off.”

Earlier on, Zoulu Chief (28-1) showed who was boss to land a decisive win in the nursery handicap which kicked off proceedings, providing Scotland with a welcome victory in their quest to climb off the bottom of the table.

London and The South (in second on 378 points) were on the scoresheet on home turf when Tom Ward’s 9-2 joint-favourite Capote’s Dream led home a one-two for the region in the six-furlong handicap, with an all-Irish finish to the three-year-olds only one-mile event as Richard Spencer’s Pjanoo (22-1) held off 100-30 favourite Hat Toss.

It was third-placed Ireland’s second win of the competition and team manager Kevin Blake was delighted to see winning Irish jockey Danny Sheehy make his trip to Windsor worthwhile.

He said: “I’m particularly happy for Danny. He hit the crossbar at Chepstow last week, so for him to now get a winner, I’m particularly happy.

“He’s a very good rider and so strong for a light fella and a natural lightweight, so it’s been fantastic to get him over here and put him in the spotlight and who knows what could come from it.”

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Wales & The West unstoppable on dramatic evening at Chepstow

Wales & The West and Saffie Osborne lead the way in the William Hill Racing League, after a dramatic evening that saw fire engines called to Chepstow on night two of the competition.

London & The South took maximum points in the first race as Eve Johnson Houghton’s Cabinet Of Clowns (15-2) was steered by Charlie Bishop to a half-length success.

But the action then came to an abrupt halt when an electrical fault caused a fire in a kitchen at the track, with some water also coming through the ceiling in the weighing-room area resulting in the complex having to be evacuated.

A number of fire engines arrived at the scene and the track was eventually deemed safe, creating a near 40-minute delay to the contest scheduled for 6.00pm.

Fire engines arriving at the course due to a fire
Fire engines arriving at the course due to a fire (David Davies/PA)

“There’s been an electrical fault upstairs in the weighing-room complex and it’s turned off all the power in the weighing room,” clerk of the course Libby O’Flaherty told Sky Sports Racing during the delay.

“We’re waiting for the fire engine to get here so we can deem it safe to carry on.

“It’s (the water) just by the door when you go in (to the weighing room), the water came through and that’s all been cleaned up.

“We’re just waiting for the fire brigade to tell us everything is fine.”

The delayed race was won by Rod Millman’s Chinese Knot, the 7-4 favourite being steered to victory by last year’s leading rider as Osborne bagged the first leg of a double.

Dylan Browne McMonagle and Saffie Osborne both enjoyed winners
Dylan Browne McMonagle and Saffie Osborne both enjoyed winners (David Davies/PA)

The same jockey then crossed line first in the next, with Executive Decision (5-2 favourite) prevailing after a photo finish to get even more points on the board for the Wales & The West outfit.

Scotland were triumphant in the fourth contest on the card when Totnes (4-1) struck for Paul Mulrennan and Andrew Balding, with Ireland enjoying their first success of the series when Star Harbour (12-1) was a winner for Adrian McGuinness and Dylan Browne McMonagle.

In both of those races Wales & The West had placed runners and when Tim Easterby’s Manila Scouse took the penultimate race as the 8-11 favourite for David Allan and Yorkshire, the third- and fourth-placed horses gained even more points for the leaders.

The final event went the way of the North, with the 9-2 favourite Ramazan winning for Richard Fahey and Oisin Orr in a race worth £100,000.

The evening left Wales & The West with a significant advantage in front on 319 points, whereas Ireland sit in second with 242 and London & The South third on 231.

Executive Decision and Saffie Osborne (pink cap) on their way to victory
Executive Decision and Saffie Osborne (pink cap) on their way to victory (David Davies/PA)

Osborne is the leading riding so far as she sits at the top of the jockey leader board on 161 points.

Jamie Osborne, trainer of Executive Decision and father of Saffie, said: “We’ve got a good spread of horses, we don’t have the biggest trainers in the world but I think in a way that’s a help.

“Some of the bigger trainers have other fish to fry, this kind of prize-money is very important to our owners.

“We’re well positioned, but we’re not yet a third of the way through the competition so we’re not home and hosed yet. But I’d say it will take a good one to beat Saff!”

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Opening night treble sees Saffie Osborne dominate Racing League once more

Saffie Osborne’s love affair with the Racing League looks set to continue as she began this season’s competition with a fantastic opening night treble.

The 21-year-old was one of the stars of last year’s six-week event, scooping top honours thanks to an inspired three-timer at Newcastle on the final night of action and she picked up where she left off as the 2023 edition kicked off at Yarmouth.

Osborne’s efforts ensured that defending champions Wales and The West – managed by her father Jamie Osborne – ended the night in top spot holding a narrow 11-point advantage over Frankie Dettori’s team, The East.

Chinese Knot ridden by Saffie Osborne (left) wins Racing League opener at Yarmouth
Chinese Knot ridden by Saffie Osborne (left) wins Racing League opener at Yarmouth (Tim Goode/PA)

Osborne’s evening started with a bang as although slightly reluctant to enter the stalls, Rod Millman’s Chinese Knot (11-2) showed plenty of guts to hold off Michael Dods’ Midnight Lir at the business end of the opening nursery.

“We’ve started the way we finished last year,” Jamie Osborne told Sky Sports Racing.

“I’ve got a great team of trainers and unlike some, mine are right behind this and behind their leader.”

Wales and The West quickly extended their advantage at the top of the table when winning race two with Ed Walker’s Dark Trooper (12-1), before The East’s player-manager Dettori was narrowly denied a winner with his first ride of the night aboard Shahbaz as the one-mile handicap went to Dean Ivory’s Achillea (9-2).

However, The East did not have to wait long to get on the scoreboard on home soil as George Margarson’s Farhh To Shy (100-30 joint-favourite) proved superior in the hands of Callum Shepherd in race four and the East were also on the scoresheet when Dettori closed the show in style with a fantastic front-running ride aboard Cumulonimbus (11-2), leading home a one-two for his region in the concluding £100,000 handicap.

Dettori said: “It’s great to win the big race of the day, it’s good for the team and good for (trainer) Charlie Fellowes. We were first and second so that’s good.

“It’s the third year of this so I hope it takes off.”

Despite Dettori’s heroics, the night belonged to Osborne who registered her second winner of the night aboard Michael Bell’s Stone Circle (17-2) in the five-furlong sprint, before bringing up the three-timer aboard Milton Harris’ Alnilam.

She needed every yard of the one-mile-six-furlong trip to hunt down fellow Wales and The West runner Haliphon, but Osborne had a willing partner in the 9-4 favourite who stuck his head down bravely for a half-length win.

She said: “He’s a lovely horse and hopefully he will have a nice future.

“He’s still quite big and ran around a little late on, but he has a willing attitude and did everything right eventually.”

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Fellowes relishing Racing League link up with Dettori

Charlie Fellowes is thrilled to have secured the services of Frankie Dettori to ride both of his two runners on the opening night of the 2023 Racing League at Yarmouth.

Having played a key role in Wales and The West’s victory last year, Dettori has switched sides for the third instalment of the team competition to become player-manager for the East.

Among the trainers able to call upon the Italian is Newmarket-based Fellowes, who is keen to make the most of a rare opportunity.

He said: “Frankie doesn’t ride for me very much, not through choice because I’m a huge fan.

“I think he’ll really suit both horses. They’re two nice, kind individuals who are not going to give Frankie a heart attack in his old age!”

The trainer and rider first team up on Thursday with Shahbaz, who is fitted with a visor for the first time in race three over a mile.

“Shahbaz, I felt, ran very lethargically when third at Ayr last time. He was slow out of the gates and I just didn’t like the way he raced,” Fellowes added.

“A few people commented that he wants further, but I really don’t believe he does. Every time we’ve tried him over 10 furlongs, in my opinion, he’s not got home.

“I really wanted to give him another try over a mile on a straight track, which is why we’ve gone to Yarmouth and any rain is a plus.

“I’ve put a set of visors on him, just to sharpen him up and hopefully help him travel a little bit kinder.

“I’m sure he’s ahead of his mark of 87 and I would just like to see a little more enthusiasm than we saw last time.”

The Bedford House handler has high hopes for Cumulonimbus, who bids to continue his profitable campaign in the seventh and most valuable race on the card, with a total prize fund of £100,000 up for grabs.

The four-year-old has already won at Newmarket and Haydock this season and was last seen finishing third in the Old Newton Cup at the latter venue just under three weeks ago.

Fellowes said: “The other horse is having a fantastic year and is a real pleasure to train.

“He enjoys his racing and I have no problem with a drop to 10 furlongs on a big, galloping track like Yarmouth and with him I don’t really mind what happens weather-wise as he goes on any ground.

“I suppose a bit of rain would make it more of a stamina test, but he’s very versatile, he’s got a fantastic way of going and I think he’ll run a big race on a track where he’s won before.

“It’s an unbelievable pot and I hope he can go and put in a big performance.”

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Loughnane hoping for swift return from thumb injury

Billy Loughnane says he will be “pushing to be back as soon as I can” after a thumb injury suffered at Nottingham has left him facing a spell on the sidelines.

The 17-year-old has established himself as one of the rising stars of the weighing room since bursting onto the scene over the winter and is bearing down quickly on a century of winners having continued to have success throughout the summer.

However, his quest for three figures has been halted following the injury sustained in a stalls incident aboard the Ed Dunlop-trained Lucidity on Friday night and although Loughnane is unsure how long he will be out of action, he is keen for a quick return.

He said: “I will be pushing to be back as soon as I can.

“I’m taking it day by day and I’ll be back as soon as I can. It’s obviously frustrating and hard at the minute, watching the horses you could have been on run, but I have had over 500 rides now and been lucky not to pick anything up so far.

“It’s annoying, the timing of it, but it’s just one of those things.”

Upon his return, Loughnane could represent Ireland in the Racing League where his 3lb claim could be a vital asset for Kevin Blake’s team as they bid to climb the table after two years rooted to the bottom of the standings.

Despite his injury, Loughnane is still 14-1 joint favourite with William Hill to be the competition’s top jockey.

Jockey Billy Loughnane after winning a race at Musselburgh
Jockey Billy Loughnane after winning a race at Musselburgh (Steve Welsh/PA)

He added: “I am looking forward to it, to be part of the Racing League is great. Hopefully I’ll be there for a few of the meetings.

“I was born in Ireland and class myself as Irish, so I’m looking forward to representing Ireland.

“Hopefully it can boost me a little bit and give me the chance to ride for a few different trainers and get myself to the next level a little bit. It’s hopefully going to be a good place to build contacts and there’s great prize-money as well.

“Fingers crossed, I get a bit of luck and can ride a couple of winners.”

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Dettori ‘excited’ to helm The East in Racing League challenge

Frankie Dettori is ready for the unpredictable nature of the Racing League as he prepares to become the competition’s first ever player-manager.

The Italian represented the victorious Wales and The West side last season, riding winners to the delight of the crowd at both Lingfield and Newcastle, but is set for a new role in 2023 as he makes the switch to The East squad ahead of the multi-team event returning at Yarmouth on Thursday.

Not only will Dettori be sporting the yellow silks of The East as one of its team of jockeys, the 52-year-old has also taken on the challenge of managing the region as he bids to get his hands on the Racing League trophy for the second year in a row.

Racing League 2022 – Race Week 2 – Lingfield Park
Frankie Dettori in Racing League action for Wales and The West last year (Simon Marper/PA)

“Obviously being manager is a big responsibility,” said Dettori.

“For sure I will be at the first and last one and even though I’m probably not going to ride at all of them, I still have the responsibility of being a manager and doing the best for my team.

“I managed to win it last year and I’m really excited to go out there and sort of defend my title.

“I enjoyed it last year, there was a good vibe. My team didn’t have the best of starts, but as the competition went on, the momentum was on our side and Saffie (Osborne) rode a treble on the last day which sealed it for us.”

Dettori will be looking to immediately make his mark on The East’s home soil when the competition visits Yarmouth for the first time and he believes both the competitive nature and unknown quantities of the six-week event is what makes it so exciting for both the participants and those watching on.

Frankie Dettori reacts after winning the William Hill Bet Boost Racing League R11 handicap on Postmark during the Racing League 2022 Race Week 2 meeting at Lingfield Park Racecourse, Surrey. (PA)
Frankie Dettori celebrates a win during last year’s Racing League (PA)

He added: “All of my team members are going to be trying to win, it’s great to be representing the East side of the country coming from Newmarket and the best thing about Racing League is it is very unpredictable.

“I can’t really remember, but I think three teams came into the last week close on points and it was good and I enjoyed it.

“You don’t know what horses you are going to land with and what you might end up riding. Last year a lot of the races were tightly bunched, most of the races had close finishes and were very competitive. It will give everyone a chance and I think people really liked it last year.

“It’s year three now and people can tune in on a Thursday night with something they can follow.”

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Monday Musings: Of Shergar, Disappearance and Team Games

They say you learn from your mistakes, writes Tony Stafford. If that is so, how come I managed to lose a mobile phone ten yards from the place in Ascot’s number two car park on Saturday, going home after a low-key Shergar Cup, where I mislaid the last one, never to re-surface?

The process was identical. Speak to a friend between the track and the car park; close the phone, open the car and rest the device on top while the luggage (straw hat and Racing Post) is placed inside. Drive off.

Last time I got to Legoland before I realised my missing means of communication. This time I was past Slough and closing on the roundabout leading to Pinewood Studios before I twigged. All the James Bond films were part-produced there. Wonder what he would have done?

Back to Ascot, scrabble about in vain on the grass-denuded ground – I’ve never seen that car park so sparsely-occupied or less strictly monitored - and leave details at the track’s Reception with two very helpful ladies.

Sunday was devoted to buying a sim card, some call minutes and trying to figure out vital numbers. In my prime I knew every number – as I did every horse in training, honest! My knowledge of the latter is much diminished, maybe partly as there are so many more races and meetings nowadays. As remembering phone numbers is no longer needed with lists to speed dial from, hardly half a dozen of the 150 or so that resided in Saturday’s lost soul are securely known. Honestly!

August was always reckoned to be the silly season in the newspaper business. There was even an Ian Balding horse called Silly Season in the mid- and late-1960’s who won plenty of races and was a great favourite with racegoers, including me.

August 2022 will take some beating for silliness. We’ve had no rain, heatwaves, inflation, war, strikes, disgraced politicians and the prospect of massive mortgage rate hikes and crashing property values. It’s mad and almost unrecognisable from even a year ago when we were still entrenched and totally pre-occupied with Covid.

It’s still there, but like Ukraine we’ve become all Covid-ed and Ukraine-d out with everything else we have to contend with.

What’s all that got to do with racing you ask? Well that also seems to get sillier by the week. The Shergar Cup was a great innovation two decades ago, but this latest episode suggested to me that it has played itself out. Frankie Dettori still turned up, but the team idea, once earth-breaking, now seems contrived.

Prize money was lavish, of course, but that doesn’t guarantee much of a response, so much so that having been scheduled for 12 runners each race, Ascot and the BHA decided to cut it to ten, with the fear of some teams having less than equal opportunities.

One race did indeed have only eight acceptors – and one of those came out on the day too – but the horse I was there to see on behalf of its owners, was number 11 and of course, he stayed in his box. Nothing came out of his race, but he had to travel from HQ in case one did. Hopefully he’ll make the cut at York.

Two other relatively new additions to the Racing Calendar are in the process of their second year of activity. Last Thursday, the first of six late afternoon/early evening fixtures comprising the Racing League was staged at Doncaster. Seven races, each worth a total value of £50k, all handicaps and mostly 0-90, but occasionally 0-85, attracted decent fields.

Teams of trainers and jockeys representing six regions in the UK, as well as one under the Ireland banner, take part. All six races are staged on Arena racecourses, with Lingfield this week and Newcastle (two), Windsor and Southwell to follow, concluding under lights at Newcastle on September 15. All are shown on Sky Sports Racing.

Meanwhile the second big idea, the Sunday Series, will come to its conclusion, with its sixth edition also, at Sandown on August 21st.  Once again this caters for an almost identical portion of the horse population, in this case mainly 0-85, but with the odd 0-90 and at Sandown a 0-95. There is a single maiden race on the Sandown schedule of seven races, but with a much-reduced prize. Yesterday’s fifth chapter was at Haydock, all six staged at non-Arena tracks and shown on Racing UK.

Where there is a reported £2 million to share out with the Racing League, that drops to more like £1.4 million for the Sunday Series, with its usual first prize being £15k rising to £18k at Sandown. While any stable can have Sunday Series runners, trainers and the horses they regard as suitable for the races have had to be registered for the Racing League.

It seems silly – that word again – that the East of England team in the Racing League extends to as far as 32 yards mostly in Newmarket with many of the very top involved. As each team can have only two representatives in each race, ridden by their nominated riders, even those Newmarket or rather the East, handlers might find it tough to get a runner.

They are at the foot of the table after the first day when London and the South are leading. Time was when Andrew Reid, in Mill Hill, was the only trainer with a London post code. He’s no longer in operation sadly.

The awful thing, for all the energy of the people that run the events, is that my reaction as a reformed punter is “so what?”  Racegoers can hardly be expected to adhere to any team for all Matt Chapman’s conviction. They want to back winners!

Owners lucky enough to get a horse in one of the three out-of-the-norm events can be rewarded by much better money than for normal races in those handicap categories. But it is far from easy for ordinary horses to get a run and even when they do, even tougher to win one.

To cater for the Racing League, races have had to be taken away from existing programming, thus limiting opportunities for stables that have not been registered. I have been told that notification of when that registration could and should be made had not been easy to find on the BHA site, or timely so for that matter.

The Shergar Cup started at around the time that Peter Savill was the boss of the BHB, the regulator's previous guise. Now Savill has intervened in the debate on whether the number of races and fixtures should be reduced. A figure of 300 - William Haggas among other top trainers likes that number – seems the starting point, but at a time when the BHA seems less able to control either fixtures or the individual races in them, with the tracks calling the tune, it will be an uphill battle.

Racecourses, in these times of falling attendances, are aggressively opposed to any reduction as their media rights return is based on the number of races staged. Arena is one grouping apparently implacable in resisting any cutbacks, but the trainers want fewer races, with the available money to be shared out to bolster the races and cards that remain.

One Racing League trainer, Joseph Tuite, listed in the Wales and the West team, will not be participating.  The Lambourn handler had a complement of 25 in the 2022 edition of Horses in Training but when last week he announced he would be closing his stable, he was down to a bare nine or ten.

His plight reinforced my conclusion that the biggest stables simply get bigger and more powerful. The handicap system plays to their advantage as they monopolise the 0-90 categories. Their best horses can be left to the Stakes races. Those lower down the scale get workable marks after their qualifying runs and can exploit the system to the detriment of the smaller stables – and that’s the 50-80 strong yards, not just those like Tuite’s.

With three wins in the Shergar Cup on Saturday, one 0-90 Classified and two handicaps, William Haggas is the ideal trainer to illustrate the point. So skilful has he been in playing the system, he is the acknowledged master of producing winners of valuable handicaps, often running up multiple sequences.

With 12 wins from his 46 runners over the past fortnight, he had an astonishing 27 (around 60%) of them starting favourite. He is most unlikely to catch Charlie Appleby as he goes unchallenged at the top of the trainers’ table. But, with his yard so stocked with lightly-raced, progressive handicappers, he has clearly supplanted the Gosden yard as the most feared challenger for the biggest handicap prizes in the programme. For a start, what’s he got in the Ebor?

- TS

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