SAUSALITO Sunrise was an impressive winner of the feature race for Philip Hobbs and Tom O’Brien on the opening day of the Perth Festival.
The Somerset raider bagged his fourth success of the season as he slammed well-backed favourite Oscar Rock by 11 lengths in the Pentland Land Rover EBF “Future Champions” National Hunt Novices’ Hurdle.
Hobbs’ wife Sarah said: “He is a lovely horse and a staying chaser through and through. He needs good ground and the only time he has really disappointed was when it rained heavily at Doncaster. That’s 105 winners and over £1.5 million in prize money so we’ve had an unbelievable season.”
Ayrshire-based Irishman Ian Duncan took the mares’ handicap hurdle for the second year running with top-weight ridden by his compatriot Graham Watters, while Lucinda Russell took her new Scottish record tally on to 66 with the easy victory of Shooting Times in the amateur riders’ handicap hurdle.
At Perth today, Tony McCoy gets the leg up on Tap Night for Russell in the £25,000 mcbookie.com Festival Handicap Chase.
The J P McManus-owned gelding faces 12 rivals and is one of three rides for the about-to-be crowned 19-times champion on day two of the Scone Palace Park extravaganza.
Meanwhile, William Haggas could put his perfect Epsom record on the line after Our Channel’s narrow victory in the Investec Derby Trial earned the colt a guaranteed place in the Classic on 7 June.
The trainer’s only previous Derby runner was the 1996 winner Shaamit, and he had been similarly pragmatic in the Oaks, with his first starter Dancing Rain galloping to glory three years ago before fourth-placed Vow became his only loser to date in 2012.
Our Channel arrived on the Downs after a low-key juvenile season which culminated in a win at Beverley and, even if his head defeat of Marzocco does not look smart enough form at this stage, a bid is strongly backed by connections. The 14-1 chance was given a clever ride by Ryan Moore, staying near the far rail while the field fanned out and holding on from the fast finishing runner-up.
Haggas’s wife, Maureen, said: “The owner Abdulla Al Mansoori would like to go for the Derby and he was instrumental in coming here today. I’m not sure he’ll stay, but there’s only one Derby and I don’t imagine he’ll run again before then.”
Asked about the Derby record, she said: “We’ve not had another runner since Shaamit. We’ve tried! We just haven’t had any good enough, or it hasn’t worked out. At least this horse seems to be improving.”
Paddy Power offer 50-1 about Our Channel.
There were a couple of famous, if rather faded, handicaps of yesteryear on the card and a staggering performance in the first of them. Beacon Lady (14-1) only ever shows her best form on tracks with severe cambers but few would have expected her to win the Investec Great Metropolitan Handicap quite as easily as she did. William Knight’s mare suddenly appeared from the rear of the field with a couple of furlongs left before charging seven lengths clear under Jack Duern. Owners The Pro Claimers are also keen to explore sending her hurdling at some stage.
Liam Jones was given a three-day careless riding ban aboard Jakey (7-9 May).
Sennockian Star (12-1) was ultra-consistent in 2013 and returned to the fore in the Investec Property Investments City And Suburban Handicap. Stall three helped Silvestre De Sousa to be on the rail and up with the pace throughout. Trainer Mark Johnston’s wife Deirdre said: “He was fantastic last season, winning five times, and we were worried he was going up and up in the handicap but he’s come and pulled another one out.”