Connections of Big Country are eyeing a big pot after the four-year-old returned to winning ways in the Peter ‘Sooty’ Sutton Memorial Handicap at York.
The Old Newton Cup at Haydock on July 8 or a return to the Knavesmire for the John Smith’s Cup the following weekend is on the cards for Mick Appleby’s progressive performer, whose attempt at a hat-trick came unstuck when he was fourth to Frontiersman in a Newmarket handicap.
The well-backed 9-4 favourite was steered home by Andrea Atzeni to win by a neck and the same from Burguillos and Dance King.
“Hopefully we’ll manage to sneak into the John Smith’s Cup. He probably wants further so we might go for the Old Newton Cup the week before, but he’ll be in one of those big handicaps,” said racing pundit Chris Dixon, part of the four-strong Horse Watchers syndicate.
“We really believe he’ll win a big handicap. He’s a nice horse, we’ll see.
“The ground last time was too quick for him and the track at Newmarket wasn’t ideal, but he was beaten by a horse that has been second in the Coronation Cup since then and the runner-up has won at Goodwood. The form is really strong and we think there is more to come from our horse.
“Just over two weeks ago my dad died. He was going to come here as this race had been the plan since Newmarket, but he was suffering from cancer. It’s nice for us to have a winner with a horse he was excited about.”
There was a sting in the tail for Atzeni as he was given a four-day ban for using his whip in the incorrect place. He is stood down from June 30 to July 3.
Eartha Kitt (15-2) showed a neat turn of foot to snatch victory close home in the EBF Breeders Series Fillies’ Handicap.
Well-beaten behind Mix And Mingle in a Group Three contest on her seasonal debut at Lingfield, the Tom Dascombe-trained filly benefited from a drop in class and faster ground to pip Southern Belle by half a length.
It was a timely win as her half-sister Formidable Kitt is set to run in the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot, a race which the dam Ceiling Kitty won in 2012.
Eartha Kitt’s rider Richard Kingscote said: “She’s talented just like the mother. The two sisters are a bit scopier than their mum. She was really finished as a three-year-old,” said Kingscote.
“It’s nice to get this win for Eartha Kitt. Last time the soft ground was the excuse, but she’s shown more on the better ground here. She’s quirky, just like her mother.”
Yorkshire-born Newmarket-based trainer William Haggas was not at the Knavesmire but that did not stop him having a double with Tulip Fever and Theydon Grey.
Tulip Fever (5-2 favourite) stepped up on her debut third at Nottingham to open her account in the Coopers Marquees British EBF Novice Stakes.
However, it was a close call for the William Haggas-trained filly as she had to find reserves to hold Sosian by a short head.
Winning rider Pat Cosgrave said: “She ran an excellent race first time at Nottingham and has improved. She’s very straightforward and speedy.”
Theydon Grey (100-30 joint favourite) was never far off the pace as he repeated last month’s course success in the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Handicap.
Pushed into the lead early in the straight by 5lb claimer Georgia Cox, the four-year-old kept up the gallop to score by a neck from Waiting For Richie.
Cox said: “He was strong all the way round and he’s full of confidence at the moment.”
Be Kool put a poor run at Pontefract on his last start behind him to spring a 33-1 surprise in the Jigsaw Sports Branding Handicap.
Trainer Brian Ellison revealed the horse had been affected by the hot weather that day, but bounced back to slam 18 rivals off bottom weight with 11-2 favourite Sun Lover taking second place.
“He lost the plot before the race at Pontefract. He got lathered, was too keen and did everything wrong. The weather totally turned him, He was a lot calmer today,” said Ellison.
“Ignore that run and he was a big price today and a good each-way bet.”
Opposition (5-2 favourite) defied top weight under Adam McNamara to lift the eventmasters.co.uk Apprentices Handicap for trainer Ed Dunlop.
Alex Smith, director of owners Highclere Racing, said: “When he hit the front he had a look around, so Adam had to galvanise him and in the end he’s done it nicely.
“Adam thought he might be an Ebor type but we’ll have to talk to Ed about that.
“He was progressive last year then he got jarred up on that very fast ground at Ascot (in July). It took him a while to get over that, but he ran well at Windsor last time and he’s a decent animal. Hopefully he can go on from here.”
The John Quinn-trained Seaella (13-2) was bought-in for #15,500 after running out a tidy length-and-a-half winner of the SKF Rous Selling Stakes in the hands of Jason Hart.