Rain on Friday evening and even more the following morning ensured the ground at Haydock Park was soft on Saturday. Such conditions proved no obstacle for Alounak who registered his first win in nearly two years in the Old Newton Cup. The six year old continued the terrific form of Andrew Balding providing the Kingsclere stable with their first win in the race since Rada's Daughter landed the twelve furlongs event in 2000. Top 40 Prospects entry My Frankel (11/1) ran well in third position making good late headway. Sir Michael Stoute's four year old raced too keenly at York last time hence he was held up here by Richard Kingscote. As a result, he was last turning for home before staying on well. Beaten around three lengths, he is capable of better still and proved he handles testing ground (had disappointed twice on a slow surface previously).
The most frustrating result of the afternoon came earlier on the card at the Merseyside track. Having backed Dhushan ante-post earlier in the week (Monday) for the one mile six handicap, it was annoying to say the least when the 11/4 favourite was withdrawn seconds before the off due to a spread plate. Admittedly, the soft ground was an unknown but it would have been a surprise if William Haggas' progressive three year old hadn't been involved in the shake-up. That is one of the perils of betting ante-post with no refund forthcoming.
While the majority of the nation were watching England beat Ukraine in the Euros, I had an enjoyable evening at Carlisle. Tim Easterby was the star of the show with the Great Habton trainer sending out three winners. The highlight came in the concluding eleven furlongs maiden. The twice race Praiano was all the rage in the market beforehand but Roger Varian's charge had no answer to Hard To Fault. The son of Harzand had shaped nicely on his first two starts at Thirsk and Catterick and took another step forward here with a length and three quarters win under Duran Fentiman. Indeed his rider spent the last half furlong pulling his mount up - the winning margin grossly flattered the runner-up. It will be interesting to see what mark Hard To Fault is allocated but he has a bright future and can win a nice middle distance handicap this summer/Autumn before making an even better four year old. He reminds me of stablemate Fishable who had a similar profile last year. He is a smashing prospect.
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