Kuala Lipis has last word

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The Independent Online
The nose job had it as Kuala Lipis inched out Hawksley Hill in a thrilling finish to the Worthington Lincoln Handicap here yesterday. And for once, the market proved a reasonable guide to the first betting conundrum of the Flat season. The winner was a well-backed 11-1 shot and the runner-up and third-placed Tumbleweed Ridge the 7-1 joint-favourites. The only bookmakers' friend in the frame was Iamus, fourth at 50-1.

The 24-runner cavalry charge down the straight mile went to the very last stride. Approaching the final furlong Tumbleweed Ridge looked set to land a gamble when Michael Tebbutt sent him clear, but his stride began to shorten in the last 200 yards and first Kuala Lipis, then Hawksley Hill, swept past.

Kuala Lipis, named after a Malayan mountain town, ran straight and true to the line under forceful driving from Richard Quinn, but Hawksley Hill veered right towards his rival - through no fault of his rider Jimmy Quinn, who was plying his whip in his correct right hand - and delivered him a hefty bump close home. But the short-head verdict went Kuala Lipis's way, relieving the stewards of the onus of rearranging the result.

The winner, a lightly raced son of Lear Fan owned by Sultan Ahmad Shah, is a big, strong individual, and was well able to cope with the buffeting. His victory was the culmination of a well-executed plan: the race had been his target all winter and he did not run unsupported, having been backed from 33-1 after a warm-up fourth place on the all-weather two weeks ago.

Neither his trainer Paul Cole, on a skiing break, nor owner was present, but his Whatcombe stable's travelling head lad Chris Sharpe explained the secret of the colt's success. "He had a sinus problem last year and couldn't breathe properly, which meant he had a light season," Sharpe said. "But we drilled a hole in his nose and cleared everything out, and he's been doing some really good work at home."

The draw is often influential in the Lincoln, but the field stayed together in the centre of the course and Kuala Lipis, from stall 21, and Hawksley Hill, drawn six, met in the middle. Quinn said: "That was the place to be and I was able to edge over. I was off the bridle and struggling a little at half-way, but I kept pushing and my horse is very genuine and gives everything. And, to be honest, I've seen better-class Lincolns."

The historic handicap, for all its unpredictability over its 144-year existence, rides high in Barry Hills' estimation, for the good reason that it was the proceeds of a mighty punt on 1968 winner Frankincense that launched his own career. The master of South Bank also considers the spacious, galloping Town Moor track, with its sweeping turns and fair camber, a particularly good one - "In my view it's one of the finest courses in the world" - and yesterday, with the help of his jockey son Michael, added to his fond memories of the place with a 1,686-1 four-timer.

Hills pere et fils took the March Handicap with Share Delight, the Gainsborough Spring Conditions Stakes with Derby entry Musalsal, the Cammidge Trophy with Royal Applause and the Selby Maiden Stakes with Cadeaux Cher.

Royal Applause bounced back to his high-class juvenile form of two years ago and looks set for a successful season as a top-level sprinter. He was in control in the final two furlongs and has the Abernant Stakes at Newmarket next month as his next target.

Musalsal, a Sadler's Wells colt, is on an upward learning curve at this stage and with a slowish early pace was inclined to run free, but Hills junior conserved enough of his energy to get him home a short-head in front of Handsome Ridge without being unduly hard.

His next stop is likely to be the Dee Stakes at Chester. Hills said: "He will be much better off a faster pace. He was a bit fresh and keen today but he has a bit of class and will be better over a mile and a half."

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