Surfing The Sand

Simon Mapletoft reflects on a momentous sixth All-Weather Championships Finals Day at Lingfield Park on Good Friday.

  • Saturday 20 April
  • Blog
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KACHY’S COMEBACK STORY HAS SHADES OF TIGER

KACHY’s electric performance in the £150,000 Sprint Final on Good Friday confirms him the undisputed poster boy of the All-Weather Championships.

The bright bay speedball turned up the heat on an already scorching April afternoon with a dominant victory in the 6f dash - his fifth in six starts on synthetics.

Emotions were running high in a packed winners’ enclosure. Devoted owner Dave Lowe gushing with superlatives - “He’s just amazing” - and Tom Dascombe containing his emotions with a more considered view.

“It was a slow time wasn’t it?” quipped his proud trainer after hearing Kachy’s winning time was a second slower than when he smashed the track record in the Listed Cleves Stakes in February.

That was considered by Timeform to be the best by any horse in the 30-year history of All-Weather racing, but the way the son of Kyllachy erased the memory of his defeat in last year’s Final was simply breath-taking.

In fact, it was the crowning moment of a comeback story that has shades of Tiger Woods’ return from oblivion to win his 15th Major. He lost his confidence and his form for the best part of 18 months but a switch to the All-weather, followed by a wind operation, set him on the way to becoming the undisputed King of the Sand.

So, what next for Kachy? Well, the Group 2 Temple Stakes at Haydock is an obvious target, but though he would probably become an instant hit around those tight tracks Stateside, owner Lowe’s love affair with the All-Weather Championships suggests he will be back to defend his crown come the autumn.

JOHNSTON CONQUERS ANOTHER PEAK WITH MATTERHORN

Mark Johnston is no stranger to scaling new heights, but he conquered another peak on Good Friday when his remarkable MATTERHORN claimed the scalp of hot favourite Wissahickon in the Easter Classic.

John Gosden’s colt brought an unbeaten record for the season into the £200,000 feature after becoming the highest ever rated winner of the Group 3 Winter Derby, but was no match for Johnston’s prolific colt.

The understated brilliance of Joe Fanning ensured that Matterhorn was always perfectly placed in the slipstream of the pacesetter Court House, a stable companion of the favourite.

But few could have predicted the colt’s reaction when Fanning caught glimpse of a flat out Wissahockon emerging at his girth with two to run. Matterhorn, a big imposing son of Raven’s Pass, lengthened his already raking stride to swing for home with a commanding lead.

As he stretched clear for a seven-length success, Wissahickon’s rider Frankie Dettori could do no more than accept his fate and coasted home with a flex of hands and heels in second.

There’s no doubt little went right for the favourite. For a horse who needs cover, he endured a poor trip, trapped out wide throughout, but his lifeless performance raises a fresh question about his well-being after he missed his planned engagement in Dubai last month due to a set-back.

That said, Matterhorn may well have been more than a match for Wissahickon anyway. He was the second highest rated horse in the line-up on 112 and had done nothing but improve until his winning run came to an abrupt halt at Kempton recently.

“That was my fault,” admitted Fanning. “I made too much use of him.” On Friday, he more than made amends on a colt who not only claimed the Middle-Distance crown but also won the awards for the winning most horse of the year with seven successes, and the Horse of the Season by virtue of his prize money haul of close on £180,000.

With a new rating likely to be around the 120-mark, he will now head back on turf to take his chance in Group races, though Johnston wouldn’t be pressed on specific targets. “We could stay at 10 furlongs, but he has sharpened up and has the speed to go over a mile,” he suggested.

GLORIOUS DAY FOR ALL-WEATHER’S FAVOURITE WHITE HORSE

History is adorned with famous white horses and All-Weather racing has its own following the latest exploits of Mark Johnston’s gallant veteran WATERSMEET.

The eight-year-old had won 12 of his 28 starts on sand before his latest appearance in Good Friday’s Marathon Final - a race he had been placed in in the previous two runnings.

His prospects of making the frame, never mind winning, appeared dubious after a quiet winter by his own standards, but Johnston - initiating a memorable double - brought him back in great shape to spring a popular surprise.

Watersmeet comfortably got the better of hot favourite Amade, the French gelding who was considered a banker for international superstar Christophe Soumillon after dominating a Fast-Track Qualifier at Chelmsford City.

In winning, the gallant grey demonstrated a versatility that some doubted he had. Joe Fanning usually makes the running or sits up with the pace on the son of Dansili but had to quickly go to Plan ‘B’ following a slow start.

Together the combination overcame a wide trip and put the race to bed with a turn of foot that hadn’t been in evidence in a string of seemingly disappointing appearances in winter qualifiers. A 77-day break clearly did him no harm and he may now take his chance in the Chester Cup.

GROUP 1 TARGET FOR HANNON MILER

Richard Hannon, who described Mile Champion OH THIS IS US as a “best mate”, is planning a crack at the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury next month.

The six-year-old stamped his class on the £150,000 Final under regular partner Tom Marquand to put himself in the frame for the big Group 1, or the Group 2 Bet365 Mile at Sandown Park.

“He’s been an absolute star,” said Hannon. “We’ve had Classic winners but he’s definitely my favourite horse. He’s won 12 races for us and has been unlucky in Group company, so if he’s fit and well why not have a crack at the Lockinge?”

Hannon’s entire would have been considerably shorter than 5-1 had he not run so badly over an inadequate trip in his qualifying run at Wolverhampton. “He hated the surface there for some reason, but he loves Lingfield. He’s a joy to train. He’s a best mate for a trainer because he always wants to give you his all.”

RETURN TO BRITAIN NOT RULED OUT FOR FRENCH WINNER

PIZZICATO, who won the 3YO Championship under a class ride by Christophe Soumillon, could return to Britain this summer, according to his trainer Fabrice Chappet.

The gelding put France on the scoresheet after a protracted duel with William Haggas’s Wolverhampton Fast-Track winner Deputise.

“He’s a very straightforward horse so I never had any doubts about him handling this tighter track,” said the trainer. “We’ve enjoyed our visit and I wouldn’t rule out bringing him back this summer.”

When asked if an entry in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot could be a possibility, he added: “Of course. He will have to improve again but I don’t see why not.”

Soumillon, who was held up in traffic getting to Lingfield, added: “This wasn’t a smooth journey either. I was further back than I wanted to be but ended up behind two good horses who I knew would take me into the race. My horse tried to stop when he hit the front but Deputise helped me to the line.”

MOORE IN HEAVEN AFTER FILLIES’ WIN

Ryan Moore reminded a packed Lingfield Park why he is widely considered the best jockey in the world when he quite literally stole the Fillies and Mares Final on Hugo Palmer’s HEAVENLY HOLLY.

He controlled the race from the get-go, despite breaking from the widest draw, and left his rivals flat footed when he raised the tempo two furlongs out.

It’s well known that Moore fights shy of the cameras but he was all smiles afterwards when he told me: “She travelled well and has plenty of speed. Hugo has done a good job preparing her for this after giving her a break.”

The Chartwell Fillies’ Stakes, a Group 3 over 7f on turf at Lingfield, is the next target for the daughter of Shamardal who got the crucial first run on fast-finishing second Island Of Life - another filly with a bright future.

DOBIE ROUNDS OFF A WEEK TO REMEMBER

The All-Weather has been graced by a growing band of talented female jockeys this winter and Georgia Dobie can add her name to that club after a polished victory in the valuable opening apprentice handicap on Eve Johnson Houghton’s GORING.

Georgia, who is attached to the Blewbury trainer’s Group 1 winning stable, produced the 14-1 shot with a well-timed run to supplement her double at Windsor earlier in the week.

“I’m so grateful to the boss for giving me the opportunities and to win on Finals Day is just unbelievable.”

Johnson Houghton was full of praise for her 7lb claimer and the horse. “I’m so proud of Georgia. She works very hard and keeps on improving with experience. Goring was the perfect partner for her as he is so uncomplicated. He’s my hack at home and I wish I’d got a few more like him.”

Surfing The Sand
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