Irish Roe sparkles at Doncaster

Jockey Henry Brooke.Jockey Henry Brooke.
Jockey Henry Brooke.
IT was an unlikely contest '“ bargain buy Irish Roe, one of two horses trained by Northallerton farmer Peter Atkinson, versus Mohaayed who hails from the ambitious and expansionist yard of champion trainer aspirant Dan Skelton.

Yet National Hunt racing still has a habit of throwing up heartwarming stories and Irish Roe’s stirring success in the bet365 Handicap Hurdle at Doncaster was another such example. 
This £2,000 mare has now won seven out of her 10 starts and first prize of £12,500 was duly delivered by North Yorkshire jockey Henry Brooke who rode a patient race before hitting the front at the last.

The horse’s second successive triumph on one of Doncaster’s valuable Saturday racedays, Irish Roe’s consistency – she’s won four out of five races over hurdles this season – is testament to the ability of Atkinson, a quietly-spoken pig farmer, and his wife Lucinda, a top class equestrian rider.

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Too shy to talk to before the race, Atkinson was just as reserved afterwards as the aforementioned Brooke spoke about what it meant to beat Mohaayed –Skelton’s father Nick is the reigning Olympic showjumping champion – and Amour De Nuit from the yard of former champion trainer Paul Nicholls.

“Irish Roe, she’s an absolute diamond,” said Middleham-based Brooke, one of the most popular figures on the Northern racing circuit.

“Good Saturday races, it’s very hard to get rides on a Saturday, never mind win races. She’s an impressive mare – hats off to Peter and Lucinda who have got the best out of her. They have two horses and are doing it fantastically.

“She’s a pleasure to ride and I am really thrilled to be associated with her. She’s as hard as nails. She never knows when she’s beaten.”

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With such a small string, it can be hard to assess a horse’s form and fitness because they can’t race against stablemates on the gallops.”

Yet the intuition of the 
Atkinsons is paying off, says Brooke.

“You live for racing, and days like this. I’m proud to ride for Peter and Lucinda,” added the former champion conditional.

Meanwhile, champion trainer Nicky Henderson further strengthened his hand in the juvenile division as We Have A Dream produced a dominant front-running display in 
the bet365 Summit Juvenile Hurdle.

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Having seen Apple’s Shakira confirm her place as ante-post favourite for the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival with a facile success at the Cotswolds track, the Seven Barrows handler sent We Have A Dream into battle in this Grade Two event.

The three-year-old devoured his hurdles in the hands of Daryl Jacob and he readily pulled 10 lengths clear of City Dreamer without being asked for maximum effort.

Speaking from Cheltenham where veteran My Tent Or Yours rolled back the years to win an emotional International Hurdle following a terrific tussle with The New One, Henderson said: “We Have A Dream looks good. He is in the melting pot with Apple’s Shakira.”

We Have A Dream was one of two Henderson-trained runners on the card, with Countister impressive in the bet365 Novices’ Hurdle under Nico de Boinville.

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Henderson added: “She looked good and I hope she can develop into being a contender for the Trull House Novice Mares’ race at the Cheltenham Festival. I love her.”

The other Grade Two prize on offer was the December Novices’ Chase which went to Keeper Hill for trainer Warren Greatrex and jockey Gavin Sheehan.

Greatrex said: “He’s a very good horse and that was a good performance.

“He rubbed a few fences, but he got better and he stays very well.

“This is where we want to be –winning Grade Twos.”

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