To a brass band fanfare and roared on by the hordes who made it to Lingfield on time through Easter traffic jams, Viewpoint and teenager Cam Hardie made sporting history yesterday when they won the first race to be staged in Britain on a Good Friday.
Not everybody is happy about it, but it is hard to imagine the BHA decision to race on what was traditionally one of the few days off for the industry being reversed, as racegoers flocked to Lingfield and Musselburgh, thrilled to be freed from another traipse around Ikea.
Lingfield, in particular, with a sellout record crowd of close to 9,000 watching the richest all-weather racecard ever staged in Britain, has surely inked in a permanent Good Friday place in the calendar.
Viewpoint’s victory in the £50,000 opener was merely a taster for several far more valuable contests, culminating in the grandly named Easter Classic, worth £200,000.
On the way, the 2,000 Guineas entry Ertijaal justified odds-on favouritism in the seven-furlong race for three-year-olds. It was no more than a workmanlike display and it would take a giant leap of faith to believe that he could trouble Kingman at Newmarket, but William Haggas’s colt did leave the impression that he would be better suited by a step up to a mile.
Ever more boisterous, punters had more to shout about when the heavily backed market leader Litigant dug deep to land the Marathon. The six-year-old’s connections won more than five times in prize-money than they laid out for him at the sales last year.
The 78-rated Living The Life, bought for comparative peanuts as a yearling, had already provided a rags-to-riches tale in the Fillies’ and Mares’ Stakes, while also benefiting from an enterprising front-running ride from Adam Kirby, the all-weather champion jockey for the second successive year.
But after Alben Star and Captain Cat had both pounced late to win the Sprint and the Mile respectively, it was the classiest animal on show, the 117-rated Grandeur, who appropriately had the last say on a famous afternoon, although he made hard work of winning.
A wonderful season for Jamie Moore, peaking when Sire De Grugy won the Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last month, could get even better this afternoon when he partners Kian’s Delight (2.05 Haydock) in the Levy Board Handicap Chase.
Moore, who teamed up with Kian’s Delight’s trainer, Peter Bowen, to win last Saturday’s Scottish Grand National on Al Co, rides this progressive six-year-old for the first time and hopes are high following a most encouraging comeback run at Aintree.
The David Pipe-trainedHeath Hunter (2.40 Haydock) was a warm order for a competitive handicap at Ascot last time, but aggressive tactics backfired as he ran out of steam on the soft ground. Under less testing underfoot conditions today, he looks well worth another chance in the Grassroots Series Final.
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