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Birthday sparks Redcar celebrations

Good Birthday gained handsome compensation for being relegated from first place at Newmarket by lifting the Racing TV Zetland Gold Cup at Redcar.

Andrew Balding’s five-year-old was demoted to second for bumping initial runner-up Master The Stars, but there was no problem this time.

Silvestre de Sousa always had Good Birthday (13-2) close to the pace set by First Impression, sitting patiently before making his move over two furlongs out.

He kicked for home before the final furlong and held the staying-on 100-30 favourite Makram to land the spoils by half a length.

“I’m really pleased. Obviously he was a little unlucky last time. The visor has really helped him and Silvestre has given him a lovely ride,” said Balding.

“I’m thrilled to win an important race. I won it early in my training career (with Chantaco in 2006) and I remember my dad winning it years ago. It’s a nice race to win.

“They’ve done a good job with the prize money and it’s worth going up there.”

Balding will now look at more big handicaps such as the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes and the John Smith’s Cup for the gelding, owned by King Power Racing.

“It just depends. If he stays further we might look at the Duke of Edinburgh at Ascot, but he’ll get a John Smith’s Cup entry. We’ll just see what the handicapper does.”

De Sousa was completing a double after steering 4-6 favourite Greek Kodiac to victory for Michael Bell in the Join Racing TV Now Selling Stakes.

Runninwild stunned punters when striking at 200-1 in the Racing TV Profits Returned To Racing Median Auction Maiden Stakes on his third start after two uninspiring runs.

The Ann Duffield-trained three-year-old had produced little on the track at either Thirsk or Carlisle, but demonstrated some of the spark he has shown at home under different ground conditions.

Always close up, Runninwild asserted in the final furlong to win cosily by three-quarters of a length from newcomer Maywake under David Allan.

Runninwild scores at Redcar at the massive odds of 200-1
Runninwild scores at Redcar at the massive odds of 200-1 (Tim Goode/PA)

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a 200-1 shot in my life. I’ve had a few placed horses at really big odds, but I don’t think we’ve ever had a winner at that price,” said Duffield.

“We’re not surprised he’s won because we’ve always liked the horse. It’s just that he had a poor introduction in his first couple of runs.

“His first run at Thirsk he fell out of the boxes and the jockey couldn’t get him motivated. It’s so difficult when they’re so far behind. He’s a big, gangly horse.

“Then the second time he ran, David (Allan) gave him a lovely ride except the ground was soft and claggy at Carlisle and he hated it, so today was the first opportunity to show what he might do on the track.

“At home he’s always shown promise, so we’re not surprised he’s won. I’m more surprised he was allowed to go off at 200-1. Having said that, he did have two ordinary runs to start with.”

The North Yorkshire handler believes Runninwild has the scope to build on this performance.

“He’s a big, gangly horse so he might keep improving. That’s what we’re hoping,” she said.

“As for his distance you could drop him in trip. George (Duffield, husband) rides him at home and he’s always liked him. He’s of the opinion we could stay at six furlongs or drop down to five. He has got plenty of speed and he’s still learning.”

There was a 100-1 winner at Leicester where the Mick Appleby-trained Katie’s Kitten got off the mark at the 13th attempt in the Graham The Plumbers’ Merchant Fillies’ Handicap in the hands of 3lb claimer Theodore Ladd.

Potapova makes case for Coronation Stakes honours at Redcar

Potapova was slashed to as low as 7-1 for the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot following an effortless success at Redcar.

The lucky 800 or so crowd in attendance at the Teesside venue as coronavirus restrictions continue to be lifted were witness to a very classy performer.

Racing in the famous Cheveley Park Stud colours, Potapova had won on her only previous appearance at Chelmsford in November when scooting up by over six lengths.

While victory was expected in the racingtv.com Fillies’ Novice Stakes, the fact she visibly went through the gears for Danny Tudhope was very impressive.

Whether Sir Michael Stoute would take the leap from a Redcar novice to a Group One remains to be seen – but she is bred to be top-class, hailing from the same family as Russian Rhythm.

“That was very impressive. Obviously she was a short price but she’s won easy, like you’d like them to do,” said Tudhope.

“First time was on the all-weather so it was nice to see her go and do it just as easy on turf today. She picked up nicely when I asked her.

“She’s very straightforward, she’s a real good mover and does everything you’d like her to do really.

“This was just a stepping stone before she goes on to what she’s likely to achieve – there are bigger things to look forward to hopefully.”

Cheveley Park’s racing manager Chris Richardson said: “We’ve always rated her, but she’s a filly that has needed time.

“I’ve not had chance to speak to Sir Michael or Mrs Thompson yet. From my point of view the Coronation is a race that will suit her, but we’ll enjoy this result first.

“She’s clearly got plenty of talent and hails from a family we’ve had a lot of success with.”

Paddy Power initially went 12-1 for the Coronation, but punters forced them to cut her again into 10s.

Their spokesman Paul Binfield said: “It was great that Sir Michael brought a lovely three-year-old filly to Redcar on the first day that crowds made a comeback.

“While we don’t know what the form will be worth, she couldn’t have done it any better and she brought herself well into the reckoning for the Coronation.”

Crowds returned at Redcar with nearly 800 in attendance
Crowds returned at Redcar with nearly 800 in attendance (Mike Egerton/PA)

Tudhope later doubled up on Miss Houdini (11-2) who got out of a tight spot in the second division of the racingtv.com EBF Restricted Novice Stakes.

Tudhope had to angle his mount away from where the action appeared to be unfolding to get a run and ended up closest to the far rail, but she ended up just getting home by a nose and a neck from Roman Dragon and Bungley.

The first division was won by Karl Burke’s Favourite Child (8-1) for Clifford Lee.

Chris Fairhurst enjoyed his first winner for seven months when Benadalid scored at Ripon and Sunday and like London busses made it two in two days when 100-30 favourite Lasting Legacy won the Racing TV Straight Mile Fillies’ Handicap for PJ McDonald.

Tracy Waggott’s Kind Review (7-2) was a little out of his depth at York last week but got back to winning ways in the five-furlong handicap under Tom Eaves.

“He’s a star. He missed the break at York and that was a hotter race. He’s as good on turf as the all-weather. We’ll see what the handicapper does, but he might be one for Ayr,” said Waggot.

Racegoers flock to Redcar as sport welcomes back limited crowds

Racegoers returned to Redcar on Monday as the seaside venue opened its gates to a crowd of almost 800.

The Teesside track was bathed in sunshine as the punters lapped up the opportunity to eat and drink outdoors and cheer home some winners – something they haven’t been able to do for well over a year.

There was a muted cheer – hardly reminiscent of Cheltenham’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – when the opening contest got under way, but a close conclusion meant the winner Grangeclare View was roared home.

Racegoer Chris Varley from Howarth, West Yorkshire, was especially glad to be back on course.

A sunbathed paddock at Redcar
A sunbathed paddock at Redcar (Mike Egerton/PA)

He said: “The last time I came as a punter was December 2019 at Southwell – it’s been a long time, a hell of a long time.

“We were here for 9.30am, we went for breakfast at the cafe down the road, went into the bookies for a couple of Lucky 15s and then came in.

“We’ve come today because we could, obviously, but we’d go to Redcar maybe half a dozen times in a normal year. It’s a lovely course, we love it.

“You can see everything, straight mile, it’s brilliant. It’s a two-hour drive but worth it.

“I did own a horse and half of another with Roger Fell, but as work dried up during the pandemic, I had to pull out of them.

“For most people racing is a hobby, but something has to give and it is usually things we enjoy.”

A new audience in attendance at Redcar
A new audience in attendance at Redcar (Mike Egerton/PA)

Geoff Baxter from Bingley, also West Yorkshire, said: “I’d go racing all the time before lockdown, twice a fortnight.

“Obviously I’ve missed going racing, but what could we do, it was down to the Government.

“Being here certainly beats watching it on TV, I’m sick of doing that. There’s nothing better than getting outside and going racing.”

Ben Bramley, from North Yorkshire, said: “It’s fantastic to hear a crowd again and there is a real buzz of anticipation, there was even a queue to get in, but people were tolerant.

“There were lots of stories about what people had been backing over the last few months, but I just think people are glad to be be back on course.

“There were a few cracks from the old boys about how they’ve never seen this place as busy, but the atmosphere is great. It’s probably the busiest it has been since some of the old Zetland Gold Cups.

“People are being very sensible, keeping distances, wearing masks inside – and hearing them cheering home the horses is fabulous.”

Clerk of the course Jonjo Sanderson said: “It’s strange, but it’s good and exciting. I think we’ll be close to 800 (in attendance). They are all pre-sales and when I got here this morning, we had about 70 left.

“It’s taking a little bit of reacclimatising to see people being here and walking round, but I think it’s fantastic and the weather is playing ball.

“Let’s hope this continues and we don’t go backwards in five weeks. It’s small steps. York will probably have 4,000 on Saturday, which proportionately will look about the same.

“We probably would expect the same sort of crowd for a Monday in May as we’ve got today in any case. The only difference is they’ve had to pay in advance whereas normally we’d only sell 10 per cent in advance and the rest would pay on the day depending on the weather.

“I think there is pent-up demand, which will probably wear off after two or three weeks, but then hopefully it will be steady away.

“It’s not normal and they are going to have to adapt to how things work, like going to a bar and going outside with a drink, but they can queue and collect rather than it being table service, as we can do that at stadiums, and obviously we try to encourage face masks as much as we can, but it’s not law so we can’t force that.

“Amy (Fair, general manager) has worked really hard to get it set up as we didn’t know for sure until last Monday when a document landed on the desk. There have been significant changes, but they’ve gone really well.”

PJ McDonald, president of the Professional Jockeys Association, partnered the second winner, Lasting Legacy, and said: “It takes a bit of getting used to, the parade ring feels a hell of a lot smaller now, but it’s nice.

“You can see everyone is enthusiastic to get everybody back, racing has done a great job to keep everyone safe and hopefully they get just rewards now with punters back through the gates.”

Bookmaker Richard Johnson, standing on his father Keith’s pitch, on the rails, said: “It’s been surprisingly good, I think people are trying to make the most of it.

“It’s a seaside track so we’re taking a lot of small bets, but we’ve been away so long I don’t mind. I’m just hoping the rain stays away.

“I must admit we’re busier than we’d normally be, but I suspect when we’re fully reopened we won’t get 800 here on a Monday, so we’ll make the most of it.”

Tracks poised for return of racegoers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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