It is not too often that a trainer abrogates all responsibility for the prowess of his charge in the aftermath of a top-level success, but Henry Daly did here yesterday.
"Not much to do with me," he said on welcoming Hand Inn Hand into the winner's circle after a foot-perfect, for once, victory in the Ascot Chase, "Yogi Breisner is the one. It's him that gets him jumping and he deserves the credit."
Breisner is a Scandinavian former eventing rider whose expertise has in recent seasons been a must-have among handlers of steeplechasers and is a Yogi who is clearly smarter than the average guru. Hand Inn Hand, talented but rather disrespectful where obstacles are concerned (he had fallen when going well at Cheltenham seven days previously), was taken to sit at the master's feet just a few hours before he ran yesterday, and it was a lesson well learned. The gelding, ridden by Mark Bradburne, negotiated the stiff fences here in some style to take the Grade One two-and-a-half miler by four lengths from Impek.
Bradburne and Hand Inn Hand jumped more showjumping-style fences in Breisner's indoor school during the morning than they did out on the track in the afternoon. "Going round and round, jumping big oxers made of poles, makes him concentrate," said Bradburne. "He's inclined to be a buzzy horse, and the repetition gets him minded to the job, helps him relax and think about what he's doing with his forelegs. He's a good jumper, but he tends to get a bit low. The work with Yogi gets him up in the air a bit."
Hand Inn Hand, a 15-2 shot, powered his way to the front three out, with Impek in his wake. The pair had the race between them in the straight, and the falls of the 6-4 favourite Tiutchev, a dual winner of the contest, two out when a fading fourth, and Fondmort at the last, when held in third, had no effect on the principal placings. "Perhaps I went to the front a bit too soon," said Bradburne, "as his attention tends to go when he's in the lead. But he was jumping well off his hocks and I just gave him a slap and that got his concentration." If the eight-year-old revisits Cheltenham at next month's Festival it will be in the Cathcart Chase, also Impek's target.
Yesterday's victory was a feather in the cap for British jump breeding. Hand Inn Hand, a powerful dark bay who runs in the Manchester City-inspired colours of his owner-breeder Patrick Burling, is a son of the rising stallion star Alflora, once a smart miler with Clive Brittain and now the great white hope of the domestic industry.
The conditions were foul here, but Bradburne, a journeyman of the weighing room who was scoring his most valuable success, hardly noticed. "You don't, riding a big strong horse like that," he said through a mask of mud, "especially when you win."
And a nightmare drive from Presteigne, Powys, produced a dream result for Richard Lee when his charge Mythical King prevailed in the day's feature hurdle at 33-1. The seven-year-old, owned by livestock haulier Richard Edwards, took advantage of his light weight in the heavy ground to account for Kadara by four lengths. "We had to come right over the top of the Cotswolds," said Lee. "I drove the lorry myself and it was frightening the way the gale force winds were tugging at it. But I don't expect we'll notice it as much going home."
On an afternoon that was not for the faint-hearted out on the track, Mythical King showed that size is not necessarily important. Whereas Hand Inn Hand stands a good 17 hands, he could not be more than 15.2. "He's as hard as nails," added Lee, "a real toughy. I was sure that there was a decent race in him but the handicapper has been a bit hard on him. He's much better in a decent-class race like this, off a low weight."
The result was a good one for Richard Johnson, the second leg of a double after being diverted from abandoned Uttoxeter, and for the sponsors William Hill; and a demonstration of why bookmakers tend to back competitive handicaps. The prize fund was £45,000 and estimated betting turnover £120,000, of which little had to be returned.
Another to benefit from the abandonment at the Midlands track was Tyneandthyneagain, who was re-routed from one Grand National trial to another, the three-mile contest at Doncaster usually known as the Great Yorkshire Chase. The nine-year-old, ridden by Henry Oliver, outstayed and outslogged his rivals to take a war of attrition by six eased-down lengths. He is owned by Norman Mason and trained by Richard Guest, who so famously teamed up to take the Aintree marathon three years ago with Red Marauder.
"He'll run in any three-mile plus chase where we get these conditions," said Guest, "but they don't really happen that often at Liverpool."Reuse content