Racing: Stickleback shines for Nick Rust

Micky Hammond: Fine win. Picture: Getty
Micky Hammond: Fine win. Picture: Getty
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New British Horseracing Authority chief executive Nick Rust had his colours carried to victory for the first time since his appointment as Stickleback toughed it out in the Handicap Hurdle.

Formerly the managing director of retail for Ladbrokes, Rust officially took over the reins of British racing’s regulator from the departing Paul Bittar on Monday. Stickleback, a maiden after 20 previous outings, was a 10-1 shot for her latest assignment and looked booked for minor honours when 3-1 favourite Minella Bliss moved ominously to the lead in the straight.

However, the market leader produced a tired leap at the final flight and Stickleback took full advantage under Scots jockey Wilson Renwick, running on to score by a length and three-quarters. Winning trainer Micky Hammond said: “That was very good and Wilson gave her a 
superb ride. She’s been difficult to win with and was on and off the bridle. Maybe it was just her turn today.”

Hammond and Renwick were also on the mark in the second division of the Bramham Hall For Conferences & Events Handicap Hurdle as 7-1 shot Rayadour struck gold at Wetherby for the third time.

Devilment may have earned a place among John Ferguson’s Cheltenham Festival squad with a runaway victory in the Watch On 3 Devices Juvenile Maiden Hurdle. The son of Cape Cross was all the rage as the 2-5 favourite after filling the runner-up spot on his jumping bow at Plumpton and barely came off the bridle in the hands of Tony McCoy, passing the post with four lengths in hand over Lucky Jim.

McCoy said: “It probably wasn’t a great race, but he did it nicely.”

The champion jockey later steered the Jonjo O’Neill-trained 11-10 favourite Beg To Differ to a workmanlike success in the Download New Racing UK iPad App “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle.

Milnathort trainer Lucinda Russell also enjoyed a double on the afternoon, with Clondaw Knight completing the brace in the feature New Racing UK Anywhere Available Now Handicap Chase. Stepped up to three miles for the first time, the ten-year-old sauntered clear under a confident Peter Buchanan, winging the final fence to seal a 14-length success over Swing Hard.

Russell’s partner and assistant, Peter Scudamore, said: “As a horse that cost a lot of money (£140,000), there was always a lot of pressure on him. Pete [Buchanan] always said we should just give him time and we always knew he wanted three miles, he was just never strong enough to go that far. There are a lot of downs in this game, but this is a big up.”

Russell earlier appeared slightly stunned after 5-1 shot Rowdy Rocher came good in the totepool Medieval Day – Saturday 31st January Handicap Chase for Graham Watters, beating game front-runner Free World by seven lengths. She said: “I didn’t expect the meeting to be on, I didn’t expect to run him in a chase on his next run and I didn’t expect him to win, so it’s all a bit of a surprise! He hasn’t been jumping well, so I entered him to run over hurdles at Doncaster later in the week, but we decided to run here and Graham gave him a lovely ride.”

Meanwhile, Ayr will stage an extra raceday on Friday with free entry. Racing is also due to take place this afternoon, although there will be a precautionary inspection at 8am. Friday’s fixture has been awarded to the track by the British Horse Racing Authority and was introduced because of the number of abandoned fixtures recently. Clerk of the Course Emma Marley said : “We are looking forward to staging an extra raceday which I’m sure will be well received by owners, trainers and jockeys as well as racegoers.”