Mark Johnston rewarded by role of the Dice
AS A director of Hamilton Racecourse, Aberfoyle-born trainer Mark Johnston is always careful to say that Musselburgh is his second favourite track, and he certainly enjoys trousering its prize money.
For the second year running, a Johnston horse won one of Musselburgh’s biggest prizes, the totepool.com Edinburgh Cup, 16-1 shot Scatter Dice emulating Eternal Heart’s win last year with a victory that owed a lot to the wiliness of the underrated jockey Martin Lane.
Johnston’s first string Maastricht was sent to the front by Joe Fanning, who attempted to make all in the one-mile four-furlong contest, only to set up the race for the daughter of Manduro who often makes the running herself.
As they came into the straight, Maastricht kicked on but Scatter Dice was going well and Lane had her placed to perfection to come through and battle for the lead with Clayton, the 7-1 chance ridden by Graham Lee. At the line, the pair were well clear of the rest headed by Ruacana, and Scatter Dice was a neck ahead to lift the £31,000 first prize.
Having gone to school just along the coast at Leith, assistant trainer Jock Bennett could practically drive blindfold up the A1 from Johnston’s stable in Yorkshire to the East Lothian track.
Johnston really is a great supporter of Musselburgh, and Bennett quipped: “We should get a discount for bulk entries.”
He has been attending Musselburgh races for 40 years, and yesterday was one of his better days thanks to a brave filly. “They were all running on their merits,” said Bennett, “so she has done it well. Joe Fanning thought he’d picked the right one, and decided to make the running, but she’s consistent, versatile and very game.”
Lane said: “It’s one of the biggest wins I’ve had, second to winning the John Smith’s Cup at York on Wigmore Hall for Michael Bell.”
Having converted from National Hunt to the Flat, jockey Graham Lee has been making a name for himself on the northern circuit.
Arguably he has given no better display of judging the pace of a race than in the totescoop6 Scottish Sprint Cup, worth £25,000 to the winner which was Bajan Tryst, the top weight trained by Kevin Ryan.
Lee brought the 16-1 shot through a crowd of horses fast and late as if he had been riding in big field sprint races all his life.
Racecourse manager Bill Farnsworth repeated his ambition to make the Edinburgh Cup and Sprint Cup into £100,000 races and make this meeting the early summer equivalent of Ayr Gold Cup day, the biggest event on the Flat in Scotland.
“We can do it, and it will take time,” said Farnsworth, “but we’ll get there. We’ve had a crowd of 6,600 here today, up from last year, so it’s building. There’s a natural gap for us to fill between the Scottish Grand National and the Ayr Gold Cup, and this meeting is getting bigger.”
The other races included a couple of excellent performances and a couple of cracking close finishes. David Barron-trained Ahern won the opening toteplacepot Edinburgh Castle conditions stakes at 8-1 on his racecourse debut.
Lee Topliss timed his run to perfection on 9-2 shot Rocktherunway in the totepool Tradesman’s Derby, Bosun Breese, the 15-8 favourite, won the toteexacta Tartan Trophy handicap by six lengths and Amy Ryan piloted Musnad to the closing Queen’s Jubilee totequickpick handicap, prevailing by a neck.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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