10 Mar March 2017
Kempton winner Skellig Michael shows even better form to finish second at Newcastle
Into March, and on the 3rd of the month Ben takes 2 of our 3 year olds, Violet Mist and Skellig Michael, to Newcastle for an evening meeting on their all-weather track. Violet Mist, in a 5 furlong maiden race, shows improved form on her three runs as a two year old taking 5th place of the 8 runners, beaten 7 lengths.
Half an hour later it’s the turn of Skellig Michael who takes in a Class 5 handicap for 3 year old’s over 6 furlongs. Skellig Michael lost his maiden tag exactly one month ago with a success in a Class 6 handicap over 6 furlong at Kempton Park but tonight is upped in class and naturally meets better opposition. Graham Lee is in the saddle this time and tracks the leader to hold every chance 2 furlongs out. In the final furlong Skellig Michael can only run on at one pace and on this occasion has to settle for second place, beaten a length and three quarters, having started the outsider of the 6 runners at the generous odds of 16/1 considering his previous race success.
Although beaten into second tonight this was in considerably better company than his previous race and represents a further step up in form for James Pak and the Trojan Horse Partnership’s flagbearer. It’s good to see a horse clearly going the right way !
Following night at Newcastle sees Rey Loopy make the frame for the first time
The following evening Ben is back at Newcastle with another of our 3 year olds, this time Rey Loopy. After 3 unplaced efforts as a 2 year old young Megan Nicholls ( twice successful for Ben in 2014 ) takes the ride in this 7 furlong apprentice handicap. Rey Loopy is held up in the early part of the race but after making headway 2 furlongs out cannot get to the leaders in the final furlong and has to settle for 4th place of the 7 runners, beaten under 4 lengths. Nevertheless this is Rey Loopy’s best run to date, the first time he has made the frame, and the race can only offer encouragement for the future.
After Prancing Oscar’s fine run a richly deserved first success for Epeius and the Trojan Horse Partnership at Newcastle
On to 15th March and Ben takes 3 runners to Newcastle for another of their evening meetings. First off is our 3 year old colt Prancing Oscar having his first run of 2017 and only his second career start. Upped in trip to a mile for this maiden race Cam Hardie is in the saddle and having been held up early makes good headway from 3 furlongs out and chases the leader throughout the final furlong without ever really looking likely to catch him ( a Newmarket hot-pot ! ). Prancing Oscar however finishes a worthy second, with the remainder of the 6 runner field trailing in a long way behind. This is a considerable improvement on Prancing Oscar’s first run in August 2016 and he belies his starting odds of 33/1 to become another of our runners to offer great encouragement to his owners, Middleham Park Racing, for the coming season.
Next off is Eponina, a 3 year old filly who tonight can only finish last of 5 in a 7 furlong maiden race, but who will certainly come on for this first run of 2017.
Finally it’s the turn of Epeius, so genuinely unlucky so many times in the past, and if ever a horse was deserving of a first win then Epeius is that horse. Again this is the 4 year old’s first run of 2017 and Ben selects a 10 runner 6 furlong handicap with regular pilot Graham Lee taking the ride. Graham holds Epeius up in the early stages of the race before making headway approaching the final furlong. Epeius then runs on in fine style and leads at the line to win by 1/2 length. This win will be a delight, and also a relief, for his owners Lynn Douglas and Gary Walker of the Trojan Horse Partnership, and Carol Aldridge, but most of all this is a richly deserved first success for Epeius himself, and now he has finally got his head in front, at the 11th attempt, perhaps he may now go on to better things as everyone at Castle Hill Stables has always believed he would ! This is Ben’s 2nd success of 2017 and his first ever at Newcastle’s new all-weather track which opened in May 2016.
Very creditable 2nd place for our promising filly Cassie Hill Cassie at Wolverhampton
On Monday 27th Ben takes our promising 3 year old filly Castle Hill Cassie to Wolverhampton to contest a 7 furlong maiden race under Graham Lee. Castle Hill Cassie ran just once as a 2 year old finishing 3rd of 10 at Redcar in September. Again there are 10 runners for today’s race and Castle Hill Cassie races in midfield until making headway over a furlong out. Despite chasing the leader ( another Newmarket hot-pot ) in the final furlong our filly cannot quite get up but finishes a very creditable 2nd, beaten 2 lengths at 12/1.
That’s 2 runs and 2 places now for Castle Hill Cassie and she continues to show great promise for the forthcoming Flat season.
Another commendable 2nd place for our stable stalwart Hi Dancer at Sedgefield
Before the month closes stable stalwart Hi Dancer makes the short trip to Sedgefield to take in a 2 mile 1/2 furlong handicap chase under regular pilot Richie McLernon. With the leader from the outset Hi Dancer takes the lead outright at the 4th and stays there until after the last fence. His 4 length lead is then gradually reduced on the run in and our honourable veteran is frustratingly headed 100 yards from the line and is eventually beaten 3 1/4 lengths by the favourite to whom Hi Dancer is giving no less than 6 years ! Nevertheless finishing 2nd at odds of 10/1 at 14 years of age is extremely commendable and Hi Dancer will have hugely enjoyed himself once again. This is Hi Dancer’s 16th second place in his 116 career starts to date, one behind his total number of wins which currently stands at 17.