Reports18 March 2023

'He jumped mega' - Major Dundee lands Midlands National on Rex Dingle's first ride for Alan King

Major Dundee and Rex Dingle: winners of the Midlands National
Major Dundee and Rex Dingle: winners of the Midlands National

The importance of making a good impression on your first ride for a trainer cannot be overstated and jockey Rex Dingle certainly did that when winning the Boulton Group Midlands Grand National on Major Dundee for Alan King.

Last year’s Scottish National third carried just 10st 2lb in this 4m2f marathon, and with Tom Cannon partnering the stable’s other runner Notachance, the ride on Major Dundee was going spare.

With the assistance of agent Sam Stronge, Dingle was booked for the mount. He proved an inspired selection.

Sporting the silks of the late Trevor Hemmings, Dingle enjoyed a dream ride on the stout-staying eight-year-old, who travelled well through the race, jumped efficiently and found plenty for pressure to beat Tile Tapper by three lengths.

Notachance finished a further 18 lengths back in third, while 11-2 favourite Guetapan Collonges was back in fourth and topweight Iwilldoit ran well carrying 12st to finish fifth.

Dingle’s sole ride at the Cheltenham Festival came aboard Dashel Drasher, who passed the post in second in the Stayers' Hurdle on Thursday but was demoted to third due to slight interference. 

The rider struck on Dreaming Blue a day later at Doncaster and followed up in the Staffordshire track’s big race in front of a 8,530 crowd – the smallest in the past five years with a train strike impacting the attendance.

Rex Dingle celebrates Midlands National victory on Major Dundee
Rex Dingle celebrates Midlands National victory on Major Dundee

Asked how he picked up the ride on Major Dundee, a self-effacing Dingle said: “A shortage of lightweight jockeys, I suspect! There are loads of runners and meetings on today and I was very grateful to get the opportunity to ride for Alan, and in these famous colours. 

“Alan gave me nice instructions, and looking at Major Dundee's form I thought he could run a nice race. He travelled really nicely, jumped mega and made my life very easy.

“Each time we went out for another circuit he would grab the bridle, and with a lap to go I felt we had a decent chance. He was very comfortable with the speed we were going and I’m delighted for the horse. This would rank up there with the best of my winners.”

King was adding the Midlands National to a CV which includes the Scottish and Welsh versions and a return to Ayr could be forthcoming for Major Dundee if he recovers in time for the April 22 event. He is a 14-1 shot with Sky Bet.

Halcon Genelardais won the Chepstow feature for King in 2006 and the Barbury Castle trainer struck in the Scottish National with Godsmejudge seven years later.

“It's terrific to win a big race with those colours – it was Trevor's type of race,” said King at Kempton. “He got jarred up at Ascot on his first start of the season and I had to get a run into him somewhere. We went to Kempton, but he'd never gone right-handed. He looked like he was going to be pulled up last time, but went on to finish fourth. 

“I've always been trying to train him for a Scottish National. He ran very well at Ayr last year. Whether we get him there now I don't know as he's had a very hard race.

"He's a second-season novice and this season was almost going to be a non-event at one point after Ascot, so it’s great to win a nice prize with him.”

King's assistant Dan Horsford, who was on duty at Uttoxeter, suggested Dingle might be in for a few more rides on the back of the big-race success. A fine impression was clearly made.

It was a career-best effort over fences for the runner-up Tile Tapper, who stepped up markedly in trip from 3m½f and looked like he may catch the winner at the last. Sean Bowen rode the Chris Honour-trained chaser for the first time and had plenty of praise for his mount.

Bowen said: “He absolutely ran his heart out. He travelled great and tried all the way to the line. I thought I might be in with a chance coming to the last – it looked like the winner might be idling, but it wasn’t to be.”

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Jack HaynesReporter
Published on 18 March 2023Last updated 19:35, 18 March 2023