Following relentless rain on Friday and most of Saturday, the ground at Haydock Park yesterday was heavy. However, it was a successful day for followers of Ahead On The Flat with four of the seven winners featured. I was impressed with Mind The Crack (5/2) in the opening twelve furlongs three year old handicap. Mark Johnston's charge was an easy winner on his reappearance at Lingfield on fast ground nine days earlier and he made light work of an official rating of 83 at the Merseyside track at the weekend. Making all under Jason Hart, the gelded son of Jukebox Jury galloped his three opponents into the ground to win hard held by three lengths. The King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot later this month looks an obvious target, although it would be no surprise to see him given an entry in the Group 2 Queens Vase Stakes over an extra couple of furlongs. The longer trip is unlikely to hold any fears for this fast improving three year old.
David O'Meara suggested on page 78 that soft ground was the key to Cold Stare (12/1) and so it proved as the four year old successfully reverted back to six furlongs. Well held a couple of times over seven furlongs earlier in the season, Harry Bentley's mount travelled strongly before beating Lord Oberon by two and a quarter lengths. Fifth in the Ayr Silver Cup last year, he won off a mark of 92 on Saturday and looks Ayr Gold Cup material this time around, granted similar conditions. The Karl Burke trained runner-up performed much better than he had done on his reappearance at the same track. With his stable in much better form now, Lord Oberon is a horse to keep an eye on and he, too, could be an Ayr Gold Cup contender. Lightly raced, he has more to offer and is capable of winning a decent prize this term.
Well done to Ed Walker who nominated Came From The Dark (9/1) as his horse to follow in the Talking Trainers section of AOTF. Making his handicap debut off a mark of 75, he ran out a comfortable winner of the six furlongs handicap for three year olds. Luca Cumani's former assistant also sent out Caradoc (9/2) to win the finale at Newmarket - the lightly raced four year old, like Mind The Crack, is highlighted in the Handicap Snips section (page 107).
There were 7 winners in Ahead On The Flat on Saturday, namely Awe (3/1), Came From The Dark (9/1), Caradoc (9/2), Cold Stare (12/1), Klassique (7/2), Mind The Crack (5/2) and Neon Sea (8/11).
Finally, Micro Manage is featured in the What's The Craic In Ireland section of AOTF and Willie Mullins' three year old made a mockery of an opening handicap mark of 91 at the Curragh on Friday evening. The Rip Van Winkle colt had won easily at Tipperary as a juvenile and was strongly fancied on his handicap company being sent off evens favourite. Stepping up to twelve furlongs, Donnacha O'Brien's mount was cantering throughout and merely had to be pushed out to win by a dozen lengths from Cuban Hope. Future plans will be interesting but he certainly looks a Pattern horse in the making.
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