Ashforth's Angles: A new face at Britain's highest Flat course

Ronan Whelan

Ronan Whelan: Royal Ascot winner heads to Bath on Wednesday night

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (  

 By David Ashforth 6:00PM 5 JUL 2016 

A SMALL day’s racing but a big one for Ronan Whelan, understudy to Kevin Manning at Jim Bolger’s legendary stables at Coolcullen, County Carlow. Whelan is riding at Bath and British Flat courses don’t get higher than that (238 metres above sea level).

Last month, on his first ride for Mick Channon, Whelan won the Group 3 Ballyogan Stakes at the Curragh on Divine. Channon obviously thought it was because he’s booked Whelan for three more rides. It will be a treat for racegoers and a novelty for Whelan.

It’s the 23-year-old’s first experience of the course with a kink and it’s surely no coincidence that his rides are spaced at hourly intervals (6.00, 7.00, 8.00), to give him time to recover from the shock. If Whelan manages to avoid returning with three hard luck stories he will have done well.

Stick to the outside

The opening contest, a 17-runner sprint handicap for horses that aren’t very good, should be an ideal test of mind and body. There’s every chance that Whelan will improve on his mount Lillyput’s recent effort when favourite but last of 11 over course and distance.

My advice is when there’s a choice opt for the outside rather than the inside route. It reduces the chance of being baulked and of being called rude names by punters; also, of Channon kicking you. Enough people kicked him when he was playing for Southampton.

Lillyput is followed by Jaywalker and then by that old faithful and winner of 15 races, four of them at Bath, Highlife Dancer. Hopefully Channon’s stable stalwart will be able to weave his way through the traffic before sprinting home for dinner.

Highlife Dancer has a fine record at Bath but Salient (9.00) isn’t just older, the 12-year-old also has a 100 per cent record at Bath, having won on his only previous appearance there five years ago. Unfortunately, Salient doesn’t run as fast as he used to.

Old stagers to the fore

There’s something about veterans (apart from being old) and, lo and behold, The Ducking Stool’s finally returned to Yarmouth (2.40) after 14 runs and 22 months elsewhere. Welcome back to the seaside, where you belong.

Julia Feilden’s nine-year-old didn’t win her first race until she was five. That was at Yarmouth and six of The Ducking Stool’s seven wins have been there. Shelley Birkett must love her. Not only has Birkett won on the mare four times but her brother Ross, an accomplished amateur, hasn’t won on The Ducking Stool at all but has finished runner-up four times. Her case rests, I imagine.

It would be nice if The Ducking Stool can win again. Don’t get put off by all those wind turbines going round and round off the coast, just put your head down and try to reach the winning post before the others. You know you can do it.

Unlike most of the runners in the maiden race at Catterick (2.50). When you’ve put a line through all the ones that either can’t or won’t win, it should finally be Stetchworth Park’s day.

Horse Racing News | Racing Post

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