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PIPE HAS STARCHITECT PRIMED FOR FESTIVAL AFTER BETFAIR BELTERWHATAKNIGHT ATR Tracker
(Doncaster, 11 February)
Harry Fry's seven-year-old was having only his third start in this 19-runner handicap over three miles and he has a future in the staying division. Leading three out, Whataknight forged clear and a slight peck on landing over the last may have cost him the verdict as he was mugged on the line and beaten a nose by Emerging Force. The pair pulled 16 lengths clear and the form of Whataknight's previous Taunton victory over Rock On Oscar is looking better given the authoritative manner in which the runner-up scored next time on Town Moor.
Nicely backed to make a winning debut for Harry Fry in this bumper, Golden Birthday tanked along with the choke half-out until fading into third behind the nibbled at Stowaway Magic. Golden Birthday clearly has an engine and on his only previous start, at Punchestown in October for Liz Doyle, the five-year-old chased home Gigginstown's Gunnery Sergeant, subsequently third to Long Dog in a Grade 1 hurdle at Fairyhouse in November.
Having his first run for David Pipe since a switch from Donald McCain, Starchitect ran a blinder in the Betfair Hurdle. Although no match for hugely impressive Agrapart, the five-year-old was always in the firing line, jumping well until making a mess of the last flight when held. Pipe opted for a first-time tongue-tie in addition to Starchitect's customary blinkers and this may have aided the son of Sea The Stars. Given that all his best form has come on a far sounder surface (fourth in last year's Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle off a 2lb lower mark), and the fact that he hadn't run in 310 days, this was a sterling effort. He's one to note returning to the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals.
Pretty friendless in the market at 20-1, Lastmanlastround was soon detached and clueless. As this one-mile maiden began to unfold, however, Rae Guest's good-looking Azamour colt found his stride, closing down the far more experienced Blacklister on the run to the line. Chris Catlin gave his mount a considerate ride and there is a bit of bulk and substance about Lastmanlastround, suggesting he could make his mark at a sensible level.
Useful Polytrack performer on his day and Ed Vaughan has him in good nick. The handicapper wasn't penal by imposing a 2lb rise for Si Senor's previous course and distance victory over Solo Hunter but it was probably just enough to deny him a follow-up success as Si Senor was beaten only a neck by Lunar Deity. The winner is another solid all-weather performer and the race was run in quite a slick time (sixth horse Intrude scored at Wolverhampton on Monday), so the form should stand close scrutiny. A triple Kempton winner, Si Senor has options.
David Evans' softly-softly approach with his four-year-old should be rewarded in the months ahead. Flowers On Venus made a belated debut over six furlongs at Wolverhampton in late December and easily justified strong market support. The handicapper was caught in something of a dilemma, settling on a mark of 80, and Flowers On Venus almost followed up here, going under by a fast-diminishing nose to speedy Hoofalong. This five-furlong trip was probably just on the sharp side and Flowers On Venus also launched his attack from a rather isolated position nearer the stands' rail. This bodes well for the future.
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