Good Birthday was disqualified after crossing the line in front at Newmarket earlier this month but Andrew Balding's charge gained ample compensation when taking the Zetland Gold Cup at Redcar on Bank Holiday monday. Without a win since August 2019, the five year old had dropped to a mark of 88 following a losing streak of twelve races. Making good headway approaching the final furlong, he stayed on well to beat the favourite Makram by half a length. The King Power owned gelding collected £16,200. One of my favourite winners of the race, River North earned by his connections £16,180 in 1993. No wonder owners are up in arms re prize-money.
The hard luck story of the race was undoubtedly Highwaygrey. The five year old, who had won at Doncaster on his previous start. was racing off a career high mark of 89 and was drawn wide in stall 10. David Allan elected to drop his mount in during the closing stages and was still at the rear entering the homestraight. Travelling strongly though, he was making headway until meeting trouble in running with a couple of furlongs to run. Pulled to the outside, Tim Easterby's charge flew home but found the winning post coming too soon. Beaten less than two lengths, I strongly believe he would have won with a clear passage. Compensation hopefully awaits but this was a missed opportunity. Plus, he is most unlikely to be 18/1 next time.
Sir Michael Stoute has a progressive three year old on his hands in the lightly raced Zikany. A half-brother to Dubka, who won 4 times for the same yard, he had finished runner-up over ten furlongs on his handicap debut at Lingfield earlier this month. Relishing the step up to a mile and a half at Windsor on Monday, he galloped his opponents into submission before registering a five lengths victory off a mark of 71. Even allowing for a hefty rise in the weights, he looks capable of defying it and will have no trouble staying further, too. My mole in the Stoute camp described the three year old as 'a sleeping giant' on page 119 of Ahead On The Flat. It is difficult to argue with that.
Well done to bloodstock agent Sam Haggas who highlighted Epidemic (2/1) as a horse to follow on page 51 of AOTF. The son of Exceed And Excel was bought for £13,000 having raced only three times for Richard Hannon. Gelded since joining George Boughey, he made a winning start to his three year old career when scoring by three parts of a length off a mark of 60 on his handicap debut at Windsor. He looks a shrewd acquisition.
Finally, one piece of news which I gleamed whilst racing at Haydock on Saturday which has yet to be made public knowledge. David O'Meara's exciting three year old Twilight Spinner is in the process of being sold and has changed hands. The daughter of Twilight Son won the Listed Cecil Frail Stakes at Haydock by six and a half lengths on only her third start this month. She will be racing for a major yard in Ireland next time she is in action.
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