ROOKIE trainer Samantha Drake has backed the introduction of jump racing’s new Challenger Series which concludes with five races – each worth £50,000 – at Haydock.
Designed to provide a boost to jump racing in the North which is the poor relation in comparison to the South, horses – including her own Raktiman – had to pre-qualify for today’s finals.
Raktiman’s rivals in the two-and-a-half-mile chase include the Brian Ellison-trained Five In A Row, who is looking to bounce back after being outpaced at the Cheltenham Festival earlier this month.
“He’s in good form and will like the better ground,” said Guiseley-based Drake, of Raktiman.
“It’s a step up, but he goes there in good form. It’s a brilliant initiative. For a horse like him, he’s good but will always struggle to be top class.
“To be able to go for a decent prize, it’s something to aim for because it gives the lesser lights a chance.”
Raktiman, who qualified for the race when winning at Catterick in February, is the mount of Drake’s fiancée, Jonathan England.
Another Catterick course winner Auldthunder could be the horse to beat in the three-mile chase. Twice a winner at the North Yorkshire track, he is looking to continue the recent fine form of Middleham trainer Micky Hammond and Sheffield-born stable jockey Joe Colliver, who teamed up to such great effect at Cheltenham when Just Cameron was sixth in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
William Buick bids to win a second successive Dubai World Cup when he partners the American-trained and Godolphin-owned Frosted in the £6.8m contest.
The Northern Racing College graduate was a shock winner 12 months ago of the world’s richest race when the unheralded veteran Prince Bishop, tailed off in the early stages, came from last to first to deny American superstar California Chrome who, once again, is the horse to beat.
“I’m sure it will be a different affair for me this year, I’m sure I won’t be out the back like I was on Prince Bishop, I hope,” said the jockey. “He travels well, sees his races out and has loads of class. We have respect for the others but great belief in our horse as well.”
Buick also hopes to provide his chief, Charlie Appleby, with a long-overdue first win on World Cup night when he partners the rapidly improving Tryster, a former all-weather specialist, in the Dubai Turf.
This is a horse who will be held up to optimise his devastating turn of pace late on. His task has also been made easier by the absence of France’s multiple Group One winner Solow.
“That is one less to worry about as he would have been hard to peg back, but it will still be the best race he’s ever encountered and we have huge respect for the opposition,” said the jockey, one of Sheikh Mohammed’s retained riders. “He’s an exciting horse and it would be great if he can make the step up again.”
His rivals include Gabrial for Malton trainer Richard Fahey.