Barclay out to bank winner at Musselburgh on first day with licence
You're never too old to try something new. Stella Barclay, who has spent "more than 60 years around horses", takes that maxim to the extreme on Friday when saddling her first runners since being granted a licence to take over at Lancashire Racing Stables.
The former assistant, who sends Melanna and Mount Cheiron up to Musselburgh, assumes control of the dual-purpose facility in Garstang from Mike Hammond, who had been temporarily using the base as a satellite yard to complement his Worcestershire stable.
Prior to that, Richard Ford had been at the helm for five years before stepping down to pursue other interests last November.
"I've always wanted to be a racehorse trainer and, with a team of 20 horses I thought, that's what I'm going to do," said Barclay, who is of "pensionable age".
"I don't believe age is a barrier to the pursuit of dreams and after more than 60 years around horses, I think it's time to follow mine."
"Mount Cheiron, who finished third at Wolverhampton last month, is a bit in-and-out but looks to have the better chance of the two," she said. "Melanna works like a nice horse but hasn't been putting it together on the track."
Hammond, who sent out Sevilla to win for the yard at Wolverhampton last month, said: "I'd like to express my gratitude to Paul and Stella for the short time I spent at the yard. There's a good team in place with some nice horses and I wish them all the best for the future."
Photographer looking to get into Derby picture
They always say the 2,000 Guineas is the best Derby trial, but there are a couple of Epsom entries in action on the eve of the first Classic in this 1m2f novice stakes (5.10).
Last year's Oaks winner Enable won at Newcastle early in her career and her trainer John Gosden returns to the Tapeta this evening with Photographer.
The three-year-old, who is closely related to 2010 Irish Derby runner-up Midas Touch, made a winning debut on Polytrack at Chelmsford last November and has entries in the Dante, Queen's Vase and King Edward VII Stakes as well as the Derby.
Epsom is the only early-closing engagement held by Mount Ararat, a son of Sea The Stars who makes a belated debut here.
"He's a lovely stamp of a horse and he was one of our nicer two-year-olds last year, but he picked up an injury and needed a lot of time off," said trainer Karl Burke.
"He's done well to come back but this is very much first day at school and whatever he does on Friday, he'll improve a bundle on."
Barel Of Laughs out to retain Gold Cup Crown
The feature race of the evening at Cheltenham sees last year’s winner Barel of Laughs bid to retain his title in the Mixed Open Gold Cup Final Hunter’s Chase (6.40).
The 12-year-old has had another successful campaign that most recently saw him finish a close third to Pacha Du Polder at the Cheltenham festival, where he beat the likes of Balnaslow and Burning Ambition.
Trainer Philip Rowley is optimistic about the gelding’s chance in the 3m2½f contest, noting that "preparations couldn’t have gone any better."
"He’s the one to beat. He’s on good form and the ground should suit him. We’re more hopeful than confident, but fingers crossed it all goes to plan."
Abricot De L'Oasis appears the most likely challenger after winning at Stratford last month, while veteran Owen Glendower has had success recently and will be ridden by owner/trainer Hannah Gregory.
Rooster Byron hoping for come out on top again
Rooster Byron will be bidding for a hat-trick in the Mallow Handicap Hurdle (6.30) at Cork following a win over fences at Clonmel in March and a 14-length victory in a 3m handicap hurdle at Limerick last month.
The seven-year-old, who will be seeking a third win over hurdles, was raised 12lb for his Limerick success and his trainer Paul Nolan said: "He did the job nicely on his last two runs and seems in good form.
"He got a fair old hike for his Limerick win and the ground was very testing that day. He's going to have similar conditions here, so hopefully the last run won't have left a mark."
"It'll probably be his last chance for some time as the ground will have to dry out some time soon. Kevin Sexton gets on well with him."
Rooster Byron's 11 rivals include last-time-out winners Seskinane, a 12-year-old who scored over 2m6f at Ballinrobe last month, and Chateauneuf Du Pap, who won a 2m3f novice hurdle at Limerick in March.
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