Well it is safe to say that Saturday will live long in the memory as BETTYS HOPE flew home in the final furlong to claim victory in the £250,000 Weatherbys Super Sprint emulating the success of Lord Kintyre twenty two years previously and provided the yard with its biggest prize money haul since Sergeant Cecil landed the Ebor back in 2005. Sometimes in racing you need some luck and we certainly had plenty of that on our side on Saturday as somehow our bargain buy Betty literally hit the front yards from the winning post and recorded a landmark victory that has propelled the yard back into the headlines.
Every year we head to the yearling sales on the lookout for potential winners but in the back of our minds is one race and one target, the Weatherbys Super Sprint. Back in 1997 Lord Kintyre’s success effectively saved Rod’s training career and has enabled the family business to thrive and prosper over a thirty year period. The Super Sprint itself has become a much harder race to win; we had the runner-up in 2001 with Cop Hill Lad while El Bosque went on to finish fourth in 2006 but in recent years we have not had many runners in the race due to the increasing focus on early season two-year-olds from the bigger operations. As a result, those strong potentially early season colts we used to buy, like Lord Kintyre, Whitbarrow, Cop Hill Lad are now well outside of our budget and it has become difficult to compete. However, in the last few years we have switched to buying a few more fillies that while not commercially popular, look like they could be racehorses and it is fair to say that we found a star when purchasing Bettys Hope for £3,000.
A professional from day one, Betty was the first of our two-year-olds to hit the track in April and she ran a lovely race on her debut, only finding the very speedy Lady Kermit too good at Kempton on the AW. Two weeks later, she headed north for what we thought was a winnable opportunity at Beverley but lost out by a nose before picking up another second when failing to handle the fibresand at Southwell. After three quick races, she had a month off but stepped up to six furlongs, she ran out a ready winner at Chepstow and as far as we were concerned, that was job done for a cheaply bought filly and anything else would be a bonus. Allotted a fair initial mark of 75, we decided to wait for the nurseries to start rather than trying to defy a penalty in a Novice and she ran in the first Nursery of the season, a £20,000 contest at Chelmsford. Off just 8st4lb under Hollie Doyle, she made all of the running to beat Oh Purple Reign (second in Woodcote) by a neck and it was the perfect trial for the Super Sprint.
After the entries were made on Monday, it was pretty stressful trying to find a light weight jockey when they were all in demand on a very busy Saturday. With both Hollie and Kieran O’Neill, our usual light weight jockeys having to go to Newmarket, we were pleasantly surprised to see that Champion Jockey Silvestre De Sousa was available and soon secured his services. On Thursday, declarations were made and getting stall 25 was a concern, as she was well away from the fancied horses drawn low to middle and the stands side has often being a disadvantage at the Berkshire track this season. Then the heavy rain that fell on Thursday morning turned the watered ground into a bit of a mess and having shown she was very effective on quick ground, we were certainly concerned that it wouldn’t suit . All in all, we went into Saturday’s race more in hope than expectation and would have been delighted if she had finished in the top ten and covered her entry fees.
However, what we thought might be disadvantages actually turned into some pretty big positives. While the draw on the stands side might not have been the best, a day and a half’s worth of racing on very soft ground had all taken place down the centre of the track which meant that Betty would be racing on fresh ground near the stands side rail. Once the gates opened, Betty was predictably outpaced in the early stages, her wins coming over an extra furlong but that very soft ground meant it was much harder for the out and out sprinters to last the distance and it brought her relative stamina into play. Two furlongs from home, Silvestre asked her for everything, switched her right into clear daylight as the field had merged into the middle of the track and she soon started picking off her rivals. Still only sixth entering the final furlong, she really stuck her head out under maximum pressure from Silvestre and hit the front yards from the line to claim the £123,000 first prize by a neck. Luck was clearly on our side, especially as she had also got a bit upset in the stalls and it has enabled us to have a day that we will never forget.
As for Betty, future plans are pretty fluid. The handicapper has put her up ten pounds to a mark of 89. Therefore, she would have to run to around 95 to land a valuable nursery and if she can run to that kind of level, she should be able to pick up some black type which would enhance her future broodmare career and it is probably where we will head. Whatever happens, it is safe to say Betty owes us nothing in the future!
We have been overwhelmed by all the calls, messages, emails and social media responses we have had on the back of this success and are extremely grateful for them all. It means so much to everyone at the yard and we are really pleased to show everyone what we can do as a stable given the appropriate resources.
As a family, we would also like to extend our gratitude to our fabulous team of staff, whose hard work and endeavors have meant that we are enjoying our best season in years. We would also like to thank all of our owners, some of whom have been loyal supporters of the yard over many seasons as without your support, we would not be able to remain in business and Saturday would never have happened. Hopefully there are many more big winners for us all to come.