There are few better trainers of four-year-old hurdlers than John Quinn, and his Pearl Castle defied a penalty at Doncaster yesterday in the Betdaq Free Premier League Game Saturday Juvenile Hurdle.
Having blundered three out he came back on the bridle quickly for Brian Hughes, who then switched to the outside on the 4-6 favourite.
Zamoyski had been allowed an easy lead up front and Pearl Castle was forced to dig deep, but Quinn’s inmate won going away by two and a quarter lengths.
“He came back on the bridle after his mistake which is a good sign,” said Quinn. “He’ll be better on better ground and in a better race. Left to me, this horse wouldn’t go to Cheltenham on soft ground and we’d wait for Aintree, but you know what Cheltenham is like. Come Gold Cup day they might have to turn on the taps. He had to work hard but the second is no mug at all on the Flat.”
Betfred cut Pearl Castle to 12-1 from 14s for the JCB Triumph Hurdle.
Holywell, winner of the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham last season and second to Solwhit at Aintree, booked his place for next month’s big Festival by winning the Betdaq No Premium Charge Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Jonjo O’Neill’s seven-year-old had plenty in hand on the official figures, according to his rating over the smaller obstacles, but he has not looked as good over fences. Tony McCoy was hard at work some way out as Firm Order set the pace and runner-up Victor Hewgo stalked, but McCoy’s famous drive provided him with his 189th winner of the season by three-quarters of a length.
The Betdaq £25 No Lose Mobile Bet Doncaster Veterans’ Handicap Chase attracted some real old favourites and it was 12-year-old Tranquil Sea (12-1) who came out on top, qualifying for the Crabbie’s Grand National in the process.
Bought by Warren Greatrex before the start of this season with the principal aim of running at Aintree, he needed to finish in the first four in a chase over three miles to qualify. Dropped out early by Gavin Sheehan, he arrived next to Time For Rupert going much the best before pulling well clear. He was eased down to win by two lengths for a first victory since March 2012.
“He needed to finish in the first four and it will still be touch and go whether he gets in (off 9st 12lb),” said Greatrex. “He was ridden to finish in the first four, but he’s got there travelling easy.”
Officials at Ayr have called a precautionary inspection for 7.30am this morning ahead of today’s scheduled meeting. Clerk of the course Emma Marley is concerned by the prospect of heavy overnight rain nd will assess conditions in the morning. The track is reported to be soft, heavy in places.