Brighton’s first race meeting of 2018 began like last season ended, in murky conditions, but visibility improved after the first event. The going was good to firm.
Little could be seen of the opening 6f sprint until a furlong out, when the recent Kempton winner Tigerwolf dashed into the lead and quickly had the race in the bag. Or so it seemed, for he idled in front and Baltic Prince (3/1) ran on well under Poppy Bridgwater to snatch victory in the last few strides. Tony Carroll’s eight-year-old was winning for the 14th time.
The sea fret was lifting by the time of the second race, a two-year-old maiden, and the money came for Richard Hannon’s It’s The Only Way (2/1 fav). When Sean Levey pulled him off the rail a furlong out and straightened him up he had too many guns for Pocket Dynamo and won by half a length, going away. The pair were some way clear of the rest.
A 7f handicap came next. Hedging (3/1 fav) was nicely poised in third turning into the straight, but took a long time to get into top gear and by the time he overtook the leader 100 yards from the line Sayesse was coming with a strong challenge on the outside. Hedging pulled out more and won by a head. Charles Bishop, who has been in good form lately, was riding Eve Johnson Houghton’s first turf winner of the year.
Another eight-year-old took the honours in the second 7f handicap of the evening. John Bridger does well with a number of veterans and now his Live Dangerously (11/2) scored a fourth course success. Kieran O’Neill held him up to begin with and then had a nice clear run along the far rail, taking the lead a furlong out. He gamely held off Harry Beau, who came out best in a blanket finish for the places, by half a length. The complexion of the race had changed markedly due to three withdrawals earlier in the day plus two that refused to enter the stalls.
A mile and a quarter handicap went to the Stuart Williams-trained Derek Duval (11/2), who was running at Brighton for the first time. He was second last, widest of all and under pressure coming out of the dip but Daniel Muscutt got a good tune out of him the further they went. He swept into the lead half a furlong out and won, ears pricked, by a length and a quarter.
It was a similar story in the classified stakes over a mile and a quarter, where Hollie Doyle brought Happy Ending (13/2) from a long way back on the wide outside to hit the front half a furlong out. The Seamus Mullins filly, stepping up to this trip for the first time, finished much the strongest and had a length and three quarters to spare over the dual recent winner Miniature Daffodil.
The third eight-year-old winner on the night was Pour La Victoire (100/30). The last of his nine victoires came two years ago and it was beginning to look like there’d be no more. He proved that theory wrong with his sixth Brighton success in this one mile race. George Downing weaved a path through the pack to challenge Barrsbrook a furlong out and take the lead with 75 yards to go. He won by half a length to complete a double for Tony Carroll.