It has been a long time between drinks for Sam Cooke who finally got back to winning ways in the Sky Bet Handicap at York.
Trained by Ralph Beckett, the five-year-old was a winner on the Knavesmire in his juvenile season – but had been without a win since scoring first time out the following year at Chester’s May meeting.
He had been given a chance by the handicapper after running respectably in decent races this term and was produced perfectly by Rob Hornby.
Top-weight Jonny Drama hit the front just outside the furlong marker, only to be immediately challenged by Throne Hall – but the 14-1 chance Sam Cooke quickened up best of all.
Throne Hall stuck to his task well and was only beaten a neck, while Dark Jedi finished strongly for third.
“The key with this horse is the early part of the race, forget whatever else happens,” said Hornby.
“If you can get the first half of the race right and he’s relaxed and settled, the rest will sort itself out and we were pretty confident going into it that would be the case.
“The team at home have done a great job getting him relaxed, he went to the start really well today and I was delighted being in (stall) two that I could jump off and not have to ask him for a position.
“I let other horses come across me and got a bit of protection that way, it worked out that way and you could see his class.”
Hoo Ya Mal had run a promising race on his debut and made no mistake in the British Stallion Studs EBF Convivial Maiden Stakes.
With £70,000 up for grabs it is the most expensive race of its type run all season and always attracts a smart field.
Third at Sandown on heavy ground first time out, he was much more at home on a quicker surface and provided the red-hot duo of Andrew Balding and Oisin Murphy with yet another winner, beating Dawn Of Liberation by two and a half lengths.
“I don’t think he’s that ground dependent, but he’d improved loads from his first start and I was thrilled today,” said Murphy.
“He could go a mile this year, but that’s up to Andrew. He’s a horse for next year and we’ve a lot in that category. I think he’s very smart.”
Roger Fell approached the Ebor meeting with high hopes for La Trinidad and while he failed to deliver The Flying Ginger was an all-the-way winner of the Assured Data Protection EBF Fillies’ Handicap.
The 33-1 chance has been chasing black type of late ,but Ben Curtis got his fractions spot on in front.
“I couldn’t believe that. She’s game isn’t she,” said Fell.
“We weren’t sure if she’d fully get the trip so while he was in front I think he was saving a bit and they didn’t come to her.
“We keep trying for black type but I don’t think we have to now, that was worth £70,000.”
Rifleman made amends for unshipping Ryan Moore the last time he rode him with victory in the Sky Bet Mile Handicap.
The three-year-old, trained by John and Thady Gosden, had got rid of Moore inside the final furlong when in second place at Sandown in April but there was no repeat as the 8-1 chance beat Isla Kai by half a length.
“After being dumped by him, Ryan said he’d ride him again. He said he liked the horse. The thing about Ryan there is still bit of the old jump jockey in him and if there’s a challenge, he likes a challenge,” said John Gosden.
“He’s a grand horse. He won that well, fair and square. He’s a nice scopey frame of a horse and I’ve always liked him. Obviously he disappointed me when he was naughty, but he’s done absolutely nothing wrong today.
“He’s got plenty of ability and he’s run as straight as an arrow.
“He is in the Cambridgeshire so that has to be a bit of a plan. We’ll see how we go.”