Pearl can pip Hawkeyethenoo's home challenge
Last week it was Camelot, named as though to restore a lost kingdom, who sought the first Triple Crown since 1970. Today Hawkeyethenoo, a lesser animal if himself also auspiciously christened, attempts to become the first horse since 1975 to keep Scotland's richest prize north of the border.
The problem is that, while it might seem typical if he were to see off 25 evenly matched rivals over six furlongs of mud when Camelot could not outclass his rivals at odds of 2-5, the chances are that others will prove better handicapped or better drawn in the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup.
Win, lose or draw, though, the way he has thrived for Jim Goldie testifies to the benefits available to horses trained in Scotland – home, also, to a number of flourishing jumping yards. Hawkeyethenoo reached a new peak in the similarly hectic Stewards' Cup at Goodwood, but Goldie feels that the testing conditions today will not suit him.
Hawkeyethenoo could manage only a midfield finish in similar ground last year, after all, when Our Jonathan bolted up. The latter, clearly primed for the defence, has been well backed off a mark just 1lb higher, while a strong case might be made for a dozen others. A presentable shortlist, however, might comprise The Cheka, Pintura, Waffle and Pearl Ice.
Having proved ideally suited by this trip and ground in Group company, The Cheka makes only his second career start in a handicap. Pintura is unexposed both for his new stable and as a sprinter, while Waffle's long losing run will some day be redressed by something spectacular in this grade or better. But less indulgence is required by his stablemate, Pearl Ice (3.30).
Having managed just three starts in his first two seasons, Pearl Ice joined David Barron and made rapid strides in soft ground this spring, desperately unlucky at Thirsk and then really impressive at Ripon. His next start, just three days later, came too soon and he then disappointed on faster going at Windsor. He was been castrated in the meantime and there is a significant air of purpose to the way his excellent trainer has put him aside for today and he looks good value at 20-1 with the sponsors.
Goldie sends a couple of respected raiders down to Newmarket for the Betfred Cesarewitch Trial, but the Mark Johnston-trained three-year-old Courtesy Call (3.55) has age on his side and promises better still for the longest trip he has yet attempted.
Channel 4 also has cameras at Newbury, where Mister Music (3.10) can prove himself ideally suited by a big field in the Dubai Duty Free Handicap. His jockey, Richard Hughes, continued his runaway surge to a first title with another double at the track yesterday, after riding six winners on Wednesday. He sounded impressed by Wentworth, trained by Richard Hannon for the Coolmore partners, after the York maiden winner ran down Chief Havoc in the Haynes, Hanson & Clark Conditions Stakes – a race that has announced many good horses over the years.
"I think I went by a good horse," the jockey said. "He's still weak and needs a winter on his back."
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