The relaxation of restrictions at the start of the week meant that 1,200 spectators were able to enjoy an intriguing seven race card at Haydock Park on Friday 21st Mayb.
It was a welcome return to normality and those in attendance were treated to some exciting finishes, with the feature race being the Listed EBF British Stallion Studs Cecil Frail Stakes for fillies and mares.
We sent Nick Seddon to speak to the winners on the day…
O’MEARA EXCITED BY HUGELY IMPRESSIVE TWILIGHT SPINNER
As mentioned above, the big race of the day was the Listed Cecil Frail Stakes over six furlongs, which featured a real mix of profiles.
The most unexposed runner in the field was the twice-raced Twilight Spinner (8-1), who was stepped up into this company after winning a maiden in good style at Ripon earlier this month and she took this step up in class in her stride.
The daughter of the 2015 Haydock Sprint Cup winner Twilight Son revelled in the conditions to defeat a smart field by six and a half lengths and her trainer David O’Meara feels she can go to the very top.
He said: “It was a little bit of a gamble pitching her into this as she’d only run twice before and won a maiden last time out, so to go from a maiden to doing that was something.
“I thought she achieved a lot at Ripon, she beat her own side by 12 or 15 lengths and then had to beat those on the other side on her own, so visually she looked well above average.
“I’ll speak to Simon Turner at Hambleton Racing and see what he’d like to do. It’s early days in this filly’s career but I’d like to think she can go to the very top. She’s still only a skeleton really and she has got a huge future – she is not going to be done and dusted at three.”
RAINBOW JET PROVIDES A MUCH NEEDED BOOST FOR MACKIE
It’s been a difficult 18 months or so for all of us during the pandemic, though it’s been a particularly time tough for small yards, who have been pushed to the absolute brink.
That rings particularly true for the Derbyshire-based John Mackie, who confessed that he almost went out of business at one point. However, the team have battled back in style of late and 5-1 chance Rainbow Jet revelled in the heavy ground to seal a third winner in 11 days for the yard.
It marks a welcome change in fortune for Mackie and he’s hopeful that there could be more to come from the four year old this term.
He said: “She’s always promised to be a nice filly and she loves this type of ground. I was heartbroken the other day when Wetherby was off! We were in the third race only for the meeting to be called off after the first, but she likes that sort of ground and she looks stronger this year – we gave her a good winter and hopefully she’ll keep on improving.
“It’s been a hard year and a bit and at one stage we looked like we might be going out of business. We were just short on horses but luckily we’ve got a couple of fresh owners and things have improved. I’ve been training 37 years and I get my pension next week! We’ll keep going with Rainbow Jet while the ground is soft and see how she comes home.”
STRAWBERRI TOUGHS IT OUT IN TRICKY CONDITIONS
As it so often does at Haydock Park, it rained relentlessly throughout the afternoon, ensuring a true test on heavy going on the round course.
Some horses handle it better than others, so the Roger Varian-trained 11-10 favourite Strawberri deserves plenty of credit for toughing things out to justify favouritism in the Bryn Gates Fillies' Novice Stakes – despite not really looking at home on the ground.
The finish was slow motion stuff, but jockey Jack Mitchell was pleased with what he saw from the three year old, who broke her maiden at the third attempt. He said: “That was very hard work for her, the last furlong felt like the longest I’ve ever ridden but she’s shown her class today. She wasn’t in love with the ground at all, so her class shone through.
“I was in quite a nice position early on and she dropped her head for me, she took me into a nice position and I got left in front a bit early which wasn’t ideal but she’s stuck it out well.”
RADIO CAROLINE GETS THE SIGNAL SECOND TIME OUT
The most exciting finish of the day came in the Culcheth Fillies' Novice Stakes and the five-runner field featured a mix of debutants and runners with experience.
It was the debutants Madame Ambassador and Mezzanotte who dominated the market and while both showed plenty of ability on debut, neither could get to Radio Caroline (12-1), who put her experience to good use to prevail against the former in a photo finish.
Mick Channon’s filly seemed to relish the step up to seven furlongs and winning jockey Tony Hamilton was pleased with what he saw from this well-named daughter of Sixties Icon.
He said: “The step up in trip has helped her a lot. She was on and off the bridle all the way round, but I always felt that if I could get a clear run at them she’d pick up well. She had a good look when she got to the front but she stuck on well.”
SHOEMARK PICKS UP A WINNING SPARE ON THE EMPEROR
It proved to be a fortuitous afternoon for Kieran Shoemark, who made the most of a late call up on the Archie Watson-trained Arctic Emperor to strike in the Every Race Live On Racing TV Handicap at odds of 100-30.
The 11-10 favourite The Hoodwinker arrived here on the back of a victory at Wolverhampton last December and looked to have everyone on the stretch inside the final furlong, but Arctic Emperor showed plenty of determination to wear down his rival and prevail in a photo finish.
And Shoemark was delighted with the three year old, who got off the mark at the fourth attempt. He said: “He was very straightforward. He hit a bit of a flat spot from the four to the two and a half but when I was able to switch back behind Cieren Fallon (on the favourite Hoodwinker he was very gutsy and genuine.
“I wouldn’t go as far as saying he likes the ground, I don’t think anything likes that but he handled it and it takes one to handle it out there.
“Adam McNamara was caught in traffic so it was a nice spare for me. I ride a bit for Archie Watson and he called me up so it was great.”