07 May May 2019
Epeius makes it 3 wins at Newcastle in 2019 with comfortable one length success
May opens in familiar fashion on Friday 3rd with 2 horses going to Newcastle for an evening all-weather card. Prancing Oscar and Epeius are our runners this evening. Prancing Oscar, an all-weather winner at Wolverhampton in July 2017 ( and on turf at Hamilton ) but not at Newcastle, is first away in a 1 mile 2 furlong handicap, but after running prominently for much of the race the 5 year old weakens in the final furlong to finish 7th of the 12 runners, though only beaten 5 and a half lengths.
Epeius, however, is developing quite a liking for Newcastle. Although the 6 year old finished 2nd on turf at Redcar a week and a half ago he has already won twice at Newcastle in 2019 ( and 3 times in total ). All his wins have been over 6 furlongs and it’s the same trip which Epeius races over tonight, under Andrew Mullen. As is normally the case Epeius is held up in the early stages before starting to make ground close to the nearside rails approaching the 2 furlong marker. Entering the final furlong Epeius moves into second, before very quickly going on and being ridden out hands and heels by Andrew to score by a comfortable looking length, a margin of victory which could easily have been greater if Andrew had wished. So that’s 3 wins already for Epeius in 2019 and his owners, our own Ben Haslam Racing Syndicate, can look forward to many more happy days this year, both at Newcastle and also elsewhere on turf. And this is also win number 14 on the Flat for Ben in 2019 from just 55 runners, a strike rate of better than 25% !
Tremendous finish sees Manamite get up on the line to score in Hexham hurdle race
The following day, Saturday 4th, it’s the turn of our jumpers to take centre stage as 3 of the horses trained by Ben for owner J P McManus make the trip north to Hexham for an evening card on this opening day for professional trainers and jockeys of the 2019-20 National Hunt season. All 3 horses are ridden by Richie McLernon.
Squouateur is first away in a 2 mile 4 furlong Beginners’ Chase, his first race since pulling up in the Kim Muir at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, his first run since joining Ben. Despite seeming to have more letters in his form figures than in a standard dictionary the 8 year old has some good form in the past and has been regularly campaigned in high class races. Today’s race seems a more realistic target, especially with only 5 runners contesting the race, and Richie tracks the leaders racing in 3rd place for much of the race. Jumping the 3rd last Squouateur goes into second but despite running on nicely in the closing stages he cannot get to the comfortable leader and ultimately finishes in 2nd place, beaten 5 lengths. This is Squouateur’s best finish for some time and hopefully will have done his confidence the world of good.
35 minutes later it’s the turn of Manamite to contest a handicap hurdle over 2 miles. Manamite has had 5 runs since joining Castle Hill Stables from Gordon Elliott in Ireland last November and has been successful in two of these races, over course and distance here at Hexham in December 2018 and at Musselburgh in February 2019. Richie keeps Manamite at the back of the 6 runners until going past one rival jumping the 3rd last. Manamite then goes 4th approaching 2 out and moves into 3rd going round the home turn and is still 3 lengths down on the two leaders jumping the last. On the run in Manamite shows great determination and in the last half furlong Richie galvanises his partner to mount a final challenge between the two leaders and to the credit of both horse and rider gets up on the line to score, what looked an unlikely victory entering the home straight, by 1/2 length. Richie has ridden many well-judged races for our stable in recent years but this was a tremendous ride, and a finish which will be worth watching over and over again. The win will surely have brought great delight to J P himself ! Including 2 wins on the Flat in France as a 3 year old this is now Manamite’s 5th win in just 11 career starts, and being lightly raced for a 6 year old there may well be more to come. Following on from Ben’s excellent 9 wins in the 2018-19 National Hunt season it’s good to get a first win on virtually the first day of the 2019-20 season.
Unfortunately later on the card our old friend and stable stalwart Ever So Much cannot replicate Squouateur and Manamite’s performances as he finishes 8th of 9 in a 2 and a half mile chase.
Much better run from Ever So Much as our 10 year old takes 3rd place at Southwell
Just 10 days later, 14th May, and Ever So Much is out again, this time at Southwell for the opening race on their evening National Hunt card, a two and a half mile handicap chase under regular partner Richie McLernon. Good to report that Ever So Much runs a much better race than at Hexham a week and a half ago. Ever So Much is settled towards the rear of the 9 runners but moves into mid-division going out onto the final circuit. Entering the home straight Ever So Much is in 5th but quickly moves into 4th place and starts to challenge the leaders. Two fences from home Ever So Much is in 3rd, but that’s as close as he can get and he finishes in that position at the line. Nevertheless it’s our 10 year olds best race for some time.
Two 3rd places for Sandret and Funkadelic on evening card at Hamilton
It’s back to the Flat on Friday 17th May as Ben sends Sandret and Funkadelic up to Scotland for an evening card at Hamilton. Sandret is 2 from 2 to date following wins at Newcastle over 6 furlongs and Redcar over 7 furlongs but it’s back to 6 furlongs tonight as the 3 year old makes his handicap debut under Graham Lee. Sandret tracks the leaders racing on the outside of the 4 runners but cannot quicken inside the final furlong and finishes 3rd, beaten two and a half lengths, and although Sandret loses his unbeaten record this is a good performance as he has been considerably upped in class for tonight’s contest.
One hour later, in the final race on the card, Funkadelic has his first race since 2nd January when he met with a muscle injury. Ridden tonight by Andrew Mullen in this handicap over 5 furlongs Funkadelic is impeded shortly after leaving the stalls by another runner coming across him. The race is not run to suit our 4 year old who is hampered later in the race. He does finally get out in the last half furlong but the 2 leaders have gone and despite keeping on well Funkadelic also has to be content with 3rd place, though beaten less than 2 lengths with the 4th horse 5 lengths back. After over 4 months out the run will surely have brought Funkadelic on and he’s certainly entitled to expect better luck in running next time.
Midnight Vixen and Elysee Star both make the frame in Redcar 7 furlong handicap
On to 20th May and 3 of our horses go over to Redcar, 2 of them, Midnight Vixen and Elysee Star, both contesting the same race, a straight mile Fillies’ handicap. Elysee Star is having her first run of 2019 whilst Midnight Vixen won over 7 furlongs on Newcastle’s all-weather surface two races ago. Both horses are kept towards the back of the 11 runner field in the early stages of the race. Elysee Star is the first to make a move over 3 furlongs out but is then hampered. At the 2 furlong pole the 11 runners are spread across the course but our 2 runners then start to chase the leaders and inside the final furlong are holding 3rd and 4th places. Midnight Vixen runs on particularly well to finish a never nearer 3rd at the line, whilst Elysee Star stays on at one pace to finish 4th. Both horses have run good races, Midnight Vixen on her first turf start since joining Ben in January, and Elysee Star returning from a 6 month break. Later on the card the 3 year old Calevade, having just his third race, and also following a 6 month absence, finishes 7th of 12 in a mile Maiden Stakes race.
Manamite finds just one too good in Kelso handicap hurdle
Sunday 26th May sees just one horse, Manamite, head up to Kelso for a Class 3 handicap hurdle over 2 miles. It’s the 6 year old’s 7th race since joining our stable in Nov 2018 and he’s been successful in 3 of the previous 6 races for us. Regular partner Richie McLernon takes the ride today and holds Manamite up at the rear of the tightly packed 6 runners until after the 2nd last hurdle when he moves forward to challenge the leaders. Racing on the outside Manamite jumps the final hurdle in second place after which he’s the only horse to threaten the leader. Manamite continues to run on well but is still 2 lengths adrift at the line.
Demi Sang takes advantage of rivals misfortune to score unchallenged at Cartmel’s Bank Holiday fixture
The following day, Monday 27th, again sees just one horse go to Cartmel for one of their regular Bank Holiday fixtures. As was the case yesterday it’s another of J P McManus’ jumpers, Demi Sang, who is having his 4th race for Ben since joining our stable from Willie Mullins in Ireland in September 2018. Still only a 6 year old Demi Sang was a successful and consistent sort in his younger days and already has 5 wins to his name, many in France, but he has rather lost his way in the last year or so. Richie McLernon is in the saddle for this Class 3 chase over 2 miles and one furlong. Only 5 horses contest the race and Richie keeps Demi Sang on the heels of the leaders for much of the race until going into a clear second place jumping 6 out. The 2 horses stay in that position until Demi Sang joins the leader jumping the last. On the 1/2 mile Cartmel run in it looks as though it’s going to be a closely fought finish as there is little between the 2 leaders but coming into the home turn his rival unships his jockey on the flat leaving Demi Sang in splendid isolation to come home unchallenged and score by no less than 14 lengths. Perhaps win number 6 was fortuitous for Demi Sang but we will never know, and it may be that he would still have won even without his rivals misfortune. What we do know is that the win is Ben’s second of the new National Hunt season and his 5th jumps winner of 2019, all for owner J P McManus who must be delighted with the way his horses at Castle Hill Stables are running.
3rd places for Castlehill Retreat on debut, and The Bull, in busy day at Hamilton
A really busy day at Castle Hill Stables on Wed 29th May as no less than 5 of our horses make the journey up to Hamilton. Whilst three of the horses, Midnight Vixen, Prancing Oscar and Epeius, are unplaced, the other two both make the frame by finishing 3rd in their respective races.
The first race on the card, a 5 furlong Novice Auction Stakes race ( a £20,000 2 year old Series Qualifier ), sees the first racecourse appearance of Castlehill Retreat, a 2 year old chestnut colt out of Casamento. Ridden by Andrew Mullen Castlehill Retreat is kept towards the rear of the 7 runner field in the early stages before making his move on the outside between the final 2 furlongs. He keeps on well inside the final furlong but cannot get to the two leaders. Nevertheless Castlehill Retreat finishes a very creditable 3rd, certainly a very promising introduction.
The final race on the card is a 5 furlong apprentice handicap and young Harrison Shaw takes the ride on The Bull, his first ever ride for Ben. The Bull races in midfield for much of the contest before challenging on the outside of the 11 runners approaching the final furlong. The Bull runs on well for Harrison but is also beaten into 3rd place at the line, only a little over a length behind the winner, a good performance from our 4 year old.
Career best run from Ritchie Star to finish 2nd at Carlisle
By contrast the following day, 30th May, sees just the one runner from Castle Hill Stables, Ritchie Star, in a 1 mile 1 furlong handicap at Carlisle. A 4th place at Newcastle last November is the closest Ritchie Star has got in his 4 races to date and today he is partnered for the first time by Paul Mulrennan. Paul has the 3 year old ideally placed tracking the leaders in 4th place for much of the race. Entering the home straight Ritchie Star goes into second and is upsides the leader with a furlong to run. The leader, who has come over from Ireland for today’s race, finds another gear inside the final furlong to win comfortably whilst Ritchie Star can only run on at one pace. But finishing second, beaten just 2 lengths, represents Ritchie Star’s best run to date and he can count himself unlucky to have come up against a rival, unexposed, and at the top of her game today.