SUN SET TO STRIKE GOLD
Hickory was well backed on the show prior to his debut and that money proved to be well placed. He was slowest away from the stalls and he was still in last place with three furlongs to go.
Travelling strongly, he eased closer and was bumped a couple of times by Ajrad as Tom Marquand angled him towards the middle of the track for a clear run. Pushed along just over a furlong out, he responded well and quickened to the lead, going on to win by 1¼ lengths.
The ease with which Hickory moved into contention and comfortably went away from a couple of rivals with experience was notable and he looks a good prospect for James Fanshawe.
Big King returned from a 471-day absence with a much improved performance at Bellewstown on his first start in the care of Barry Connell. He raced a few lengths behind the leader through the first circuit before making headway into third on the long run to three out.
He travelled smoothly into a share of the lead at three out and went on soon after under light urging. He was challenged by Railway Hurricane after two out and Big King responded well to still be in front until the final fifty yards, with Railway Hurricane going on to win by half a length with twenty lengths back to the third.
I think the handicapper has been kind in only raising Big King by 7lb to 104 for this run considering that the third was rated 118 and the fifth, beaten 34 lengths, was given a rating of 104 after this. Hopefully Connell won’t make the same mistake again of potentially sacrificing a lenient looking mark by running him in a maiden hurdle and will instead target a handicap.
Fittleton Ferry hung left and looked an awkward ride in the second half of the race on her debut at Newbury and she looked to have learned from that experience with a promising effort in this contest.
She was hampered at the start and again going into the first bend which left her in second last place. She dropped back into last place just before starting to turn the final bend and was pushed along by Jason Watson. Once entering the straight, she started to run on strongly and was only beaten 3½ lengths at the line.
This was an eyecatching effort from Fittleton Ferry to make up so much ground in the final two furlongs having been a long way back on the bend and she will now have the chance to race in nurseries off an opening mark of 56 which could underestimate her talent.
Spanish Kiss was making his handicap debut in this race and shaped promisingly having been poorly positioned. From the widest stall, he was dropped out at the back of the field and angled across to the inside rail in the early stages.
He was still in second last place as the field started to turn the final bend and was pushed along and angled out to get a clear run. Put under stronger pressure just over a furlong out, he ran on strongly but couldn’t challenge the leading pair and finished 2¼ lengths behind the winner in third.
Spanish Kiss ended up much further back than ideal given the way the race was run and I’m not convinced that the track suits him so his performance can be upgraded. He will likely be seen to better effect on a more galloping track in stronger run races and can show himself to be better than his rating of 74 in those circumstances.
Certainly Red hadn’t been seen since managing to make a mistake at nearly ever hurdle when finishing eighth at Newbury in February and he returned after a 182-day break with a more encouraging effort despite his jumping lacking fluency once again. He travelled well throughout on the outside of the field and moved much closer to the leader early in the back straight on the final circuit.
He was in a share of the lead at three out and despite crashing through the hurdle, took an outright lead turning the final bend. Nudged along entering the home straight, he had a slight lead at two out but got in tight and lost momentum and was headed by Prabeni on the run to the last. He tried to rally under stronger pressure but had nothing left on the run in and was beaten by eight lengths.
This was a promising run from Certainly Red on his first outing of this season. Mistakes have been a frequent feature of his runs over hurdles so far but his jumping was better here than at Newbury. I think the 3m2f trip stretched his stamina on this ground so a drop back in trip would help and this run backed up the impression he made last season behind Imperial Elysian at Kempton that he has more ability than his rating of 108 suggests so he may not be long in getting off the mark.
The winner of a point to point in May last year, Gold Sun had shown little under rules prior to his latest start at Wexford. He raced on the outside of the field just behind the leaders from the off and was still in that position after jumping three out. Still under a tight hold shortly before the final bend, he cruised up to challenge Blaze A Trail going to two out where he made a mistake and fell.
If he had got over the final two fences I think Gold Sun would have won comfortably as he still appeared to have plenty left to offer. It is a bit worrying that he’s fallen on both handicap starts under rules and his jumping prior to the fall hadn’t been without fault but it wasn’t so bad that it’s a major concern for the future as long as he races on a left-handed track as even going left handed he still tended to edge that way over the obstacles.
A 1lb rise for this looks generous given that it would likely have been 7lb or more if Gold Sun had completed the course and he can soon add to his point to point victory.
On his first start without a hood since July 2018, Vino’s Choice shaped well having been poorly positioned. He initially raced a bit keenly under restraint towards the back of the field but soon settled better and was still in that position after a circuit. He was hampered on the run to three out, causing him to drop back into a share of last place, and a mistake there left him with plenty of ground to find on the leaders.
Nudged along he started to make headway turning the bend and that progress continued as he jumped two out in fourth. Put under stronger pressure after, he responded well to move into a share of third jumping the last before the progress flattened out and he was beaten four lengths into fourth.
The removal of the hood had a positive impact on Vino’s Choice and he did well to finish as close to the winner as he did considering how far back he was at three out. He has looked a bit awkward under pressure at times in the past but there weren’t any signs of that in this race and off his lowly mark of 90 he could get off the mark over obstacles in the near future.
Mostawaa came into this race on the back of a good run over course and distance but the race went wrong for him right at the start. Typically a front runner, he reared as the stalls opened and was very slowly away which left him in a detached last in the early stages.
He recovered to race in midfield on the outside as the pace steadied towards the end of the back straight before losing his position turning the bend. Pushed along with just over two furlongs to go, he couldn’t put in a significant challenge from that point but he kept responding gamely to pressure and stayed on late into fourth.
Considering the expected plan went badly awry at the start, this was a good effort from Mostawaa. This also showed that he’s tactically versatile so he doesn’t need to lead to run well and that could prove useful in the future under certain circumstances.