Whisper it quietly, but with the sun in the sky and racegoers allowed back on course it’s starting to feel like summer has arrived.
An eight race card at Nottingham kicked off at 1pm and those at the track and others watching on Racing TV were treated to some competitive racing, with even a potential Royal Ascot contender or two on display.
We sent Graham Clark along to talk to the winners …
LOVE IS IN THE AIR AS JOHNSTON PONDERS ASCOT BID
There won’t be many runners this week who will pitch up at Royal Ascot next week as genuine contenders but Mark Johnston’s Love De Vega might just be one.
Having been a runner-up on his previous two outings, the son of Lope De Vega took a step up to six furlongs in his stride when claiming the MansionBet Bet £10 Get £20 EBF Novice Stakes by three lengths.
Victory under jockey Ben Curtis puts the sprinter in contention for a late call-up to the trainer’s squad for next week and it seems the bookmakers agree.
Afterwards Love De Vega was introduced at 25-1 for the Chesham Stakes by Paddy Power, while William Hill made him a 20-1 chance for the same race on Saturday week.
Johnston said of his 8-11 winner: “I think it showed today that the step up in trip was required and it looked like he would go even further. I thought a furlong and a half out he didn’t seem to be getting on top but then he pulled away comfortably at the finish. He was probably taking liberties a little bit.
“Unfortunately he did get beaten twice and we did think quite a lot of him early on. We have struggled to find two year olds for Royal Ascot this year. We will have a look at the Chesham now for him and I would like to have a think about running him in it.”
UNUSUAL PREPARATION HELPS CURTIS TO A DOUBLE
Ask a trainer how to prepare a horse for a handicap over 1m 2f and few will tell you to school them over hurdles.
However, that’s exactly how trainer John Gallagher seems to have got Junoesque back to her best and the seven year old was a 2-1 winner of the concluding Follow @MansionBet Handicap to give jockey Curtis a double on the day.
After watching her get the better of Turn Of Phrase by half a length Gallagher explained: “She went off the boil a bit last year. We schooled her over hurdles at the back end of last year just before she won at 50-1 at Lingfield and it seems to have done her the world of good.
“She is game when she gets her head on front and it takes a good one to get past her. Hopefully she can follow up if the handicapper isn’t too harsh.”
FIRST NOTTINGHAM VICTORY FOR TRAINER GIFFORD
Former champion jockey Josh Gifford enjoyed plenty of success both as a rider and trainer at Nottingham until the closure of its jumps course in 1996, and now his son Nick can boast saddling a winner at the track following a first victory on the Flat for Didtheyleaveuoutto.
The Listed bumper winner made his fifth start on the level a winning one after prevailing by a length and a half in the MansionBet Watch And Bet Handicap to give jockey Jamie Spencer, who turned 41 on Tuesday, a late birthday present.
Gifford said of the 5-4 winner: “Jamie said he has won despite the track as he didn’t handle it all. He said the ground was quick enough for him out there and ideally he wants two miles. He is in the right grade. We’ve kept him in training to have a bit of fun over the summer with.
“I’ve only ever had one runner here before and it was a horse called Party Royal that David Dunsdon rode in an amateur race, but that is now another track I’ve trained a winner at ticked off the list.
“Dad had plenty of winners when there was a jumps track here as he loved the ground here in the winter. He sent a lot of his good ones up here including Deep Sensation (1993 Queen Mother Champion Chase winner) and you would be hard-pressed to find a better one than him.”
JARVIS ADMITS ONE NIGHT STAND COULD BE “A BIT OF FUN”
William Jarvis and jockey Silvestre de Sousa celebrated a double of their own, initiated by the four and a half-length success of One Night Stand (100-30) in the feature Download The MansionBet App Handicap.
The four year old ran 10 times last year, notching up victories at Windsor and Wolverhampton before finishing 16th of 18 on his seasonal reappearance last month.
And Newmarket trainer Jarvis said: “I think he probably needed that first outing at Ascot but the ground suited him better today. He ran better than his finishing position at Ascot.
“He is quite a nice horse and we could have a bit of fun with him. He has done very well over the winter physically. I’m not sure there was much strength and depth there but he has done it well. He is quick and six (furlongs) is his trip.”
SENDACARD FINALLY DELIVERS AT EIGHTH TIME OF ASKING
Three times champion jockey de Sousa and Jarvis enjoyed further success together with Sendacard, who hit the target at the eighth attempt of asking in opening division of the MansionBet Bet £10 Get £20 Handicap.
The 9-2 chance only snatched the lead 100 yards from the line but scored by three quarters of a length.
Jarvis said: “I think she was okay as a two year old and maybe not quite right at three. I had nothing to do with buying the horse - the owner bought her off her own back.
“I didn’t think she quite got home over seven (furlongs) at Yarmouth so that’s why we dropped her back to six today. The hood probably helps her. She is work in progress but she could easily win again at the right level.”