TIM Easterby believes Golden Apollo could be a future Ayr Gold Cup contender after he relished the strong pace to win the Catherine Kinloch Paver Memorial Macmillan Charity Handicap at York.
The North Yorkshire handler was delighted a long-term plan had paid off which gave him a fifth victory in the six-furlong feature on Macmillan charity day, which raised in the region of £500,000. It had not been without its scares, though, as Easterby was forced to run Golden Apollo at Pontefract on Monday and just prayed he won to ensure his place in the field.
A 5lb penalty for that success, as well as being drawn wide in stall one, failed to dampen Easterby’s confidence and Golden Apollo delivered in style under James Sullivan to deny bottom weight The Wagon Wheel by a neck.
“We couldn’t get to run him early as he doesn’t like really firm ground and there was a danger he wasn’t going to get in the race,” said the Great Habton trainer.
“The plan was to go to Wetherby and win, but he got beat there so we had to go to Pontefract. I was never bothered about the draw. I was very happy being drawn there. He’s a horse that comes off the bridle and picks up, so I told James not to panic but he rode a really good race on him.
“He just got there – it was a bit close. He wants soft ground. It was only just all right today.
“I’d like to run him in the Ayr Gold Cup one day, but it would have to be soft.”
Sullivan completed a double when driving the Ruth Carr-trained Mesardal through to win the Rievaulx Sporting Supporting Macmillan Handicap.
Josephine Gordon produced Arabian Hope with a well-timed run to land the Listed honours in the Best Western Hotels Ganton Stakes. The lightly-raced filly took the step up in grade in her stride as she completed a hat-trick after wins in a maiden and a handicap with Gordon in the saddle on both occasions.
She brought the Godolphin-owned filly to challenge long-time leader Golden Stunner inside the final furlong and snatch the prize by a head for last season’s champion apprentice whose alliance with trainer Saeed bin Suroor, amongst others, has led to several notable rides at Royal Ascot this week.
This season-defining meeting will see Final Venture represent Westow trainer Paul Midgley in tomorrow’s King’s Stand Stakes, the Group One five-furlong sprint. Yet the Midgley stable could not be in better form after Line Of Reason got up in the final strides to claim the William Hill Scottish Sprint Cup Handicap at Musselburgh under Joe Fanning.
Midgley said: “That was great. Fast ground and speed is what he’s all about really. He was due a bit of luck too.”
Midgley was completing a double as Orient Class had earlier landed the William Hill Tartan Trophy Consolation Race Handicap, a £40,000 event for those eliminated from the main prize.
Orient Class was in front with a furlong to run and he was driven out to the line by Yorkshire-based apprentice Connor Murtagh.