OFFICIALS at Beverley hope the decision to switch the prestigious Hilary Needler Trophy to a Saturday will lead to an upturn in the fortunes of this five-furlong race for two-year-old fillies.
Even though the five-mile sprint is a recognised Royal Ascot trial, and won previously by the likes of Mark Johnston’s wonder-horse Attraction, it has lacked prestige in recent years and lost its ‘Listed’ status.
However, chief executive Sally Iggulden is pleased with the quality of today’s 10 runners – and hopes to persuade Channel Four Racing to broadcast the race next year.
“The traditional Hilary Needler fixture was an evening meeting at the end of May or the beginning of June,” she said. “We wanted to raise the race’s profile again and give trainers a little more time between this contest and Royal Ascot.”
While the Michael Dods-trained Easton Angel is the horse to beat, it would not be the greatest surprise if New Road Side – named after a street in Horsforth – won for Malton trainer Tony Coyle and jockey Barry McHugh.
She had run her rivals into the ground when making a winning debut at Southwell, but could only finish fifth when sent off favourite for the Listed Marygate Fillies’ Stakes at York last week. “We’ve always liked the filly and hopefully she’ll show us what we know she can do,” said Coyle.
“She’s one of the best I’ve had and travelled well at York, but didn’t find that much after being up with the pace.
“Hopefully she’ll be a good bit fitter for that.”
In what looks a strong renewal, Arranmore Girl has been aimed at this race since she struck over course and distance last month. Her trainer Nigel Tinkler, also based at Malton, said: “She’s very well and she’s had a lovely little break. We gave her two runs within a week at Beverley and a little time off seems to have done her a lot of good.”
Meanwhile, older sprinters will be to the fore at Haydock when David O’Meara’s G Force returns to the scene of his greatest triumph for the betfred.com Temple Stakes.
The colt enjoyed his finest hour in the Betfred Sprint Cup over six furlongs at the Merseyside venue in September and how he fares in this five-furlong Group Two will decide his target at Royal Ascot. The options are the King’s Stand Stakes over the minimum distance – or the Diamond Jubilee Stakes over six furlongs. “The rain that has fallen will certainly do him no harm,” said Nawton-based O’Meara.
G Force is due to be ridden by The Yorkshire Post’s columnist Danny Tudhope, but he was taken to hospital for precautionary x-rays yesterday after a horse lashed out in the paddock at Haydock and kicked him in the stomach.
The Injured Jockeys Fund is staging a special day of cycling at Wetherby next Thursday to raise funds for the recently-opened Jack Berry House at Malton, with participants enjoying free admission to Ladies Night at the West Yorkshire track. See www.ijf.org.uk for further details.