Rambling Bear only just in time

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The Independent Online
Gazing at the downland scenery was by far the most rewarding pursuit on the opening day at Glorious Goodwood, as the first five races threw up four winners at 12-1 and another at 10-1, but it will have been a bitter punter indeed who did not find something to celebrate in the outcome of the King George Stakes.

For some it will have been the performance of Hever Golf Rose, one of the most willing and popular horses in training, who was giving weight to all 13 rivals but led from the start and seemed to have burned off her field with half a furlong to run. Others, though, will be glad that though she was eventually beaten by a blistering late run up the stands rail, the horse which caught her was Rambling Bear, from the small Lambourn yard of Michael Blanshard.

Indeed, even Joe Naughton, Hever Golf Rose's trainer, did not appear too upset. "I thought she had them cooked but we're not disappointed," he said. "I was going to give her a racecourse gallop this week but then I thought we might as well race here for the money. It almost paid off but I'm pleased for Michael Blanshard, it's great to see him win a race like this.''

Blanshard was recording only the second Pattern-race success of his 16- year career, and it was one which appeared most unlikely as Rambling Bear struggled to keep up in the furious early stages. When it really mattered, though, Ray Cochrane's mount appeared to be travelling at least twice as fast as any of his opponents, and as the leader tired, his last-second challenge proved irresistible.

The first two home may meet again at Longchamp in October, for the Group One Prix de l'Abbaye which Hever Golf Rose won last year. The mare, typically, will also be very busy in the meantime, with the Nunthorpe Stakes at York and Goldene Peitsche at Baden-Baden on the agenda, and her season will close in a valuable contest in the Far East.

The less glamorous surroundings of Doncaster's Town Moor are the target for at least three of the first four home in the Gordon Stakes. St Mawes was another winner to finish fast and late, and John Dunlop's colt will return to Goodwood for the March Stakes en route to the St Leger at Doncaster on 14 September. Chief Contender, second yesterday, and Mons, who finished fourth, are also on course for the final Classic, but Storm Trooper, who seemed sure to prevail two out, hit the buffers shortly afterwards and will continue his career at less tiring trips.

There was exhaustion too in the stands as the punters attempted to retrieve an ever-worsening situation, but the biggest betting event of the day, the William Hill Handicap, brought solace to only a handful. Silver Groom, the winner last year, was the 4-1 favourite to do so again, and as his distinctive grey form hit the front two out, the bookmakers at last appeared uneasy. Their salvation was once more at hand, however, as Grand Selection, a 12-1 chance, caught and passed him 100 yards from home.

On his racecourse debut two seasons ago, Grand Selection finished within a few lengths of Pentire, last Saturday's King George winner, but at the end of that season he was alloted a handicap mark of just 50. With hindsight, then, it is unsurprising that he has since won eight handicaps, and will in future be running from a spot in the high 80s. The Cambridgeshire is an obvious target for Michael Bell's colt, as it is for Autumn Cover, who took the card's opening race at 12-1.

Other winners yesterday included Thrilling Day (12-1) in the Oak Tree Stakes and Young Bigwig (13-2) in the nursery, but it is probably just as well that many punters had beaten a retreat long before the fillies' maiden which was yesterday's Getting Out Stakes. Papita won unchallenged at 25-1, with the frame filled by rivals at 10-1 and 33-1. Thank heaven that the scenery, at least, is free.