Niven curses luck as Clever Cookie comes up short on Champions Day

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TRAINER PETER Niven rued his misfortune after his fast-finishing stable star Clever Cookie had to settle for second place in the Long Distance Cup on Qipco Champions Day.

While Frankie Dettori set sail for home on Flying Officer at Ascot, Graham Lee was boxed in on Niven’s seven-year-old and had to pull widest of all before mounting his challenge.

A rapidly diminishing length separated the two horses at the line and Malton-based Niven is now tempted to stick to the Flat with his horse rather than pursue a hurdling campaign this winter.

“Obviously I’m biased, but I thought we were exceptionally unlucky,” said Niven. “Graham has tried everything he could; we were in a lovely position but then he had to switch wide and the winner just got a run on us. My horse has made up four lengths in the last furlong and a half.

“I thought he was cherry ripe, I thought he would win today; we got beat but I still think we’ve got a fair horse on our hands.

“His King George run here was exceptional- he wasn’t quite right and my horses weren’t right - then the Lonsdale Cup at York was a bit of a blip, but this was a great run and it’s just a shame he hasn’t won to let everyone know just how good he is.”

When asked about future plans for Clever Cookie, Niven said: “There’s so much money to be won on the Flat scene that I would tempted to avoid risking him over hurdles and keep him at this now. He’s a very easy horse to train; I ride him out every day myself. I think there’s a big one in him and we all get a great thrill from him.”

Fellow Malton trainer Richard Fahey’s Gabrial was third to French superstar Solow in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes while Simple Verse upheld the Ladbrokes St Leger form by winning the Fillies’ and Mares race.

The most impressive winner came courtesy of Muhaarar who turned the sprint into a one-horse race under Paul Hanagan. Now a four-time Group One winner, Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum’s colt is expected to be retired to stud.

DESPITE a dramatic double at Haydock on Friday, Malton teenager Jack Garritty had to settle for runner-up to Tom Marquand in the race to become champion apprentice.

The Yorkshire rider could not add to his tally at Ascot while Marquand’s solitary success at Catterick took his total to 54 winners and sealed the title.

Meanwhile Brazilian-born Silvestre de Sousa paid tribute to Yorkshire trainers Brian Ellison and Mark Johnston after being crown champion jockey. Unlike most top riders who have retainers with top owners, de Sousa’s freelance status enabled him to become the only jockey to post a century of winners.

THERE was no fairytale win for Malton-born Andrew Tinkler in the American Grand National - his mount Hunt Ball could only finish eighth at Far Hills on Saturday night.