A moderate week of sport until the last couple of days but always something to caught the eye.
STABLE TO FOLLOW
It’s practically impossible to come up with something original in a world of information overkill and (at times) over-analysis. However, that must not stop us trying and a yard that continues to impress is that of Jo Hughes. Partner of former trainer Paul Blockley, Hughes is now in her third season as a handler, each of which has witnessed steady progression with 2013 well on course to be her best yet by some way. The yard predominantly operates at the lower end of the spectrum but is perfectly capable when provided with appropriate ammunition to aim higher. This season has also demonstrated that all-important ability to progress charges through the ranks with the likes of London Bridge a noteworthy example. Pay special attention when the money is down as the yard rarely leaves their cash behind. Earlier this week, Smart Payer was sent to Catterick to contest the direst of sellers, having been beaten 13.5l on debut when finishing fourth of five at Brighton over 6f. Upped to 7f, the juvenile was backed into 11/10 with supporters never having a moment’s worry, bounced out of the stalls by Frannie Norton to cruise home to a 10l success. Harbour Captain was another well-backed stable success at Salisbury on Saturday night for a yard that clearly knows the time of day.
PREDICTING A ROSIE FUTURE
Six years ago I watched a young apprentice called Rosie Jessop land a Yarmouth handicap at the Norfolk course’s prime meeting of the year in September – the 3-day eastern festival. Coolness and style hallmarked the ride for one Sir Mark Prescott – arguably a tough-as-teak task master. Six years on, Jessop, still attached to the Newmarket baronet, somewhat surprisingly can still claim the 5lb allowance. Maybe the decision was taken to develop and hone her skills steadily, and more especially her strength, but the fact remains that her best season came in that first year with 11 winners. Nevertheless, check out the figures and you discover that Jessop has ridden 41 winners over the past six seasons, each year at a strike rate of over 10% – a good figure for an apprentice pilot. This season rides have become more plentiful and it will be a disappointment if that best-ever tally of 11 is not surpassed by the conclusion of the current campaign. Recent highlights include two beautifully-timed late swoops on Catflap (Derek Haydn Jones) and Threetimesalady (Sir Mark) but the ride that plays in the mind this season was the make-all effort at Yarmouth on Peter Charalambous’ 11-year-old warrior Colinca’s Lad, on whom Jessop has now scored six times. The confirmed front-runner blasted off as usual before, in the words of the Racing Post analyst, ‘looking vulnerable’ from two furlongs down as the pack closed in. But Jessop nudged, coaxed and cajoled the old boy to repel all raiders and just inched home. It was a ride of a cool tactical brain and precision that would have been lauded to the skies had it come from a Moore or a Fallon. Rosie Jessop remains excellent value for her 5lb claim, looks far more the finished article in the saddle this term and should be a popular pilot for more yards at her current riding weight.
NOVELLIST A STAR
The King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes is no longer the race it was, not to people of a certain generation anyway. The days of Nijinsky, Mill Reef, Nashwan and Dancing Brave landing the prize are long gone it seems as many trainers eye later-season opportunities. However, Novellist was a spectacularly impressive winner this weekend and looks sure to take high rank at the top level for the rest of the season. A superb effort under the immaculate Johnny Murtagh.