17 Jun June 2019
Melody Of Scotland opens her account for Ben, and owner J P McManus, on the opening day of June
It may be Epsom Derby Day for some but for real connoisseurs of National Hunt racing the most important meeting today is the jumps fixture being held at Hexham — well, perhaps ! On the opening day of June Ben sends just the one horse, Melody Of Scotland, to the Northumberland track to contest a 2 mile handicap hurdle under regular partner Richie McLernon. Unlike most of the J P McManus horses which came to Ben during the winter Melody Of Scotland has subsequently remained winless in his 6 races since joining us from Alan King’s yard.
Today Melody Of Scotland races on the inside in midfield in the early stages before Richie moves the 5 year old to the outside of the 12 runner field jumping the 4th last after which he moves into 4th place. Approaching the second last hurdle Richie really begins his move as Melody Of Scotland takes 2nd place. Coming round the home turn Melody Of Scotland has the leader firmly in her sights and goes on to lead jumping the final hurdle. On the Hexham run in Melody Of Scotland, running alongside the nearside rails, keeps on well and scores by a comfortable 7 lengths at the line. Another typically well-judged ride from Richie, and this first win for 2 years should do Melody Of Scotland’s confidence no harm at all.
That’s already Ben’s 3rd jumps winner of the new National Hunt season ( and 6th jumps winner of 2019 ). And as this is the opening race on Hexham’s afternoon card there’s still plenty of time for those so inclined to be home in time to view the 4.30 race from Epsom ( the Derby ), but at Castle Hill Stables everyone will be more concerned with celebrating another win for Ben, and owner J P McManus, courtesy of a rejuvenated Melody Of Scotland.
Tremendous finish sees The Bull take 2nd place at Hamilton despite fluffing the start
It’s on to Wed 12th June and Ben again takes just one horse to an evening Flat meeting at Hamilton. The horse in question is The Bull who runs in a 5 furlong handicap, the same trip over which he lost his maiden tag at Newcastle last November, and he is again partnered by Andrew Mullen. The Bull dwells coming out of the stalls and quickly finds himself short of room at the rear of the 12 runner field. Andrew pushes The Bull along from halfway but he still has only one behind him approaching the last furlong. Inside the final furlong The Bull charges through the field in tremendous style and in the last 100 yards passes all his rivals except one, to take 2nd place at the line, just one and a quarter lengths behind the winner — but it would surely have been a different result if the 4 year old had not fluffed his lines at the start. Nonetheless that’s probably a career best performance on turf, and one which augers well for the remainder of the 2019 season.
A promising introduction from Auckland Lodge and an unlucky second place for Epeius at Hamilton
One week later, 19th June, Ben this time takes two horses to Hamilton. Auckland Lodge is an unraced 2 year old chestnut filly by Dandy Man bought at the Doncaster Breeze-Up Sales in April and makes her debut in the first race on the card, a 5 furlong Novice Stakes race under Harrison Shaw. Auckland Lodge is slowly into her stride, and then hampered, and races at the rear of the 7 runners. In the last 2 furlongs Harrison drives his mount to chase the leaders and our filly keeps on well inside the final furlong to take 5th place at the line, less than 3 lengths behind the winner. Auckland Lodge will have learnt plenty from this first run and it is certainly a most promising introduction to her racing career.
There are also just 7 runners in Epeius’ race just over an hour later. Epeius, already 3 times a winner at Newcastle’s all-weather track in 2019, is ridden by Andrew Mullen. The 6 year old is also slowly away and races towards the rear of the field close to the rails. At the furlong marker Andrew switches his mount towards the middle of the runners and Epeius runs on in great style between horses getting up to take 2nd place in the final strides. Epeius has shown a tremendous attitude under a fine ride from Andrew and can certainly be counted an unlucky loser.
Lady Shanawell and Nataleena both show improvement in their races at Market Rasen and Redcar
Two days later 2 horses, both 3 year old fillies, leave Castle Hill Stables in different directions. Lady Shanawell takes in a 2 mile Juvenile Hurdle at Market Rasen and in this second race over hurdles she again shows distinct improvement on the form she has to date shown on the Flat. In fact Lady Shanawell again finishes 5th of 10, and this time is beaten less than 6 lengths.
Meanwhile Nataleena is off to the North Yorkshire coast for a Novice Stakes race over a mile an a quarter at Redcar. Again Nataleena shows a great improvement on her debut run at Ripon a month ago by finishing 4th of 7, which belies her starting price of 80/1 ! The run very much gives the impression that Nataleena is certainly going the right way.
Up in grade and distance doesn’t stop Melody Of Scotland recording second consecutive success at Hexham
On to Sunday 23rd June and just one horse, Melody Of Scotland, goes to Hexham for a Class 4 handicap hurdle over 2 and a half miles. Melody Of Scotland won over this course 3 weeks ago but despite today’s trip being 1/2 mile further he is also up in grade. Richie McLernon again takes the ride and Melody Of Scotland races in midfield in the early stages of the race before going into second place on the final circuit. Melody Of Scotland challenges the long time leader after the second last and then goes on turning into the home straight. Despite not being perfect at the last hurdle Melody Of Scotland keeps on well on the run in and is always doing enough without Richie having to get too serious. Melody Of Scotland has 2 and a quarter lengths to spare at the line and this is a fairly comfortable second consecutive success for J P McManus’ 5 year old.
Auckland Lodge wins the battle of our 2 year olds at Carlisle under positive ride from Harrison Shaw
A rare event on Wed 26th as two of our 2 year olds, coincidentally out of the same sire Dandy Man, both contest the same race, a Maiden Stakes race at Carlisle over 5 furlongs. Auckland Lodge, the mount of apprentice Harrison Shaw, is quickly away from the stalls and his young rider soon has the filly at the head of the 8 runners and is able to come across the field and claim the rails. Despite edging left Auckland Lodge keeps on well in the closing stages and is able to make all, narrowly defeating the long odds-on favourite ( 1-5 ) by a neck at the line. A fine, positive ride from Harrison and his first winner, from just 4 rides, for Ben . Aiden’s Reward is held up early in the race and comes home in 7th place.
Auckland Lodge, running appropriately in the colours of the Auckland Lodge Partnership, has clearly come on a good deal from her debut run at Hamilton a week ago. Today’s race is also the second run for Aiden’s Reward and he too will benefit from the experience. This is also a career best 15th Flat winner of the year for Ben — and we’re still in June !
A second consecutive unlucky 2nd place for Epeius at Hamilton
One day later, Thurs 27th June, sees Epeius make a return journey to Hamilton, just 8 days following his unlucky 2nd place at the Lanarkshire course. This time it’s an evening card but everything else remains the same, it’s a 6 furlong handicap with Andrew Mullen again in the saddle. Epeius is again slowly away but quickly joins the remainder of the 8 runner field and approaching the 2 furlong marker he is on the heels of the leaders. Inside the final furlong Epeius mounts a strong challenge between horses and in a driving finish 3 horses flash past the post almost in line but the camera shows that Epeius has frustratingly finished in 2nd place, just a short head behind the winner, and a nose in front of the third horse.
A second consecutive 2nd place for Epeius at Hamilton but he can be counted an unlucky loser once again. The 6 year old is clearly running well at the moment and if he can get off to a level start another win looks to be just around the corner.
11th career victory for Ever So Much as he records another success for J P McManus with chase win at Cartmel
The following day, Fri 28th June, it’s back to our jumpers as Squouateur and Ever So Much make the journey up to Cumbria to contest races at the picturesque Cartmel racecourse, both horses are ridden today by Richie McLernon.
Squouateur can only finish 5th of the 6 runners in a 2 mile 5 furlong Beginners’ Chase after which all eyes are on Ever So Much who showed improved form at Southwell in his last race finishing in 3rd place. Today Ever So Much takes in a 2 mile 5 furlong handicap chase and again has his preferred good ground. Ever So Much tracks the leaders for most of the race and goes into 3rd place at the third last fence. Jumping the penultimate fence Ever So Much moves into second and is upsides the leader jumping the last. On the long Cartmel run in Ever So Much drops back into 2nd place but continually chases the leader who ties up in the last 100 yards as Ever So Much sweeps past him to win at the line by one and three quarter lengths.
A deserved and welcome victory for our popular 10 year old, his 11th win ( all since joining Ben in 2014 ) and his first success for 12 months. It’s another win for owner J P McManus and Ben’s 5th success of the new National Hunt season from just 15 runners, and including both Flat and Jumps it’s Ben 23rd winner of 2019 !
4th place for Demi Sang in valuable Cartmel chase
Our final runners of June are on the last day of the month, Sunday 30th, when Ben makes a quick return visit to Cartmel with two more of J P McManus’ jumpers, Manamite and Demi Sang. Manamite has already won 3 times since joining Ben from Gordon Elliott in November 2018 but today’s Class 2 handicap hurdle over 2 miles 1 furlong is certainly the hottest race he has contested to date and Manamite is pulled up after a mistake at the 4th.
Later in the afternoon it’s also a Class 2 race, this time a 2 mile 5 furlong handicap chase, for Demi Sang, successful in his last race, also at the Cumbrian track, but over a shorter trip. The 6 year old tracks the leaders in the early stages before moving into second place approaching the 4th last. Demi Sang then joins the leader two out and goes on after jumping the final fence. Demi Sang quickly establishes a 3 length lead but it’s a long, long run in at Cartmel and entering the home straight he surrenders his lead and in the last 200 yards even drops back into 4th place. Today’s trip is 1/2 mile longer than that he has been running over and he cleared tired on the run in, but his cause also wasn’t helped when it was afterwards found that Demi Sang had lost a shoe during the race.
Cartmel has put on excellent prize money for today’s card, and particularly the two races our horses have contested, and deserves to have been supported. It was therefore well worth stepping both Manamite and Demi Sang up in grade and at least Demi Sang has returned home with 4th place prize money.