Family Fun Day at Dunstall Park meant a combination of children’s entertainment and the usual array of exhilarating racing, proving to be a match made in heaven. Pony rides, inflatable attractions and appearances from Peppa Pig kept the little ones happy whilst the parents took in the delights of the action on the Tapeta.
Rain threatened to dampen the spirits of the racegoers before and during the first race, but the weather soon brightened up and followers of Richard Fahey were left with more reasons than just the improving conditions to celebrate. The Harry Dunlop trained Pouliche attempted to steal the race from the front, with the drop back to five furlongs looking like it would work the magic for connections for most of the way. In the end though, Penwortham was a very worthy winner. No more than mid pack up to the last turn, Fahey's charge travelled fantastically with jockey Tom Eaves pretty much motionless as the colt streaked through to win in the final furlong. Having received my praise for a great front running ride on Sands Chorus in last week's blog, Eaves showed his versatility here and he is undoubtedly always one to watch at Wolves. The debutant Baltic Histoire proved to be one of the best backed horses in the race and, despite well-liked jump jockey Robert 'Choc' Thornton joining the owners Apple Tree Stud in the parade ring due to a long-held relationship with them, the filly ultimately disappointed by finishing dead last.
The second race was a claimer and proved to be a competitive affair, not least in the market with several horses close at the top of the betting. It was Roaring Rory, as opposed to a clutch of four rivals at shorter odds, which won at 4/1. Leading throughout, the gelding held off the challengers with a well-timed move by Jacob Butterfield to push on as they rounded the final bend. The winner got into a bit of a bumping match with Hot Stuff for one or two strides but there was no foul play and no enquiry was called. Favourite Thee And Me stayed on late but didn't quite have enough to reach the winner. A strong contingent of winning owners cheered him home which was brilliant to see. In fact, the photographer struggled to fit them all into the winners’ enclosure photo!
The next race took the form of a fascinating maiden. The strong favourite was Our Joy, arriving at Dunstall off the back of a run at Royal Ascot where the filly was as short as 9/1 at the off in a strongly-contested maiden. Even having considered this, it is not often a Godolphin horse is overlooked for favouritism, especially with retained jockey William Buick making the trip for the one ride aboard Spennithorne. It was the 'boys in blue' who took the race in the end, Buick riding to perfection. He got the horse well positioned straight out of the stalls, following the pacesetters and then kicking on round the bend to win with consummate ease. Buick's move into such a good position actually kept Adam Kirby on Our Joy, next to Spennithorne in the stalls, further out wide than he would have liked. At The Races pundits said remarked that it could almost be said that the move from Buick and the effect that it had on Our Joy's position won the race in the first 100 yards. The enigmatic Silvestre De Sousa was second on Caitie for Paul Cole and 80/1 shot Ice Dream outran it's odds for Tom Dascombe and Richard Kingscote to finish third.
Racecourse regulars could be forgiven for thinking that the feature race was a case of déjà vu. Old Wolverhampton favourite Reggie Bond brushed aside a 3lb rise in the weights for his previous course and distance win to take first place. Promising young jockey George Chaloner wound him up and then let him go at the perfect time to scoot clear of another course regular in Berlusca by three and a half lengths. It is clear that Reggie thrives on the Tapeta and it is fitting for this win to coincide with the first anniversary of the new surface being laid. Favourite She's Gorgeous looked well within a chance under Freddie Tylicki for James Fanshawe with a couple of furlongs left but soon weakened and perhaps could not handle the added burden of a 10lb rise in the weights.
The fifth race was the longest of the day at one mile and four furlongs. De Sousa would have fancied his chances aboard the Chris Dwyer trained Noguchi, holding the gelding up in third behind the pacesetters. No such luck though as Noguchi was soon struggling with four furlongs of the trip left to run. Born To Be Bad at the front was followed by Trimoulet who looked relatively comfortable all the way and won the day once released up the inner rail under Tom Queally. The winner posted an impressive time, 1.68 seconds less than the standard time for the trip at the track. Sweetheart Abbey came off the pace late for Kirby and turned out to be the closest threat to the victor but it was a convincing win in truth.
I was taken by the performance of Luca Cumani's Handbell at Wolves last month, pondering the question of 'Where Next?' Representing owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum in the same colours as King George winner Postponed, the filly returned to the scene of its win for a tight handicap involving five runners. However, perhaps this question was all the more pertinent as outsider of the field Lady Estella shocked the odds-on favourite to win the day. Handbell was under pressure and struggling in the last furlong or so and Lady Estella flashed down the outside of the field, fending off an inside rail challenge from You're My Cracker. The market, placing Handbell at 4/6, equally suggested that much was expected of her after the previously-mentioned impressive maiden win at Dunstall but Marco Botti's horse, under a top ride by Mark Monaghan, brought Handbell back down to earth.
In the final race, previous course winners Bread and Cisco Boy were the top two in the betting. Both jockeys in this apprentice handicap, Ross Atkinson and Rachel Richardson respectively, sought to track the pace set by front runner Dad’s Girl under Robert Dodsworth. Bread went first trying to pick off the field and Cisco Boy had an effort up the inner rail but it was Kodiac Lady, a maiden up to this point, who stayed on nicely under 7lb claimer Hollie Doyle. Pacolita ran on behind as Monaghan tried to achieve a double and Chances Are ran on far too late for Louis Steward to trouble the winner. Again much was expected after Bread's previous winning performance under De Sousa a mere four days before and the odds clearly showed that. However, a poor draw in 7 may have meant that too much energy was used up in order to get the horse across towards the rail and this may well have proved critical.
Finally, a special mention must be given to Don’t Touch, again trained by Richard Fahey. Arriving at Wolverhampton last month as an unbeaten horse, having won a Class 5 maiden at Newcastle and Class 4 handicap at Haydock, it was apparent that this gelding was quickly climbing the ranks when lining up for a Class 3 handicap. Backers would have been worried at first as the gelding dwelt through the start of the race before taking closer order. That being said, the final two furlongs were mightily imposing and eye-catching. Soon making headway just over a furlong out, Tony Hamilton pulled off the perfect ride to lead inside the final furlong and scoot home with more authority than the half a length victory suggested. Fast forward to Saturday’s Great St Wilfrid Handicap at Ripon, the key day on the calendar for the racecourse. This again represented a step up for Don’t Touch in the form of a thirteen runner Class 2 Handicap no less. Almost a carbon copy of the Dunstall win, this performance was even more striking. Following the leaders on the stands side, Hamilton again rode the horse to challenge with around a furlong left, culminating in a remarkable move to flash home to lead in the final stride. A perfectly timed effort, it is well worth watching the replay if you missed it on the day. Constituting yet another #WolvesForm story, the next steps taken by Don’t Touch will no doubt prove to be compelling viewing whatever the result.