King's Star shining bright21/04/2012 - 18:48:11
Alan King enjoyed a successful return home as he saddled Raya Star to land the Isle of Skye Blended Whisky Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr today.
The Lanark-born trainer, who had a spell at the Cree Lodge stables across the road from the racecourse, took the opportunity to spend the weekend with his parents.
And it proved a worthwhile trip from his Barbury Castle base in Wiltshire.
It had been something of an afterthought, though, with Raya Star having finished down the field in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Robert Thornton had to work hard on the six-year-old to ward off several challengers on the long run to the line, after the final flight was omitted as it was damaged.
Raya Star (15-2), winner of the Ladbroke at Ascot in December, would not be denied as he held Local Hero by three and a quarter lengths.
"He's a grand horse. After Cheltenham we were going to put him away, but he was so well we thought we'd have another go with him," said King.
"It's great to come back home and have another winner here. I think it was about five or six years ago since our last one and I think I was on a losing run here of about 30 runners.
"I was born in Lanark about an hour away but was brought up in Hamilton and I worked across the road from here at Cree Lodge for about a year when horses like Harry Hastings were around.
"We were slightly disappointed at Cheltenham, but the race didn't really turn out right for him.
"He's going to be a chaser next season and I don't think there is anything left for him this time.
"I came up (on Friday) and am staying with my parents until Monday, so it's a good weekend."
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls may have been out of luck in the Coral Scottish Grand National, but came away with a 96-1 treble courtesy of Grandioso, Pacha Du Polder and Doeslessthanme.
The Ditcheat handler predicted a big future for Pacha Du Polder after his 14-length win over Rival D'Estruval in the Arcadia Consulting William Dickie & May Robertson Future Champion Novices' Chase.
"He's a decent horse. He just needs a summer out at grass and he'll be a real horse next season," said Nicholls of the Ruby Walsh-ridden 11-4 favourite.
"He'll need a trip and I think the further he goes the better and I have to be pleased with that."
Amateur James Cowley was coolness personified as he opened the Nicholls account on Grandioso (5-1) in the Purvis Marquees Racing Excellence "Hands And Heels" Finale Handicap Hurdle.
Cowley had Graham Wylie's five-year-old in midfield before producing him to make his bid in the straight and get the better of Enfant De Lune by a neck as the pair pulled 13 lengths clear of Knight Valliant in third.
Wylie said: "I think my horses with Paul have taken a while to acclimatise.
"I have just spoken to one of the lads who looks after him and he said he is now a completely different horse than he was in October, so hopefully he will continue to progress from this."
The result was allowed to stand after the stewards' inquired into the start.
No action was taken against any jockeys for what happened there but a report will be sent to the British Horseracing Authority.
However, Bene Lad's rider Brendan Powell was banned for seven days, dates to be notified, for using his whip which was prohibited in this race.
Doeslessthanme (100-30), carrying the Wylie colours and ridden by Walsh, came home six lengths clear of Bocciani in the Scotty Brand Handicap Chase.
Wylie said: "That's great, I've had four runners at the two-day meeting and all four have won.
"The day didn't start too well as I was booked for speeding on the way here."
The Nicky Henderson-trained Cucumber Run (10-1) denied Nicholls when holding Walsh on American Trilogy in the Ayrshire Hospice Making Today Matter Handicap Hurdle.
Barry Geraghty's mount had too many guns and was three-quarters of a length too good at the line.
Henderson said: "I don't think he enjoyed fences, but it's nice he's come back and won over hurdles. I love the horse, he's a bit of a character."
Trainer David Pipe and jockey Tom Scudamore were other big southern names to get on the scoresheet when Problema Tic (6-1) won the Weatherbys Bloodstock Insurance Novices' Handicap Chase.
It was his first run since being bought from Sir Robert Ogden when he was with the Henderson stable.
Pipe said: "He was in the Scottish National and the two-and-a-half-mile novices handicap chase but we decided to go for this and he's done it nicely.
"He'll have a summer out at grass now and I hope he will improve, he will have to as he's going up the handicap."
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