Wentworth Falls provided a much-needed boost for trainer Geoff Harker with a decisive victory in the attheraces.com Handicap at Doncaster.
The eight-year-old belied his comparative maturity as he outran a field full of younger rivals to beat Muscika by two and a quarter lengths as a well-supported 7-2 joint favourite in the feature handicap under Connor Beasley.
The grey, winning his first race in 21 starts since April 2017 despite a string of admirable performances, was also posting a first success in eight months for Thirsk-based Harker.
Wentworth Falls has almost certainly booked himself a return trip to Town Moor too for the Portland Handicap in September – in which he has run so well for the past two years.
Harker admits it is a relief to have a winner again – with his “Saturday horse”.
“It’s been a frustrating time – we’ve had a lot hit the goalpost,” he said of his lean run.
“The horses seem really well at home, but they just haven’t quite been getting there.
“I’ve got just a dozen horses in now – it’s been a bit slack the last couple of years.
“You need winners, and they’ve been a bit scarce, but he keeps the ball rolling – you need Saturday horses like him.”
Although this was a performance which may nudge Wentworth Falls back towards a career-high rating, Harker hopes he can still progress.
“I’ve always said he would take off once he gets his head in front – and now he’s got his confidence and he hasn’t had a hard race.
“I hope the tide has turned.”
Beasley picked up the winning ride in the absence of Wentworth Falls’ regular jockey, and Harker added: “I feel a bit sorry for Sam James, who usually rides this horse, because he’s banned at the moment.
“He’s a frustrating horse – he doesn’t seem to win very often, but he’s a proper horse when he gets his head round the job.
“He loves it here – he’s never run a bad race here and was third in the Portland two years ago and fifth last year. That will probably be the target again, but he needs quick ground. The better the race, the better he seems to run.”
Ubettabelieveit’s emphatic win in the opening British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes was the first leg of a double for champion jockey Oisin Murphy.
Nigel Tinkler rates his Kodiac colt highly, and the three-and-a-half-length success represented a change of luck for the trainer and his association with Murphy.
The North Yorkshire yard had endured a sequence of five runner-up spots since its previous winner, while Murphy’s victory on the 5-1 shot – who strode clear of the slightly errant Digital in second – made up for a previous misfortune which Tinkler has not forgotten.
Murphy was on the stable’s Triple Distilled – luckless when a beaten favourite in a Newmarket handicap just over a year ago.
Tinkler said: “He’s ridden me one winner, and the unluckiest loser last year at Newmarket – Triple Distilled.
“It was unbelievable – it got stuck on the rail. It would have won by five lengths, and it got beaten.”
It was socially-distanced celebrations all round, though, after Ubettabelieveit demonstrated the benefit of his debut course-and-distance fourth two weeks ago.
Tinkler added: “We’ve had five seconds in a week – which was a bit annoying – but we’re absolutely fine.
“This is a lovely horse, very, very nice.
“He’s still growing and we won’t be in a great rush with him, you know.
“He ran well first time but was drawn right in the middle, which didn’t help him. He had a lot of daylight.
“But today they’ve gone a gallop, he’s got cover and it was fine.”
Murphy’s double came on Ed Walker’s 5-4 favourite Matthew Flinders in the first division of the Follow At The Races On Twitter Novice Stakes – a timely boost for the respective high-profile Derby hopes of jockey and trainer this weekend.
The Free Tips Daily On attheraces.com Handicap produced by far the best finish on the card as four horses swept past the line together, spread across the track.
It was a surprise to winning jockey Adam Kirby when his mount Notforalongtime was announced the winner for Clive Cox, by a nose at 12-1 from Indie Angel.
He said: “I thought we were beat – but I gave him a pat after the race anyway.”