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Horn Blower Conditions Stakes Preview

It's back to racing after a magnificent Olympic fortnight and the rest of the month is packed full of quality action in the UK and abroad. Mark Rowntree, @uptheirons007, returns to the blog to analyse one of the smaller races on Saturday's Great St. Wilfrid Stakes card at Ripon.

Horn Blower Conditions Stakes Preview

The Horn Blower Conditions Stakes is a race of fine local traditions run annually at the Garden Race Track of North Yorkshire, Ripon. A Class 3 event for two year olds, the first prize for the 2012 renewal is over £7,500. Last years event was taken by Jessie’s Spirit who represented Ann Duffield’s Sun Hill stables at Constable Burton near Middleham.


Luck represents the powerful Kevin Ryan yard. Luck was well touted ahead of his debut at Hamilton and was sent off a warm order running out a deeply impressive 7 length winner in a five runner contest. Clearly, this has been a likely target since. On the bare form, he certainly has more to prove in Class 3 company. However, on his debut, he did have subsequent Catterick winner Flighty Clarets and Sandy’s Row (who has run adequately in nurseries since) well held. With the assistance of Graham Lee from the saddle, he looks a major contender.

Pearl Acclaim also looks a strong contender for the two year old maestro Richard Hannon and Pearl Bloodstock. After finishing second to stable companion and subsequent Ascot winner Havana Gold on debut over 6f at Newmarket, the son of Acclamation was given a confidence boosting success under Pat Dobbs in Class 5 company at Sandown. Sent off at 2/11 favourite on this occasion, the race really served only to show his well being. Clearly Pearl Acclaim remains a horse of some potential, and will hold every chance on Saturday under Harry Bentley.

Ashaadd who holds a whole host of strong backend entries including in Redcar’s Two Year Old Trophy represents the Roger Varian yard for Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum. After finishing a neck second to the Richard Hannon trained Ask Dad at Salisbury (6f Gd) on debut, the colt built upon this effort and went one place better in a five runner affair on Heavy ground at Windsor (5/6fav) in mid July. With ground conditions seemingly nothing of a concern, and given natural progression, this two year old deserves to take his chance in a stronger event.

Brian Meehan relies upon King Dragon who is partnered by the vastly experienced Irishman Fran Berry. Fran is a rare visitor to North Yorkshire. King Dragon is a horse who has improved with racing experience. After a fair third on debut at Newmarket (33/1), the gelding was set a stern test in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, where he finished 17th of 22 behind Dawn Approach. Reappearing at a more realistic level in a class 5 maiden at Windsor in early July, he was sent off at 7/2 and made the most of the racing experienced he’d gathered at Ascot. Getting a good lead into the race, he got a nice split at the two furlong pole making for the favoured far rail. He was simply ridden out to score with a bit in hand from Dominate – the pair well clear of the remainder. With sustained natural progression and a small field, he’s earned another step back up in grade, but I’d be surprised to see him land the prize.

Given the hand that Richard Fahey held at the five day declaration stage which included the unbeaten Flyman, who may have bigger targets ahead (notably The Two Year Old Trophy at Redcar in October), it’s somewhat of a surprise that he relies on Woodland Mill on Saturday. Woodland Mill is a tough filly, and no stranger to the racecourse having been on the go since her debut success on the Polytrack at Kempton on the 31st of March. In six subsequent starts she’s not really built upon that, but she did run adequately when 8th of 22 in the Weatherbys Super Sprint Handicap on a testing surface behind Tim Easterby’s likeable Body and Soul. It may be that she’s more effective with some cut, but I’d also be suspicious that 5f is more her trip.

Andy Crook is aiming high with his recent 10,000 guineas purchase Lord Avonbrook. The gelding had posted only a moderate first two efforts before landing back to back claimers at Beverley (in June) and on the All Weather at Southwell (in July) for Bill Turner and grandson jockey Ryan While. On the latter occasion, he was purchased at the auction to go to Coverham and join Andy Crook. Clearly, he’s found a winning vein of form, but Saturday in reality is surely about seeking place money at best. However, looking forward, he will be competitive in his own grade, and given he spent his early days with Bill Turner, he will be battle hardened.

Blazeofenchantment makes up the seven runner field. Without being disrespectful to connections, he’s well out of his depth in this grade. He’s started at long odds in both starts to date at York and Doncaster showing little on both occasions. However it’s worth noting the form of his debut run at York behind Blaine is working out well. Salutation who recently bolted up in a 7f nursery at Newcastle recently and looks an ideal candidate for the Blaydon Race over a mile at Newcastle in late August is testimony to the case in point.


An interesting contest with some promising juveniles on show offering an excellent supporting contest for the feature race on the card, the William Hill Great St Wilfrid Handicap. Luck strikes me as the most likely winner, providing Graham Lee with another good Saturday prize. He’s clearly a horse held in high regard, with his Hamilton run perhaps only a prelude of the potential to come with greater racing experience. However, in Pearl Acclaim he faces a live danger, and the Pearl Bloodstock two year old must be considered the most obvious forecast option. Richard Hannon held a strong hand of entries at the five day declaration stage, so his preferred runner must go very close. A small but select field and a race to enjoy.

Read more of Mark's work on his excellent blog


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