22 December 2018
Progressive three-year Wissahickon took the step up to Listed company in his stride with an authoritative victory in the £37,000 Betway Quebec Stakes (2.15pm) - one of two odds-on winners for trainer Newmarket John Gosden and jockey Robert Havlin at Lingfield Park on Saturday, December 22.
Wissahickon, sent off a red-hot 2/5 favourite on his All-Weather return following an impressive victory in the Cambridgeshire Heritage Handicap at Newmarket on September 29, was covered up in fourth on the inside early on as Big Country (9/2, Michael Appleby/Luke Morris) led the seven runners at a steady pace.
Big Country ran wide on the home turn, impeding both Villette (40/1, Dean Ivory/Rob Hornby) and Scarlet Dragon (10/1, Alan King/Martin Harley), as Wissahickon quickened strongly on the inside to hit the front approaching the final furlong.
The Tapit colt powered clear in the closing stages of the 10-furlong contest to score by two and a quarter lengths from Big Country in 2m 4.66s, with a neck back to Scarlet Dragon in third and a further short-head to Goring (14/1, Eve Johnson Houghton/Charles Bishop) in fourth.
Havlin said: "It is important to get Wissahickon into a nice rhythm, which he did, but I thought that we could have gone a stride quicker. Reading between the lines beforehand, that was always going to happen.
"We sprinted down the hill, they fanned out, and I got a lovely trip into the race. You can normally get a run when everything fans out but you can find yourself further back than ideal.
"He showed his class today and knuckled down well. There is a lot to look at in the final furlong, with the big screen and where the stalls have been, so I was mindful just to keep his mind on the job.
"There is plenty left. Alan Rutter has been riding him every day and he has been raving how well Wissahickon has felt in himself.
"I rode his last piece of work and that was hopefully what we were expecting today. Normally he is on edge at the start but he was very good today.
"I think the Winter Derby (G3, February 23) and then the Easter Classic (£1-million Finals Day, Good Friday, April 19) is the plan and hopefully it is onwards and upwards."
Chris Dixon, part-owner of Big Country, commented: "The idea was for Big Country to make everyone else quicken on the bend and force them wide, but he has done it himself.
"He has run well and we will come back for the Winter Derby Trial (Listed, Feb 2), the Winter Derby and the Easter Classic, which has been the plan all winter. He could also go to Kempton for the Magnolia Stakes (Listed, March 30) on the way.
"You can never be scared of taking on one horse and we won't have to give Wissahickon any weight for age allowances next time. We will also lose our penalty for winning a Listed race, which will help, but Wissahickon is as good a horse as you will see on the All-Weather."
Gosden and Havlin completed a near even-money double with 2/5 favourite Ghazawaat in the mile £15,500 Ladbrokes Home Of The Odds Boost/EBF Stallions Breeding Winners Fillies' Conditions Race (1.45pm).
The three-year-old daughter of Siyouni, who joined the Newmarket trainer earlier this year having previously raced for Jean-Claude Rouget in France, stayed on well to take up the running over a furlong from home, but had to be kept up to her work to prevail by a length a half from Pride's Gold (9/4, Simon Crisford/Jack Mitchell).
It was a third appearance of this season's All-Weather Championships for the Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned filly, who could now head for the seven-furlong £150,000 Ladbrokes All-Weather Championships Fillies And Mares Final on Good Friday.
Havlin added: "Ghazawaat doesn't do a lot when she hits the front and I think that is what got her beat at Wolverhampton last time - she fought everything off but then cocked her ear and was done on the line.
"She had enough in hand today to get the job done and she might be better in better races, where you can let her travel. She responded today, but I felt that there was more in the tank.
"Ghazawaat is a good strong traveller and doesn't mind sharp tracks. She quickens up through horses, but it's just keeping her mind on the job when she gets there. She is genuine, but just wants company."
Elsewhere on the card, Redicean (7/4 favourite, Alan King/Martin Harley) gained a second successive All-Weather victory over a mile and a half with a dominant display in the £19,000 Betway Heed Your Hunch Handicap (2.50pm).
The Cheveley Park Stud homebred, a G2 winner over hurdles in February and successful on his return to the Flat at Wolverhampton on December 3, took up the running five furlongs from home and stormed clear in the straight to score by four and a half lengths.
Olly Stevens, assistant to Alan King, said: "Martin insisted that he was going to do the weight on Redicean (8st 9lb) and you can see why.
"If you compare his mark to his rating over hurdles, there was scope for improvement and it's fantastic that Cheveley Park Stud have let us take him back to the Flat.
"I think he is in a tough spot hurdling as a four-year-old - he was a very good juvenile but it's like two-year-old sprinters when they turn three - and it is lovely to have this option."
Martin Harley commented about the three-time hurdle winner: "We went a nice gallop up the straight for the first time and then got into a hack-canter down the back. I wasn't really in a rhythm - I was happy to take a lead, but Redicean wasn't comfortable. I knew that he would prick his ears if he went to the front.
"It's not easy doing 8st 9lb at this time of year - I will be 9st 9lb this time next week! - but Redicean is a horse that I think a bit of. He has been a good jumper and Alan filled me with confidence. It was a nice day out for Redicean and a good performance."