After the wretched weather of the last few days it was a relief to find racing taking place on a sunny, albeit cool afternoon. Despite some small fields there were several close finishes, five needing a photo to be resolved. The going was good to soft, good in places.
The comeback queen Hayley Turner rode her first winner of the season for her old governor Michael Bell in the opener, a 5f race for two-year-olds. Once she switched James Watt (6/4 fav) off the rail, got him balanced and pressed on, the horse soon got the idea and sauntered past the leader half a furlong out. Wedding Date was the two length runner-up and will doubtless come on for the run. All five runners were making their first racecourse appearance.
Sylvester Kirk’s Sassie had never been out of the first four in all her five outings and with that in mind 12/1 seemed generous when she took the 1m4f handicap in the hands of Luke Morris. She came from behind and stayed on well to edge ahead of Rocky Shores in the last few strides, winning by a head. In third place, Diocletian didn’t get the best of runs.
There was an even closer finish to the 5f handicap. Mr Pocket (9/4) made most of the running under Franny Norton and held off the persistent Super Julius by a short head. It was the winner’s first race since being gelded and his first for Robert Cowell, who does so well with sprinters.
The 1m2f fillies handicap went to the John Gosden-trained Precious Ramotswe (15/8 fav), who was bearing the Cracksman colours. She didn’t appear to settle for a long time but Robert Havlin conserved some of her energy, for she ran on strongest to lead half a furlong out and quickly go two lengths up. She’s a four-year-old, yet this was only her fourth race, three of which she’s won. Canberra Cliffs and White Chocolate ran respectably to fill the places.
The one mile handicap produced the biggest field of the day and the biggest surprise. Kaaber (20/1) has two ways of running and is either beaten a long way, as in his last three races, or wins. Michael Blake’s seven-year-old had never won over more than six furlongs and didn’t look like winning today until a moment or two before the end. They’d gone a decent gallop and everyone was running out of steam coming up the hill, but Mitch Godwin kept Kaaber up to his work and he hit the front ten yards from the line. With Approval and Sir Jamie finished two necks away.
Black Caesar (7/2 jt fav) scored a fifth course victory from 18 starts in the 7f handicap. Philip Hide’s veteran made all and gamely defended his slender lead from a host of challengers. Jason Watson was the successful rider. Duke Of North came wide and late and looked like getting up, but failed by a short head.
Messrs Hide and Watson were back in the winner’s enclosure half an hour later with Archimento (5/1), who took the 1m2f apprentice handicap. The horse squeezed through a narrow gap a furlong out to join Ashazuri and the pair battled it out for the last 150 yards, pulling well clear of the others. The verdict went the way of Archimento, by a nose. He was breaking his duck at the 15th time of asking.