Coltrane hits right notes in Melrose victory

Improving stayer too good under champion jockey Murphy.

  • Saturday 22 August
  • News
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Coltrane completed his hat-trick with a dominant display in the Sky Bet Melrose Handicap at York.

Andrew Balding’s three-year-old did not make his debut until late June, but has made rapid progress in the space of a couple of months, with two sound efforts in defeat followed by back-to-back victories at Chepstow and Newmarket.

Facing a step up in class on the Knavesmire, Coltrane was sent off at 12-1 in the hands of champion jockey Oisin Murphy and moved smoothly into contention before pulling four lengths clear of Arthurian Fable.

“He had shown some nice work at home earlier in the year. He took a while to get his act together, but he won well at Chepstow and again on fast ground at Newmarket,” said Murphy.

“Being a typical Mastercraftsman, he relished a bit of dig in the ground today. On paper there were lots of horses who could improve, but this fella clearly stepped up.”

Asked whether the fast-improving colt could be a St Leger candidate, the rider added: “It didn’t even dawn on me. Let’s see what the owners think – Dashing Willoughby ran very well for them in a Leger. Whether that’s a step too far, I’m not sure.

“I think today was the target because it’s usually a valuable race and there’s plenty of history attached to it.

“I’m not sure what Andrew wants to do that. I think he would stay the Cesarewitch trip, but at his age it’s a long way to go (two and a quarter miles) and it also depends what the handicapper does.”

Acklam Express (100-30 favourite) also registered a third straight win as he came out top in the Julia Graves Roses Stakes under Tom Marquand.

Nigel Tinkler’s Hamilton and Goodwood scorer displayed courage as well as class in seeing off Queen Of Rio and Nomadic Empire by a nose and a head respectively.

Tinkler said: “I thought he was going to fade away with 100 yards to go and finish third or fourth, but he kept trying.

“The jockey said he hated the ground, but he’s very genuine and he’s puled it out of the bag – it’s brilliant to win a Listed race at York.

“There are some races in France he might just go for. I think he’s better on quicker ground.”

It was a shot in the arm for the Malton-based trainer following the disappointing performance of the classy Ubettabelieveit in Friday’s Gimcrack Stakes.

He added: “I wasn’t a happy man after that race, I promise you. He ran too keen and didn’t like the ground, but he didn’t have a hard race and he could possibly go for the Flying Childers at Doncaster.”

Ralph Beckett and Harry Bentley combined to land the Sky Bet Handicap with 10-1 chance Lucander, getting the better of Sky Defender by a length and three-quarters.

Coltrane hits right notes in Melrose victory
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