Clifford Lee was full of praise for the in-form Karl Burke, who continued his fine campaign as Invincibly took the historic £31,000 Stablemate By AGMA Carlisle Bell Handicap.
The race may be an 0-85 handicap in racing terms but it has plenty of historical significance and offers up the oldest sporting trophy in the world to still be contested in the form of the 423-year-old Carlisle Bells, which date all the way back to 1559.
Burke and Lee have enjoyed a fine campaign together so far, with the yard providing the Jockey with his first ever Group winner with El Caballo in last month’s Group Two Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock. And Invincibly (17/2) showed a good attitude to win this race for a fourth time for his trainer here, asserting well after picking up the lead inside the final furlong before going on to score by a length and a quarter.
Lee was delighted with the performance from the son of Invincible Spirit. He said: “We travelled really well and felt like we were going off early doors, normally he’s a front-running horse. We just got beat the last day at Windsor and he was very unlucky so we’ve gone one better here.
“He’s very tough and going from the three to the two pole I had a good chance and a lot more horse underneath me and then when I asked him he’s done it well.
“The yard is flying and this year has been a great year and hopefully it continues. We’ve got lots of nice horses at home and hopefully they can carry on going well. It’s been a great year for me and all the credit must go to my boss, he’s given me my first Group winner and hopefully it continues.”
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Wednesday’s seven race card also included the £16,000 Consolation race for the Carlisle Bell, which offers plenty of prize money in its own right for those who don’t quite make the cut in the feature.
Local trainer Dianne Sayer has a fantastic record on the level at Carlisle, having recording 12 winners from 72 runners on the Flat over the past five years here and she extended that fine strike rate to 13 today with Jackhammer (11/1), who showed a fine attitude to battle home and win the contest for the second time in the last three renewals.
The eight-year-old is in fine heart at the moment, recording his third straight victory across both codes since April, and the winning trainer was delighted to have another winner on Carlisle’s big day.
Sayer said: “He’s been running well for us over hurdles and at the start of the year we were struggling to find a rhythm and find races for him, but then he dropped into it at Perth and we had a nice couple of wins up there. The owners are on holiday so we thought we’d come up to Carlisle! He’s been a great horse for us so we’re delighted.
“It’s fab because it’s always been an ambition of mine to have a runner in the Bell, we keep not quite getting there with Jack but I don’t mind coming into the Consolation race! It’s nice to be here and be a part of it, Molly and the team do such a brilliant job and Carlisle is always so welcoming. It’s our local track so family and friends are able to make it so we love to support the track.”
Meanwhile, the Kevin Ryan team could have another nice two year old prospect in the form of Washington Heights (4/1), who impressed when taking the opening Scaleby Restricted Maiden Stakes over five furlongs by a head under Kevin Stott.
The son of Washington DC caught the eye when fourth on a luckless run on debut at Wetherby earlier this month and his trainer was enthused with his latest juvenile winner at the track – who follows in the footsteps of the likes of Hello Youmzain and El Caballo, who both won here at two.
Ryan said: “It was a lovely run at Wetherby and he’s improved for it as he’s quite laid back at home and he’s obviously going to come on a lot for that fitness wise too, so we were hoping today that he was going to run a big race again.
“Obviously you don’t know what you’re going to meet in these races but Hello Youmzain won his first start here and he went on to be a Group One horse – so you never know.”
Nick Bradley admitted that he was thrilled that he had resisted the temptation to run a host of his string at Royal Ascot last week, after Oscula (13/8 favourite) and Honey Sweet (20/1) capped off a fantastic few days for his racing operation by leading home a one-two in the Listed British Stallion Studs EBF Eternal Stakes.
Bradley, who is the Racing Manager for his racing syndicates, oversaw a 1-3-4 in a Listed contest at Ayr on Saturday and his fortunes continued on an upward curve this afternoon thanks in most part to the George Boughey-trained Oscula, who showed her class by securing a pretty routine-looking two length success under Ben Curtis, who was enjoying a 20/1 double on the day.
Oscula was a Group Three winner as a juvenile last term, though she struggled on her first start of the year on the dirt in Saudi Arabia in February. However, she bounced back with a good effort to finish second on her first British start at Epsom Downs earlier this month and Bradley feels that she has earned another shot at Group level on the back of Wednesday's success.
He said: “A month ago there were a few people giving us looks but then we had the first, third and fourth in the Listed race at Ayr on Saturday and the first and second here in another Listed race. I could have run them all at Royal Ascot and I’m glad that I didn’t!
“Oscula was always the best horse in the race on paper and we got it slightly wrong running her at Saudi in February, but we’ve given her plenty of time and George has done a great job with her. She’s won that pretty easily, so I’d imagine that we’d probably head back into a Group Three race next perhaps.
“Honey Sweet has probably run a seasonal best, she was second behind Noble Truth at Newmarket in April but this was a better performance so we’re absolutely delighted.”
The Hugo Palmer-trained Commonsensical (13/2) won the Atkinson Building Contractors Cumberland Plate Handicap, providing Ben Curtis with the first leg of his double.
The four-year-old has made a good start to his campaign this term, coming here on the back of a victory and a second placed finish and the winning trainer feels that there could well be more to come yet from the son of Bated Breath.
Palmer said: "I'm actually driving at the moment but I had the action expertly commentated to me on the television, so I do know what happened! He's a funny horse because the jockey has to ask for every answer from him, they really earn their riding fee but he keeps producing it and he ran very well over a mile and a quarter six days ago.
"It was a bit of a gamble to come back here so soon but I don't think he'll ever win races by far and I think there could well be more to come from him. The prize money is absolutely tremendous and I said to the owners that I don't normally run horses six days later but for a £31,000 race it's worth rolling the dice. If all 0-85 handicaps were like that we'd be a step in the right direction!"
Commonsensical is owned by a number of footballers with links to Burnley. The syndicate was set up by Jack Cork and his wife Freya and includes the likes of Matt Lowton, Nick Pope and James Tarkowski, as well as Sam Vokes and Chris Wood who now play elsewhere.
Palmer feels that having famous faces getting involved with ownership can only help raise the profile of the sport. He explained: "It's great to have the guys from Burnley involved, they've got three horses with us though one has just been retired because he doesn't want to be a racehorse. Luckily this one does so hopefully we can have some more good days with him."
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