“It’s bubble-bursting week,” said Richard Hannon, in the winner’s enclosure here but already casting his mind forward to three days at Newmarket followed by two at Newbury that will let all the high-profile Flat trainers know where their best young horses fit into the general pecking order.
Victory for Khafoo Shememi, albeit in a low-value contest, shored up Hannon’s hopes for his Guineas contenders. The Wiltshire trainer revealed he had been here three weeks earlier to give those Classic hopefuls a spin around on the Polytrack. Khafoo Shememi worked with them and showed up well. Defeat for him would not have augured well.
Instead, the colt bounded home three lengths clear of his rivals, so Hannon was all smiles and telling jokes against himself moments later. “We’ll check those bubbles next week,” he said. “Larchmont Lad goes to the Craven, Barney Roy goes to the Greenham and Majeste goes to the Free Handicap. They’re all great, yeah, very pleased with them, they’re running well and all the things they’ve been working with have been …”
Tantalisingly, he let the sentence trail away but had appeared on the point of saying the work-partners for his Guineas contenders had been winning races. This is hardly surprising since Hannon is averaging almost a winner a day at a 20% strike rate.
However, his flow was interrupted when he was presented with a luxury Easter egg to give to his children. “My kids don’t need any help to get fat, look at their genes,” he said. “I went to the pub the other day, there was some SAS man down there talking about long-distance running. I said: ‘I did the marathon once ... in six hours 38 minutes.’ He said, ‘Where the hell did you go?’”
Ralph Beckett is another trainer with “plenty of bullets to fire” in the early weeks of the new season, though he was fighting shy of naming his best prospects, after a chastening experience with a couple of fillies who disappointed in the Snowdrop. But when Sibilance kept her unbeaten record despite odds of 6-1 in the next race, the Beckett smile was back in place.
He had news of his stable star, Simple Verse, the St Leger winner of 2015, who will be aimed at the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot two months from now. “She had a break after Champions Day and we were trying to get her ready for Dubai and it wasn’t working, so we backed off her again and she’s just back cantering again this week.
“I’ll probably try and land her in the Aston Park [at Newbury next month] or the Henry II [at Sandown]. It’s great to have her. She wasn’t showing any zest about five weeks ago. She is now.”
Sammy Jo Bell achieved her first winner since breaking her pelvis in a paddock accident last May, scoring on the 16-1 shot Cullingworth in a competitive handicap at Musselburgh. It was Bell’s seventh ride since she returned to action and she described it as “quite special”. The winning trainer is Richard Fahey, who has provided Bell with most of her opportunities since her breakthrough year in 2015.
Racing’s focus now moves to Fairyhouse with the start of the Irish Grand National meeting on Sunday. Yorkhill, an impressive Cheltenham Festival winner, will be the star attraction in the Ryanair Gold Cup, which his trainer, Willie Mullins, has never won.
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