While racegoers are still waiting to be allowed back to the track, those who tuned in to watch Nottingham’s first fixture of the season on Racing TV were served up a treat.
The seven-race card at Colwick Park is as an annual reminder that, while the jumps season is not quite finished, the Flat action on turf is well and truly back. The MansionBet-sponsored raceday provided plenty of talking points, including a winner who had spent 571 days off the track. Graham Clark reviews the best performances on the day...
JOHNSTON’S RETURNING STAR CAN DO NO RON
Sir Ron Priestley set up an immediate return to Group race company by making a winning comeback after 571 days off the track, giving trainer Mark Johnston a record-equalling third victory in the MansionBet Barry Hills Further Flight Stakes at Nottingham.
Making his first appearance since filling the runner’s up spot in the 2019 St Leger, the son of Australia proved a cut above his rivals to claim an emphatic victory in the Listed contest, which Johnston had previously landed with Elegiac in 2019 and Winged d’Argent in 2005.
Although short-priced favourite Ocean Wind loomed up as a main danger half-way down the home straight of the 1m 6f prize, the 9-4 chance pulled out plenty when called on for his maximum effort by Franny Norton before passing the post with a length and a half to spare.
Charlie Johnston, son and assistant trainer, said: “We were very happy with him at home and Franny came in and sat on him about a fortnight ago. He was very heavy compared to where he would have run in the St Leger 18 months ago but I thought he looked a million dollars in the paddock beforehand.
“I thought he was a little bit fresh early on and he never completely switched off and settled. He was just running fractionally with the choke out but I was confident the whole way round. I would have been disappointed with anything other than winning but the manner of it was everything you could have asked for.”
STAYER ANNANDALE SETS UP HAYDOCK PARK TRIP
Annandale could follow in the hoofprints of stable mates Sir Ron Priestley and Subjectivist by taking in a trip to Haydock Park in June, after completing doubles for Mark Johnston and Franny Norton in the MansionBet Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap.
Appearing to need every yard of the mile and a quarter trip, the Australia colt went one better than on his seasonal return at Doncaster 10 days ago when getting up almost on the line to deny Taravara by a neck.
Charlie Johnston, son and assistant, trainer said of the 15-8 winner: “I thought he ran a lovely race on his comeback at Doncaster. He needs a mile and a half and I would be surprised if he doesn’t get 1m 6f, but this was the only possible entry we could give him before he was revised by the handicapper.
“I always thought he was going to get there but he needed every yard of it. The race I was thinking off before this is the 1m 6f handicap at Haydock that Sir Ron Priestley won in 2019 and Subjectivist was just touched off in last year.”
BATRAAN SERVES UP FIRST WINNER FOR CHEF ASHTON
Jockey Gavin Ashton celebrated what he hopes will be the first of many winners for his new boss Roger Varian after steering Batraan to glory in the MansionBet Watch And Bet Handicap at Nottingham.
The 24 year old jockey, who also works as a chef at The Kentford pub near Newmarket, gained his first winner since joining the Classic-winning handler on December 1st, securing victory aboard the son of Camacho in the five furlong dash.
Having been slowly away from the gates on his previous two outings, the 16-1 chance made a blistering start under Ashton, who has previously worked for the likes of Sir Mark Prescott and Ian Williams, before holding off the fast finishing Shalaa Asker by a head.
Ashton said: “I’ve had four rides for the boss now and it is good to get off to a great start. It is an unbelievable privilege to ride the horses. It was good to get a job with him and I didn’t expect a ride off him yet, it’s just crazy.
“I’ve kept my head down working hard through the winter and it is going very well. The pub opens next Thursday and if I’m not riding I’ll be sweating it out in the kitchen!”
NEW FELLOWES RECRUIT LOOKS LIKE HE FITS THE BILL
Charlie Fellowes is confident there is “more left in tank” of Billyhilly, who made his stable debut a triumphant one on his first start since being gelded in the MansionBet Beaten By A Head Handicap.
Picked up for 10,500 guineas out of the Tattersalls Autumn Horses-In-Training Sale the son of Sea The Stars hit the ground running on his first start for Fellowes when taking a drop back to an extended mile in his stride to defeat Zlatan by a length and a quarter.
Fellowes said: “He has shown plenty of toe at home and I think gelding him has done him the world of good. He got a lovely position through the race and everything went pretty much perfectly.
“He looks like he is nicely handicapped and hopefully there is more left in the tank.”
ALL-WEATHER KING LANDS DOUBLE ON THE DAY
Reigning All-Weather Champion Jockey Richard Kingscote secured his first turf winner of the season aboard the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Mashhoor – then followed it up with a second.
Mashoor burst through late on to get the better of Dubawi Sounds by a neck in the MansionBet Bet 10 Get 20 Novice Stakes and Kingscote said of the 9-2 winner: “He travelled nicely through the race and showed a good attitude to go through the gap. It was building blocks today. It’s nice to get my first one on the turf.
“Jack Mitchell (on Noble Patron) was able to slip away but it is a long old straight and he got a bit lonely so we were able to pick him up. It was quick enough out there today and we are not used to ground like this at this time of year but he coped with it well.”
Kingscote and Stoute doubled up later on the card with Astro King when the 16-5 chance got the better of last year’s Britannia Stakes runner-up Finest Sound by a short-head in the Download The MansionBet App Handicap.
BOTTI WINS WITH HORSE WHO COST LESS THAN £1,000
Bargain buy Atalis Bay demonstrated he had clearly trained on when giving weight away all round to secure the fourth success of his career in the MansionBet #morethanthenational Conditions Stakes.
The three year old son of Cable Bay, who cost owners Scuderia Blueberry SRL just 800 guineas as a yearling, finished to good effect to collect the five furlong prize by a length and a quarter under Andrea Atzeni.
Alberto Baragiola, assistant to winning trainer Marco Botti, said: “We gave him a couple of months’ rest after the last race. We thought it would be a tough race but he has ran very well.
“As a two year old he was a little bit nervous but he was more relaxed than usual. He did everything right in the race. Today he looked more like a five furlong than six furlong horse.”
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