More than 1,000 spectators returned to Carlisle Racecourse for the first time since 2019.
It was a turnout which delighted Carlisle’s general manager Molly Dingwall, who said: “It’s just been so exciting to have people back here today. To see so many familiar faces has been lovely and racedays are like a family, everybody knows each other and it’s so nice for them to be back racing again.
“I’d like to thank all of our loyal customers who have come back to us after a difficult period and all of the trainers who continue to support us. It’s been around 18 months since we last had Flat racing here, so it’s really pleasing to see such a well-supported card and I can’t wait to welcome everyone back once again.”
Karl Burke feels that it’s only a matter of time before we see the potentially smart El Caballo take the step up into Group company, after the two year old colt got off the mark at the second attempt in really good style in the British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes at Carlisle yesterday.
The five furlong contest has a habit of producing a particularly useful winner, with the 2018 victor Cosmic Law going on to win the Woodcote Stakes at Epsom Downs, while Rayong went on to be placed at Listed level after winning this for Burke in 2019.
It provided a welcome winner for Burke on his 58th birthday and he revealed that he’s keeping his options open with this son of Havana Gold, who pulled away from his nine rivals in the final furlong to score by two and a half lengths under Sam Jones.
He said of the winning Evens favourite: “He’s a lovely horse and he’s a horse who I think will definitely be stepping up into Group races at some point as a two year old.
“He handles the (soft) ground but I don’t think he needs it, so where we go from here I’m not sure. I think six furlongs will be his trip, we could go to Ascot but whether the Coventry Stakes would be a step too far at this point I’m not sure.
“Rayong ran well at Ascot and this fella would run well over five in the Windsor Castle if we went down that route but we’ve got plenty of time to think about it.
“Havana Gold is having a great start to his year and David Redvers said to me that this is the best batch of mares that he’s had so we’re expecting good things.”
The eight-race card was Carlisle’s first Flat meeting since September 2019 and it coincided with the return of spectators to the racecourse and there were just over 1,000 paying customers at the Cumbria track to enjoy the meeting.
Those in attendance were treated to some exciting finishes on the day, including in the feature race the Penrith Handicap over six furlongs, which saw 7-2 chance End Zone swoop late to win by half a length for the Roger Fell team.
The race is a qualifier for the Jockey Club Grassroots Sprint Series, which culminates at Nottingham on Wednesday 29th September, and winning jockey Callum Rodriguez was full of praise for the initiative – which aims to offer enhanced prize money to horses operating below Group and Listed level.
He said: “He’s come down a bit in the weights and has obviously come on for his first run of the year – he’s stuck at it well. It’s potentially a nice prize for him to aim at later in the year now and it’s nice for the owners, Middleham Park Racing, who are all here today and I’m sure they’re all having a great day.”
The most exciting finish of the day came in the Thursby Handicap over a mile, which produced a four-way photo finish. It was the Karen Tutty-trained Tangled (20-1) who came out on top under Gemma Tutty and his handler was pleased to get a bit of good fortune with the six year old, who tends need a bit of luck in his races.
She said: “I’m thrilled with that. The thing is he has to be ridden for luck and come through the field and we always seem to get boxed in, but he’s done it really well.
“We were nervous about going further on this ground, but he’s stayed every yard and it’s panned out very well for once! Where I was stood I thought he had got it, but we had to wait ages for the verdict and I’m always wary of celebrating too soon. He’s not one you can get out that quick, but we may look at Beverley for him in a fortnight or so.”
Elsewhere on the card, there was a welcome return to form for Somewhere Secret (16-1), who picked up a sixth career success when prevailing in a photo in the Blackwell Handicap over five furlongs for the Michael Mullineaux team.
Three of Somewhere Secret’s five wins prior to this victory had come at nearby Haydock Park, but Mullineaux felt the seven year old appreciated the soft conditions. He said: “He’s got out well today, the last twice he hasn’t got out of the stalls because of one thing or another. But he’s been in good order though to be fair and is a nice big sort.
“We got a good draw today and he loved the ground. He loves Haydock when it’s soft, so the softer the better really because he just gallops through it like it’s not there. If it stays wet, there will be another one for him but he’s not one you can turn out too quick. Hopefully it stays wet and if it doesn’t his brother Secretinthepark will go out as he likes it dry!”
One horse to note could be the Brian Ellison-trained Pallas Lord, who took a firm step forward from his first two outings when showing a good attitude to land the first division of the Durdar Maiden Stakes over seven furlongs at 9-1.
And winning jockey Harry Russell was pleased with what he saw. He said: “We’ve always liked him and his first two runs were a massive learning curve for him. I think the stiff track and the soft ground has played massively into his hands today and it was quite a taking performance so I’m delighted with him.”
It proved to be fourth time lucky in the penultimate race for 7-1 hope Helm Rock, who seemed to relish the conditions when recording a two and three quarter length success under James Sullivan.
It rewarded a long journey from Lambourn for trainer Claire Kubler, who was pleased with what she saw. She said: “We’re delighted with that, especially with coming all the way up north to Carlisle, it’s a fair journey but it paid off. We debated the trip a bit, we ran over a mile three times and he just didn’t quite see the trip out so we thought about dropping back to seven and it’s worked out well today.”
Jockey Sam James enjoyed a first and last race double when he took the concluding mile and three furlongs Brisco Handicap on 15-8 favourite Seventeen O Four. The four year old rallied well in the closing stages to take the honours by a length and a half.
Successful trainer Grant Tuer said: “Stepping him up in trip has certainly worked and to be honest that looked to be all stamina and he’d probably go further. If I was to run him again I’d probably go up to a mile and six furlongs I think and I wouldn’t be able to go to two miles.
“But he’s in the sales on Thursday, so whether we keep him or not I’m not sure.”