King's long journey home brings handsome reward


Click to follow
The Independent Online

The best advice yesterday was to follow the teams in form, particularly those training on Wiltshire chalkland. At Newbury, Richard Hannon brought his score in this week's five recognised Guineas trials to three wins, two seconds when Olympic Glory and Maureen took, respectively, the Greenham and Dubai Duty Free Stakes. His nearish neighbour Alan King had a rather longer journey to work, 355 miles rather than 25, but found it worthwhile financially and emotionally as Godsmejudge took the Scottish Grand National at Ayr.

Though domiciled near Barbury Castle, King is Lanarkshire-born and once worked at the Cree Lodge stables next to the course at Ayr, and there was no doubt what taking the £102,000 prize – not only the day's, but Scotland's, richest – meant. "I was brought up an hour from here and used to work right here," he said, "and this is right up there with the Champion Hurdle or Champion Chase, any of the big wins I've had. To come here and do it in front of a crowd like this makes me very proud."

Godsmejudge, a 12-1 shot, is only a novice, but treated the four-mile marathon like an old hand. Given a pace-perfect ride by Wayne Hutchinson, he produced an impeccable round of jumping, with particularly bold, ground-gaining leaps over the final two obstacles putting paid to the hopes of his nearest pursuers, Big Occasion (12‑1) and Mister Marker (25-1). The seven-year-old, having only his seventh race over fences, came home four lengths clear, ears pricked.

"He found a fantastic rhythm and jumped great," Hutchinson said. "He's a little rubber ball with tons of scope. He didn't enjoy the hustle and bustle over the first few fences but I found him a bit of space and he found his gear, and I was the one lucky enough to be sitting on him."

For the past month King's horses have been running out of their skins and Godsmejudge's earnings yesterday took his trainer's tally into seven figures for the season, which ends on Saturday. "The weather made it a difficult, testing winter," he said, "but we've been patient, and we're now being rewarded."

The presence of the Grand National winner, Auroras Encore, trying to emulate Red Rum's Aintree-Ayr double 39 years ago, ensured a bumper crowd. But the Sue Smith-trained 11-year-old, hampered early, could not sustain an eye-catching forward move mid-race and was pulled up on the final circuit by Ryan Mania. "He was nearly brought down at the second," said the rider, "but he's come out of it unscathed."

With his Hannon stablemate and fellow Sheikh Fahad al-Thani colourbearer Toronado having established convincing credentials for the 2,000 Guineas in the Craven Stakes at Newmarket on Thursday (he is second-favourite behind Dawn Approach), yesterday's Greenham Stakes winner, Olympic Glory, will be diverted to Longchamp for the French version of the Classic. The Choisir colt, the 8-11 favourite, collared the leader, Sir Patrick Moore, inside the final furlong to score by a length, with Moohaajim third.

In the fillies' equivalent trial Maureen, like the colt ridden by Richard Hughes, beat Agent Allison decisively, and will line up in the 1,000 Guineas alongside her stablemate Sky Lantern. Both are about 10-1 for the Classic two weeks today.