An impressive crowd descended on Wolverhampton Racecourse for last Thursday's afternoon meeting, a transfer from Great Yarmouth. A menu of eight races included a tricky maiden, several handicaps featuring familiar horses and an intriguing Class 4 involving unexposed 3 year olds - plenty for punters to sink their teeth into.
Amongst the jockeys appearing at the meeting were Paul Hanagan with duties for his retainer Hamdan Al Maktoum, all-weather stalwarts Adam Kirby and Luke Morris, plus Silvestre De Sousa as he chases the Jockeys Championship.
With much discussion regarding dwindling desire to win the title, De Sousa's commitment to the cause and will to succeed cannot be doubted. Matt Chapman raised concerns in his column within the Favourite pullout for The Sun, suggesting that a review of the Championship is required due to a number of nagging issues with the way that it is currently run. He advocates a points system where higher class races mean more points for jockeys and it will be interesting to see how things develop. All the same, it's refreshing to see Silvestre push himself with a view to achieving the accolade.
It was De Sousa and the previously mentioned Morris who battled it out in the first race, riding joint favourites Shadow Game and Sun'aq respectively. With Mark Johnston in such fine form many couldn't see past Shadow Game, but it was the Sir Mark Prescott debutant Sun'aq (pictured below) that showed an impressive turn of foot to scoot clear in the final couple of furlongs. Only time will tell just how good this 67,000 guineas filly could be but it was certainly an eye-catching start.
Next up was a low grade maiden handicap where the strongly fancied Duffel was bidding to erase the memory of ordinary maiden form and make the trip from Newmarket worthwhile for the Luca Cumani stable. Much like stablemate Handbell less than a month before, Duffel made an accomplished all-weather debut to win with a fair bit in hand. Behind in second was the hard-working Morris on Man of Music trained by Tony Carroll who was at the racecourse, fresh from a 2,204/1 four-timer at Brighton the previous day.
In the following race, De Sousa picked up the win he craved aboard Bread for trainer Ivan Furtado, who is enjoying a growing reputation within racing. Furtado has been cleverly utilising the reinvigorated De Sousa on a regular basis and the results are clear to see. The big race of the day was sandwiched by a seller won by the David Evans trained Just Marion under another enterprising rid by Kirby, and a Class 5 handicap won by Sands Chorus thanks to a great front running effort by Tom Eaves, holding off the fast-finishing grey, Ainslie. The selling handicap was marred by a fall from Spirit In Time by Rosie Jessop - we wish her a speedy recovery and hope that she is back riding soon.
As has been said, the Class 4 handicap represented the most intriguing race of the meeting. Five unexposed horses lined up, all from top Newmarket stables, thus showing the expanding appeal of the Wolverhampton Tapeta. Originally seen as a straight fight for favouritism between William Haggas' Zaaneh and Roger Varian's Faddwa, David Simcock's Cartier went off as the well-backed favourite - perhaps the fact that the all-conquering De Sousa was on board had a part to play in that. With Clive Brittain's Teosroyal setting a decent pace from the front, Zaaneh settled in behind in second and kick on round the bend to be eventually driven home with great finesse by Hanagan (pictured below). Faddwa, a course and distance winner on debut, and Cartier both never really got going but are definitely not horses to give up on just yet.
The winners of the last two races are both well-known to regular Wolverhampton racegoers. The penultimate race saw nine previous course winners out of a total thirteen runners line up. A sweeping run around the outside saw Idol Deputy flash home to win under local jockey Racheal Kneller, a combination that has worked well for trainer James Bennett. With what may prove to be a similarly mutually beneficial relationship, the final race was won by course regular Black Truffle, under a determined ride by another claimer, Josephine Gorden, finding the gaps at the right time. The strong favourite Paladin, a former Goldophin inmate no less, turned out to be a pal to the bookies as it finished a close second having fought back against the victor just too late.
A fantastic day's racing all round, it will be fascinating to see where some of these horses go from here. Is it a case of the sky's the limit for Sun'aq? Will Duffel have future high class races in the bag? Is Zaaneh climbing the ratings towards bigger and better things? Watch out for these horse as their reputations grow and visit the racecourse to see the beginning of yet more #WolvesForm stories.
Author: Luke Archer (firstname.lastname@example.org)