Two winners courtesy of two talented fillies yesterday as Qatar Racing & The Sweet Partnership's OPAL TIARA took the race of the day at Carlisle and Jon & Julia Aisbitt's KASSIA returned to winning ways at Bath.
OPAL TIARA's long journey north was fully justified as the daughter of Thousand Words reaffirmed her class in taking the Listed EBF Stallions Eternal Fillies' Stakes under a confident ride from Graham Gibbons.
There were plenty of fancied contenders in the seven furlong contest but as the race developed, and having tracked Alyaa throughout, OPAL TIARA hit the front and extended away in smart style to prevail by two and a quarter lengths from Red Box and Eternity. That confirmed Mick's assessment that there was plenty to come in 2016 despite a slow start to the year for an ever willing filly.
"We didn't have her early on because she had a couple of chips taken out of a hock in the winter, so she only started cantering in March. Her reappearance at Leicester was very encouraging when she finished second and although the bare form doesn't look great in the Sandrigham at Ascot last week, she did have excuses.
"Heading up to Carlisle for that race yesterday offered her a chance to show herself to best effect. A sound surface and a true run race allowed her to do that and the performance was very impressive.
"She's not been a prolific winner but we've been aiming high with her since she won her maiden last year at Wolverhampton. She's got black type to her name again this year year after being placed in the May Hill at two and we'll look at something like the Oak Tree at Goodwood now."
Last night at Bath, Jon & Julia Aisbitt's KASSIA took the Class 4 sprint carrying top weight under Silvestre de Sousa. She's a spirited filly who takes plenty of patience but that's always worthwhile when there's talent in abundance.
She made all last night against two talented types in Emerald Loch and Pine Ridge. Mick was pleased but insistent that last night was just the starting point after a horror show at Goodwood on her seasonal reappearance at the start of the month.
"That's more like it. She had no run at Goodwood and was stopped about three times and we kept it simple last night. She can be a handful but Silvestre did the right thing because we didn't want to mess about and come back with any excuses.
"She's a pussycat at home but can get very het up at the races and Keith and the team have spent plenty of time on her. Jon Dennis in particular has done a great job down at the stalls and we need to get the best out of her now.
"She's got so much ability and plenty of speed - it's just a case of organising her now. Black type is obviously our aim and if we can all work together she's certainly capable of picking up a Listed prize at the very least."
Khalid Ai-Mudhaf and Mohammad Al Qatami's SHAHAAMA (Red Jacket) - A winner at Goodwood last night
While all eyes were on Ascot this week, Khalid Ai-Mudhaf and Mohammad Al Qatami's SHAHAAMA shone at Goodwood as the three year old daughter of Showcasing took the Class 5 Basemant Jaxx Stakes in the hands of Freddie Tylickie.
Having just been edged out at Bath last week, yesterday's contest represented an opportunity to race ahead of a three pound rise in her rating. Having tracked the leaders throughout the six furlongs she was produced over a furlong out and despite a late scare from the gaining Catie in the closing moments SHAHAAMA held on well to record her first career win.
Mick was pleased that a willing ally has made her mark on the track.
"I feel as though we've made a start with her now and she's got a great attitude for the job. In truth, she was one of those filles who needed to get a few runs under her belt thios season before she showed us what she's all about.
"She didn't winter badly but she didn't exactly thrive until June came along and we'll have to see how she improves for the rest of the year. She certainly will and the great thing about with a filly with her attitude is that she will fulfil her potential."
Chris Wright & David Hudd's GRATZIE - A winner at Bath yesterday afternoon
Thankfully we had two winners because the four seconds suffered at Bath and Lingfield would have made for a dismal Monday morning!
At Bath, Chris Wright and David Hudd's GRATZIE took the feature race on the card in the hands of George Baker. The Class 3 mile handicap saw the five year old filly well placed throughout on her favoured fast ground and George asked her for an effort two furlongs out and the pair ran on readily to account for Van Hysen by almost four lengths with Peak Storm a neck back in third.
Mick had considered running GRATZIE at the Royal meeting this week but when this race appeared is seemed the logical opportunity to get a smart filly off the mark for the season as her quest for what we believe is deserved black type continues.
"We'll leave options open regarding her lining up in the Duke of Cambridge on Wednesday. The ground looks to have gone for her at Ascot this week and that is all important. She needs a fast surface to be seen at her best".
At Sandown the talented JAYWALKER completed a long awaited return to the winner's enclosure for Insignia Racing. The five year of son Footstepsinthesand was a convincing winner on his racecourse debut - but that was way back in 2014. Since then JAYWALKER has had several problems that kept him off the track until his reappearance at Brighton at the start of May.
He was just chinned for second that day and it looks as though we've finally got the trip right. Sandown's straight five furlongs suited JAYWALKER down to the ground yesterday as he took the Class 4 sprint series qualifier under Charlie Bishop in style. The pair were up with the pace throughout and, from the awkward stall of 10, chose the direct route throughout the contest.
The favoured far rail was nabbed by Major Pusey who led for much of the contest but JAYWALKER was always in touch and Charlie sent him on two furlongs from home and the pair recorded an eyecatching length success with very few others able to land a blow.
Mick was delighted that the syndicate's owners kept their patience with a talented but frustrating individual.
"There's nothing wrong with this lad's attitude. In fact he's been fantastic to deal with when you consider the problems he's suffered from. I'd never take money off of people if I thought I was wasting their time but this lad is so talented, it would have been stupid to lose faith with him. He went wrong after his win at three and when we got him going in the spring of his four year old campaign he fractured a pelvis which put pay to 2014.
"Put it this way, JAYWALKER has had plenty of time out in our paddocks. He loves a holiday! He's always shown us plenty at home and we're just hoping he stays sound and fulfils his potential now.
"We'll be assessed by the handicapper now and I don't think he's too complicated. We've now learnt that a stiff five is his best trip and he's got bags of speed from the gate and he can sustain a good cruising speed.
"Fingers crossed the injuries are behind him now and we can give Insignia some fun in 2015."
Two seconds at Bath and a further two at Lingfield left us feeling a little rueful, whilst Star Blaze was the main disappointment. He's got plenty of talent but failed to fire yesterday. We've got time on our side with him though and Mick is determined that we'll get it right sooner rather than later.
A man mountain and a goliath loved by everyone. Yesterday, what seemed like half of Southampton turned out for a fond farewell to Big Dave.
He was a remarkable man who meant so much to so many. Words are so often never enough to express the admiration and love you have for others when they are still here - all too often, it only floods out once they are gone.
Not in this case though.
Dave Hill told everyone how he felt about them when he was here and his agonising tussle with cancer gave everyone the chance to rally round and express their love for him before he lost the fight.
Big Dave was a bouncer in Southampton and doorman at The Dell's players' lounge in the 1970's and 1980's. He was a fabulous bloke and one who Mick will always remember with a smile.
"Dave was very important to all of us. He looked after all the players and all of our families. He was a one off. Of course he was barking mad - very funny and very genuine. A true Southampton lad. He was a 'Mush' through and through.
"His friendship with Alan Ball meant so much to both Dave and Bally. They were inseparable and spent years together. Bally and his wife Lesley loved him and he was an extended part of the family as far as they were concerned.
"Alan & Lesley's kids, Mandy, Keely and Jimmy loved him too. They've lost another key figure in their lives but I know they're so grateful that his love remains. Dave was a true one off."
Dave Hill drove Bally all over the country. He was his friend, his confidant and his rock. Through his good and bad days in management and latterly throughout his long hours on the road as an after dinner speaker, the Big Man was with him.
After Bally's untimely death, Matt Le Tissier asked Dave to accompany him as well. Matt & Dave loved each other too - The Big Man's second act of another lasting friendship.
You only had to witness Matt's touching but grief stricken eulogy at yesterday's funeral to realise how much love and respect they shared. It was hugely emotional, but funny as well.
For Big Dave was an incredibly funny man.
After a game against West Ham in 1981 Dave threw five blokes with long hair, denim jackets, jeans and trainers out of the players’ lounge at The Dell.
When the Saints centre half Dave Watson came in and asked Big Dave where his guests were, he explained that some people had turned up claiming to be his guests but that he’d thrown them out on account of them being ‘scruffy buggers’.
Dave Watson went off in search of his ejected guests only to return a few minutes later to summon the Big Man down the stairs and into the car park.
“Are these the lads you threw out?” The same men were sat in a Rolls Royce.
“That’s them yes.” Said a confused Dave.
Dave Watson just turned to him and said,
“Do you not recognise Status Quo, Big Man?”
There are a million hilarious anecdotes about Big Dave but it's his love that everyone will remember. He was so kind and so generous that words can't do him justice.
We'd like to express our love and condolences to Twee, Wayne and Jason and the whole family as well as his countless army of friends. Although the sadness cannot be ignored, there will always be laughter and warmth when we talk about him.
Just look at the photos - You'll get the picture of what a man he was.
Everyone loved Big Dave.
Norman Court Stud's SIXTIES HABANA en route to victory yesterday afternoon
A pleasing addition to the winning list of Sixties Icon progeny yesterday at SIXTIES HABANA took the Injured Jockeys' Fund Selling Stakes under Charlie Bishop at Yarmouth.
It was a straight forward victory as Charlie didn't allow any messing about and he dictated matters throughout to easily dismiss his two opponents.
After an encouraging debut at Lingfield last week, Mick saw the drop in grade as an ideal opportunity to get SIXTIES HABANA off the mark and although he was disappointed to let the colt in the ensuing auction for 13,600 guineas, that represented value for Norman Court Stud.
"He's gone to Pat Phelan and I'm sure he'll be a lot of fun for them. He's got a great temperament and is a nice specimen. I think we've all done well out of it - the stud have another winner under their belt for the stallion and copped a few quid, whilst new connections have a nice horse who will have a decent career in front of him."
Killian Hennessy, ETTIE HART and the delighted Lord Ilsley Racing syndicate after victory at Brighton yesterday afternoon
A super day for both Lord Ilsley Racing's ETTIE HART and Killian Hennessy as the duo recorded their first victories on a UK racecourse. Our seven pound claimer Killian has enjoyed racecourse success in both Ireland and the States before, but yesterday was his first win for the yard and his first in England, whilst three year old ETTIE HART is now under way for her enthusiastic syndicate.
The daughter of Bushranger made a hugely encouraging debut at Lingfield on her only start as a juvenile and although she hasn't made the strides we'd hoped for this time around, there was plenty to admire from her in a pillar to post victory yesterday afternoon.
The Class 6 Dame Vera Lynn Children's Charity Apprentice Handicap proved to be a perfect opportunity for both Killian and the filly and although there was an element of fortune in the favourite Wild Flower clipping heels and unseating rider Mitch Godwin in a horrific looking fall after a furlong, thankfully the young rider walked away relatively unscathed and ETTIE HART capitalised to hang on gamely from the close attention of Ashford Island in the dying strides.
Mick reflects on one of those races that presented itself at the perfect time.
"Things are going that way for us at the moment and it was a race that couldn't be ignored. Killian has got his head down and worked hard for us since joining us in March and will be getting more opportunities as and when I can help him and this filly is all heart.
"Sure, she's only rated 53 and will have to improve from here but she has an admirable attitude and the type of gangly frame that leads you to think that she'll keep improving as the season goes on.
"The Lord Ilsley Racing team know what we're trying to do and at the moment we've been able to deliver with both Sayesse who's certainly above average and although Ettie is further down the pecking order in terms of quality, there's no reason to think that we can't pick up a few more races with her in her grade and continue to have some fun."
BILLY'S BOOTS - A winner under Silvestre De Sousa at Goodwood yesterday afternoon
Twenty four hours after Saturday's treble, BILLYS'S BOOTS and ARNOLD LANE made the trip to Goodwood more than worthwhile to make it five winners from our last five runners as Silvestre De Sousa recorded a personal double on the day.
BILLY'S BOOTS went first as the Boss's homebred son of Winker Watson had the most experience in the seven strong field that contested the juvenile seller and he did it well enough to win by half a length ahead of The Night Is Ours before being bought back in at seven grand.
Mick was pleased enough and is eyeing a similar event at York on Friday.
"He's alright this lad and although he's not going to Royal Ascot, he'll win his races and this week's York seller is a furlong further and might see him improve a bit for the run.
"We had him gelded and although he won't have lost too much fitness for it, there's a chance that it might have sharpened him up a little. He's my horse so I can do what I want with him and I always enjoy horses like Billy who try and compete, regardless of what level they are."
Immediately after the seller, it was the turn of Jon & Sophie Mitchell's ARNOLD LANE, an evergreen stalwart of West Ilsley and the most willing ally you could wish for.
As seems to be the pattern, ARNOLD is at his most dangerous when dropping below 90 and yesterday, off a mark of 86, in the Class 3 seven furlong handicap, he and SDS made the best of their favourable draw in stall two and were never sighted, winning as they liked by two and a quarter lengths.
It was a facile victory leaving Mick with the typical reaction of a trainer who's horse has won handily enough.
"I wonder what the handicapper will do to us now.
"That's out of my hands though and I'm just delighted for Jon & Sophie that Arnold has given them another good day's sport. What you see is what you get and having had him since he was a yearling and seen him progress, regress and eventually find his form again has been brilliant.
"He may not a great horse but he's certainly a very special one. He pays his way and never surrenders. You can't ask for more than that."
Silvestre De Sousa and EPSOM ICON en route to victory in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes
A super day for West Ilsley as EPSOM ICON prevailed on the downs, CZABO stormed home in Deauville and DIVINE proved her class at the Curragh.
First up was EPSOM ICON to fulfil the dreams of her syndicate and particularly Steve Pearce, a local lad who named the filly after his favourite course. Winning her maiden there in her juvenile campaign was momentous enough but as the television cameras crowded around Steve after Group 3 success yesterday, it was clear to see how much it meant to him.
It was a very special moment.
This year's renewal of the Group 3 Princess Elizabeth Stakes was seen as a case of Sayana against the rest with the four year old French filly an overwhelming odds on favourite. The sole three year old to line up, EPSOM ICON recieved twelve pounds from her elder rivals and Silvestre De Sousa kept things very simple throught the extended mile contest.
Sat in midfield, he was always in a position to capitalise and SDS did just that as the always prominent Loaves And Fishes and Merry Me began to tire coming down the hill. Silvestre was always there abouts and EPSOM ICON was driven out to lead a furlong from home and stayed on strongly to record a convincing victory by three and a half lengths.
It was a great moment and a satisfying day for Mick, who is now left to contemplate where we head next.
"That was a huge buzz and I'm delighted for Steve and his family. This filly does everything you ask of her and is so uncomplicated. Well named too! Because she's so straight forward both mentally and physically she's able to cope with the demands of Epsom and it couldn't have worked out any better.
"She was a Listed winner at two and now she's a Group 3 winner. There's no obvious next step for her right at this moment but Steve will be down in the week and we'll have a chat about the next move."
Over in Deauville, Norman Court Stud's CZABO gained her first black type by taking the Listed Prix des Lilas over a mile under an in-form Maxim Guyon who recorded a five timer on the day.
CZABO took the Esher Cup at Sandown back in April and was fourth in the Irish Guineas a fortnight ago and has long been a filly that Mick has been certain is capable of black type.
Another favourite was turned over in the form of Come Alive as CZABO won convincingly by a length and a quarter to the delight of the Boss.
"That was great and I knew it was only a matter of time until this filly was taking stakes prizes. She was very talented at two but just needed time and when there is a bit of dig in the ground she's very good.
"She's in the Coronation at Ascot and although that's a huge step up from yesterday's company, if there's any rain about we'll have to look at it.
"To win a Group 3 with EPSOM ICON and then a Listed race with CZABO in one afternoon was very satisfying - two fillies by Sixties Icon, bred at Norman Court and both of their dams were trained here - that was great.
"Most importantly, it underlines how good Sixties Icon is as a stallion. He improves every mare he covers."
Whilst EPSOM ICON and CZABO are in their formative years, Khalid Ai-Mudhaf and Mohammad Al Qatami's five year old DIVINE is now in her pomp and bounced back from a setback at Nottingham last time out to take the six furlong Group 3 Ballyogan Stakes under Ronan Whelan.
The daughter of Dark Angel banged her head in the stalls when anticipating the break in a Listed contest at the start of May and there were obvious concerns that her season might suffer as a result.
There were certainly no signs of that yesterday evening however as DIVINE cruised along in midfield and was asked to quicken approaching the furlong pole. The filly shot through and was soon clear, running out the winner by almost four lengths.
Mick was delighted.
"That'll do - she absolutely murdered them and it just goes to show what a class act she can be. Banging her head at Nottingham obviously wasn't a great moment and there were worries about what that could have done to her mentally, but she's such a great filly to deal with. She's a real star and we'll have a look at what there is for her now. Possibly the Wokingham, I'm not sure. I'll have to speak to Khalid and Mohammad and when the picture gets clearer we'll hatch a plan."
A smashing day all round then. Three runners in three different countries, with three different jockeys with exactly the same result: Stakes success.
Carlsberg don't make race entries.........