A bumper crowd descended on the Roodee for the 2023 edition of Edinburgh Gin Summer Saturday, with plenty of good quality racing and entertainment on show. The feature race came at 3:20pm in the fiercely competitive Edinburgh Gin Seaside Handicap (Class 2) for three-year-olds. Ground conditions remained Good (Good to Firm in places) throughout a sunny afternoon.
Race 1 – Juddmonte EBF Restricted Novice Stakes (GBB Race) (Class 2, 2yo, 6f)
A familiar name in the winner’s enclosure at Chester, Tom Dascombe registered his first Roodee win of the season when Innvincible Friend (7/1) made all under a smart ride from Alistair Rawlinson to score by ½ a length in the Juddmonte EBF Restricted Novice Stakes. Sharp out of his inside berth in Stall 2, Innvincible Friend was quickly ridden into the lead by Rawlinson, sticking to the inside rail ahead of Master Franca (5/1) on his outside. Still travelling strongly as he led the field into the home straight, Innvincible Friend kicked on with purpose with just over a furlong to go, his nearest pursuers now under strong pressure to keep up with the increase in pace. Seemingly with the race at his mercy, Innvincible Friend was simply not for passing in the final furlong, the 2-year-old responding well for Rawlinson’s urgings and eventually holding off the staying-on Bits And Bobs (11/4) to go one place better than his second-place finish at the Boodles May Festival. An early entry for the valuable £300,000 2-Y-O Stakes run during Doncaster’s St Leger Meeting in September, Innvincible Friend looks like a progressive juvenile to follow; congratulations to all connections!
Race 2 – Edinburgh Gin Spritz Handicap (Class 3, 3yo+, 5f)
Leaving it very late in the day, Vintage Clarets (100/30) scraped home by a short head in the second race of the afternoon, ridden out to make sure by Callum Hutchinson for trainer Richard Fahey. Racing towards the rear of mid-division, Hutchinson seemed content to keep Vintage Clarets tucked away on the inside rail for much of the contest, racing in company with previous course winner Lihou (15/2) and Ancient Times (9/1), the field led mostly by Leodis Dream (12/1) who was bidding for his second victory on the Roodee in just three starts at the track. As the runners thundered around the home turn, the contest looked wide open with a furlong to go, Leodis Dream still holding a narrow lead as the chasing pack closed in behind, with Vintage Clarets flying up the rail and Lihou challenged out wide. Sneaking up the inside and into a narrow lead with 200 yards to race, Vintage Clarets saw out the final furlong well under Hutchinson, the talented 4-year-old just about holding off the valiant Lihou in a blanket finish, the entire field covered by just 3 ¾ lengths at the line with Copper Knight (5/2F) last of all in eighth place. A jockey improving season-upon-season, Hutchinson had his best year yet in 2022 when riding 24 winners and collecting over £400,000 in prize money!
Race 3 – Edinburgh Gin Cannonball Handicap (Class 4, 4yo+, 1m 2 ½f)
Enhancing his reputation on the Roodee by making it 3 out of 3 at Chester, Box To Box (9/4F) brought the house down in Race 3 when coming home a ½ length victor for Hugo Palmer, delivered perfectly by James Doyle in the final furlong. Despite breaking swiftly and holding an early lead, Box To Box surrendered the advantage to Evocative Spark after the opening couple of furlongs and was kept prominent in the main alongside last year’s winner Jean Baptiste (18/5) and Bizarre Law (9/1). As the majority of runners came under a strong ride, Bizarre Law travelled sweetly into a slender lead around the final turn, David Probert pushing his mount over a length clear of the ridden Box To Box and Jean Baptiste with just over a furlong to race. However, responding superbly to the James Doyle drive, Box To Box stayed on strongly in the closing stages to edge past the gallant Bizarre Law at the ½ furlong pole, the 4-year-old ridden out to the line to make sure as he held off the challengers in the shadows of the post, with Jean Baptiste eventually stealing second from Bizarre Law late on. A fruitful combination when teaming up, Hugo Palmer and James Doyle have successfully combined for no less than 14 winners at Listed level or better during their careers!
Race 4 – Edinburgh Gin Seaside Handicap (Class 2, 3yo, 7 ½f)
A horse with a knack for consistency, Saxon King (15/2) gained a deserved victory in the feature race of the day when staying-on strongly under Kieran Shoemark to hold off Royal Dubai (9/2) by ¾ of a length for trainer Charles Hills. Racing out wide for the most part, Saxon King was sat towards the front of those in midfield throughout the early stages ahead of the likes of Royal Dubai (9/2) and Tafreej (3/1F), with the contest dictated by Sophia’s Starlight (9/2) from the outset. Getting first run on the field and kicking clear with the home straight left to negotiate, Sophia’s Starlight looked to be in prime position under John Egan, the bay filly scooting a couple of lengths clear of Saxon King who seemed to be responding well for pressure. However, with a furlong left to go, Sophia’s Starlight finally succumbed to finishing effort of Saxon King, Kieran Shoemark’s mount now galloping on relentlessly towards the line. Although another strong finishing effort from Royal Dubai threatened to spoil his party, Saxon King ultimately never looked in much danger in the dying strides, the 3-year-old seeing out his race well at the line. Another combination with an eye-catching record, Hills and Shoemark have also combined four times with Pogo for Listed and Group success since 2020!
Race 5 – Manor Car Hire Handicap (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m)
Fresh from a solid third at the track on Tote Roman Day, Capone (6/4F) ran out an imperious winner of the fifth race under Ben Curtis, storming home by 4 ¼ lengths to collect the spoils for Dominic Ffrench Davis. Prominent from the flag-fall, Capone raced in second place for much of the contest, stalking leader and multiple course winner Heart Of Soul (25/1) throughout, with Malakhana (7/2) and Percy Jones (10/1) following in behind. After a circuit and a half had been negotiated, the field became quite strung out as one-by-one, the runners came under firm pressure to maintain their position. One horse managing to do so, and travelling rather sweetly in the process was Capone, who kicked on strongly around the home turn to sail into a comfortable lead over Percy Jones, the early leader Heart Of Soul now dropping away tamely and hampering Malakhana on the rail as he did so. Always in command up the home straight, Capone was simply not for catching in the final couple of furlongs, powering on stylishly to record a very smooth victory ahead of Percy Jones in second and Malakhana in third. Enjoying his best season, Ffrench Davis has now trained 14 winners in 2023 from 65 runners, running up an impressive 22% strike-rate and £185,000 in prize money!
Race 6 – Edinburgh Gin Classic Handicap (Class 4, 4yo+, 6f)
A placepot buster in the sixth race, just 1 ¾ lengths separated winner Faro De San Juan (25/1), second place Bezzas Lad (33/1) and previous course winner Cuban Breeze (9/2) in third at the line, the winner bringing home South-African jockey Greg Cheyne’s very first winner at the track. Trapped out wide coming out of Stall 8, Faro De San Juan was shuffled back to rear division out the gates and raced down the outside of runners throughout the opening couple of furlongs, the field led by Bezza’s Lad (33/1), with Cuban Breeze (9/2) not far behind. As the field made their way for home around the turn into the straight, Bezza’s Lad kicked a length or so clear under double-seeking Alistair Rawlinson, followed closely by a staying on Roman Dragon (11/8F) with Cuban Breeze and Faro De San Juan widest of all. However, gathering a head of steam shortly after the furlong pole, Faro De San Juan soon laid down what turned out to be a fierce and race-winning challenge, flying down the centre of the course on the outside of Bezza’s Lad to eventually pip the long-time leader in the shadows of the post; Cuban Breeze ran on well to hold off Roman Dragon for third place. Congratulations to Greg on his first winner at Chester; here’s hoping there’s many more to come!
Race 7 – Edinburgh Gin Rhubarb & Ginger Handicap (Class 5, 4yo+, 1m 4 ½f)
Bounding away from the chasing pack in the home straight, The Thunderer (7/2) powered home for trainer Ollie Sangster in the final race of the day, eventually coming home in front by 4 ½ lengths and providing Ben Curtis with his second comfortable winner of the afternoon. Ridden along having been slowly out of the gates, The Thunderer raced towards the rear of the field through the opening circuit of the contest, the lead held between Aldbourne (10/1) and Tio Mio (13/2) for the most part, with veteran and previous course winner Restorer (6/1) sitting in third. Making stylish headway around four furlongs from home, The Thunderer suddenly appeared on the scene as the leaders began to fade under the pressure, new leader Tudor (5/2F) holding a narrow advantage as the home straight loomed. Showing an incredible turn of foot, The Thunderer quickly soared into the lead around the final bend and soon put the race to bed, with Tudor unable to reduce the deficit as the runners came into the final furlong and eventually yielding second place to Restorer in the closing stages, leaving The Thunderer in a league of his own over 4 lengths clear. A consistently prolific rider, Ben Curtis also claimed a Group 2 winner in 2022, scooping the York Stakes aboard Sir Busker!
Race report by Adam Perkins
THE JUDDMONTE EBF RESTRICTED NOVICE STAKES (CLASS 2,2yo) (for horses in Bands B, C and D)
Distance: 6f,17y | Prize: £30,000
THE EDINBURGH GIN CANNONBALL HANDICAP STAKES (CLASS 4,4+yo)
Distance: 1m,2f,70y | Prize: £12,000