Many trainers with limited resources can impress at a corresponding level, but the most instructive measure of their acuity is how they set about making the most of a horse eligible for higher grades. That is when you will often see them exposed, excitably shooting for the moon. In his campaigning of Winning Express, then, Ed McMahon must be commended in both raising and lowering the stakes.
He was thoroughly vindicated, for instance, in persevering towards the 1,000 Guineas with this filly, despite defeat in her trial and doubts about the extra furlong at Newmarket. Just about last off the bridle, Winning Express faded only in the climb out of the Dip and held out for fourth – not bad for a £16,000 breeze-up filly. Already placed in Group One company at two, she has since had her Guineas form franked at the highest level by both the winner, Sky Lantern, and runner-up, Just The Judge.
Even so, McMahon has now shown the consistency of his judgement by resisting the glitter of Royal Ascot last week, in favour of a Listed race at Warwick tomorrow – the demands of which might have been tailor-made for Winning Express. For regardless of a likely edge in class, she should also be ideally suited by the drop in trip back to seven furlongs round such a sharp track.
"We were running on fresh air for the last half-furlong at Newmarket, so we have to come back in trip," McMahon said. "It was an obvious choice, rather than the Coronation or Jersey Stakes. This race is just a natural progression, and then it's on to Goodwood and Doncaster."
With Francis Norton suspended, and Richard Hughes claimed for Victrix Ludorum, Winning Express will have a new jockey in James Doyle – seeking to sustain the momentum of his breakthrough treble at Ascot last week.
Mind you, those who routinely ply their trade in the sport's midstream will testify that it is at least as hard to win one of the two historic handicaps staged at Carlisle as any bauble at the royal meeting. As such, it is plainly no coincidence that both should have been won by members of the Easterby clan. Nowadays the most valuable 0-85 handicaps in the calendar, the Carlisle Bell and Cumberland Plate were so competitive that the range of weights spanned only 5lb and each was duly won by a horse artfully qualified with a ceiling rating of 85. Silvery Moon took the Bell, a prize traced back to 1599 and so considered the oldest on the British Turf, for Tim Easterby; and Warlu Way, likewise by a head in a driving finish, added the Plate for his uncle, Mick.
Chris Mcgrath's Nap
Amazing Blue Sky (4.00 Newcastle) Very well treated after a lean spell and, having shown signs of renewal of late, seems to have found a race he can readily dominate from the front.
Tight Fit (7.10 Leicester) Has repeatedly looked one to follow since switched to handicaps, and duly relished the return to this 7f trip at Salisbury last time.
One to watch
Gelded since winning his maiden at two, Veeraya (William Haggas) made a fine start in handicaps at Newmarket last Saturday, just failing to get up after travelling smoothly.