RICHARD Fahey has hit the ground running in his quest to saddle 200 winners this season by landing the Betway Lincoln – the first major domestic Flat race of 2015 – with Gabrial.
He recorded a career-best 192 winners last year and hopes to go at least eight better thanks to the formidable stable of horses in training at his Musley Bank yard on the outskirts of Malton.
Like the 2012 Lincoln winner Brae Hill, this year’s winner runs in the colours of rugby league owner Dr Marwan Koukash and was ridden by Tony Hamilton whose mount, dropped back in trip, quickened in style when a gap opened to deny David O’Meara’s Mondialiste in a Yorkshire one-two on Town Moor.
“When I started off in racing I always wanted to win the big handicaps, Cesarewitch, Ayr Gold Cup and the Lincoln,” said the larger than life Koukash. “When I first met Richard I asked what race he would like to win the most and he said it was this one. Now we’ve done it twice so I’m delighted.”
Fahey said: “They raced in a very tight pack and I wasn’t sure he was going to get out in time. Tony said he always felt like he was going to win.
“The only reason he was running over further last year was because, after Mount Athos got injured, Marwan wanted a Melbourne Cup horse but he (Gabrial) didn’t stay.
“He’s a Listed winner and while I doubt he’s getting better, we’ll hatch a plan and see where we go, I presume it will be Chester (Koukash’s local track).”
Koukash, never backward when dispensing advice to those on his training roster was quick to respond, saying: “He’ll go to the Huxley Stakes over 10 furlongs at Chester.”
The first race of the 2015 turf season, the Betway Brocklesby Conditions Stakes for two-year-olds, went to Middleham trainer Mark Johnston’s Ravenhoe.
He was ridden by Silvestre de Sousa, who was winning the Dubai World Cup aboard African Story on the corresponding day last year before losing his job with Godolphin.
The Brazilian-born rider came to prominence with Johnston in 2011 and this could be a profitable partnership in the months ahead.
Meanwhile, Naadirr looks booked for a big summer after running out a very impressive winner of the Betway Cammidge Trophy.
Having signed off last season with a Listed win at York, he was giving weight to all bar one of his rivals. Jockey Martin Harley said: “He’s a much bigger and stronger horse this year.”
The 2014 Ladbrokes St Leger hero Kingston Hill, meanwhile, will miss the first half of the Flat season due to a leg injury.
Roger Varian’s horse has not run since finishing fourth to Treve in last October’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and Europe’s blue riband race remains the long-term objective.
Even though Yorkshire-trained The Grey Gatsby could only finish second to impressive French raider Solow in the prestigious Dubai Turf, Kevin Ryan still has ambitious plans for his dual Group One winner.
“We will look now to run him in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh and then take him to Royal Ascot for the Prince of Wales’s Stakes,” said the Hambleton trainer.
The richest meeting in the world also saw Brown Panther secure a famous win for his owner-breeder Michael Owen, the retired footballer, and complete a remarkable comeback for jockey Richard Kingscote, who suffered multiple injuries in a fall at Wolverhampton last autumn and won a race against time to prove his fitness for the Dubai Gold Cup.
“He’s a special horse. I’ll probably never replace a horse like this,” said an emotional Owen.
As for the $10m Dubai World Cup, it went to former Northern Racing College graduate William Buick aboard the veteran Prince Bishop, who came from last to first with a withering run to beat American champion California Chrome, who is now bound for Royal Ascot.
In his first year in the royal blue Godolphin colours, Buick showed why he was head-hunted by Sheikh Mohammed as he cajoled Saeed bin Suroor’s evergreen horse into the race while managing to avoid the worst of the kickback from the dirt surface.
“It means everything. I get opportunities now that other people don’t get. This is only the beginning,” said the jockey who said the success had left him feeling numb.
Daryl Jacob will partner Pineau De Re when the horse goes in search of back-to-back victories in the Crabbie’s Grand National on Saturday, April 11.
Leighton Aspell steered Dr Richard Newland’s 12-year-old to Aintree glory 12 months ago, but is unavailable after trainer Oliver Sherwood confirmed Many Clouds an intended runner in the world’s most famous steeplechase.
Sherwood and owner Trevor Hemmings had been keen to delay the Many Clouds call after his disappointing run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. “It has always been a dream for Mr Hemmings and whether we’ve made the right decision, time will tell,” said the trainer yesterday.