Haydock Saturday

KIERAN Shoemark was seen to excellent effect as he made all the running to land the Group 3 John of Gaunt Stakes in a thrilling four-way finish.

Shoemark’s mount Pogo (Charlie Hills) hung on grimly having quickened off his own slow fractions, and his rider deserves high praise for his enterprise.

The pacesetting son of Zebedee, sent off at 17/2 on his return having flopped in the Godolphin Mile at Meydan, had nothing to spare, but clung on to beat Laneqash (Roger Varian/Jim Crowley) by a nose, with Kinross (Ralph Beckett/James Doyle) and Sunray Major both getting within half a length of the winner in the finish of the day at Haydock.

It’s hard to rate the form very highly, but the winner was a good fifth in the Queen Anne last year, and the trio who chased him home could all have won had things panned out even a little differently, so can be viewed positively going forward.

Winning trainer Charlie Hills was bubbling after the race, although now has the headache of whether to alter pre-race plans, saying:

“That was fantastic, and I thought Kieran gave Pogo a peach of a ride. He used his initiative, got him to the front and controlled it from there really.

“I thought he ran some good races abroad over trips that probably weren’t ideal for him - seven furlongs suits him best. He really deserved to win a race like that and we might look to races like the Prix Daniel Wildenstein and the Prix de la Foret.

“I was thinking we’d come here today and then look at the Criterion Stakes at Newmarket, but he’ll have a penalty in that now, so we’ll see.”

Sea on the rise

It’s hard to keep William Haggas down at present, and he continued his fine run in British pattern races when the progressive Sea La Rosa (Tom Marquand) took the Group 3 Pinnacle Stakes for fillies and mares by a length and a quarter from the unlucky-in-running Viola (James Fanshawe/Danny Muscutt), with that mare in turn a short-head in front of Nell Quickly (Denis Coakley/Hollie Doyle).

The winner - a well-backed 9/4 shot – began to tire in the last 100 yards but had her race in safe keeping at that stage.

As in the John Of Gaunt, the pace was modest, and Marquand had Sea La Rosa well positioned behind the front-running Darlectable You; he and Hollie Doyle made their moves either side of the leader with three furlongs left.

Sea La Rosa quickened best to lead outright over a furlong out, holding on well despite the fast finish of Viola, who was held up well off the pace, and did well to weave her way through from a poor position.

Due to the slow pace, many of the runners were keen, including Sea La Rosa, a point not lost on Maureen Haggas, who said: “Sea La Rosa was too keen, a bit over excited and fresh.

“She did well to win, having fought Tom nearly all the way. She’s tough. She could come back here for the Lancashire Oaks.”

Raasel for Horse Watchers

The Horse Watchers, largely former employees of the Timeform organisation, scored another win for their sharp-eyed approach to racing, as Shadwell cast-off Raasel (Mick Appleby/James Doyle) took the scalp of Dragon Symbol in the Listed Achilles Stakes.

The 11/2 shot had his work cut out at the weights but has been progressive since picked up for 10,000gns from Marcus Tregoning’s stable.

He won his first race for new connections last September from a BHA mark of 73 and hasn’t looked back. Matt Taylor, one of Timeform’s shrewdest form judges over the years, spoke on behalf of the partnership as he outlined plans for the five-year-old: “I suspect handicaps will be out of the question now. I suppose we’re looking at the good programme of five-furlong races.

“I’d like to think we could go to the Nunthorpe or the Abbaye with him - you don’t get many 10 grand horses that win more than the odd race so that’s very nice.”

Ground forces abandonments

HAYDOCK only raced on Saturday having been forced to abandon the second half of Friday’s fixture on safety grounds after jockeys complained that their mounts were slipping on the bend after the winning post.

On Saturday, Chester was abandoned after four races, and then Lingfield had to abandon two races on the round course on Monday for similar reasons, making it four meetings in a week to be curtailed due to an unsafe racing surface despite a lack of unusual weather patterns for the time of year.

Quite why four different tracks should be unfit for racing in the same week is a point for debate, but the fact that tracks are watering between meetings even if rain is forecast, and often watering on ground which is no quicker than good seems problematic.


The BHA issued guidance to tracks in 2019 that they should water to ensure good to firm ground, but increasingly it appears that clerks of courses are aiming to take the word “firm” entirely out of circulation, as has been the case for jumps tracks in modern times.

Fast turf has been deemed a welfare issue for a while, but it’s clear that constant watering is also creating safety issues, and some serious thinking needs to be done for the good of the sport.

Christie lands big hunter double

THERE were no such troubles at Stratford last Friday, and the traditional end to the hunter chase season was a memorable evening for David Christie’s Derrylin yard as he and rider Barry O’Neill took both feature events, with Vaucelet landing the Pertemps Network Stratford Foxhunters Champion Hunters’ Chase and Ask D’man coming late under a well-judged ride to capture the pointtopoint.co.uk Champion Novices’ Hunters’ Chase. Both winners were carrying the colours of Samuel Hegarty and Jennifer O’Kane.