Delight for Grace Harris in Salisbury racecourse's Saturday night meeting

Ralph Beckett

Ralph Beckett

First published in Sport Hampshire Chronicle: Photograph of the Author by , Court Reporter

IT was a humble handicap that brought unconfined joy for Grace Harris.

Less than six months after setting up as a trainer, she saddled her first winner when Living Leader obliterated the field in the one mile race for amateur riders at sun drenched Salisbury on Saturday evening.

The 12-length demolition was straighforward, the horse is anything but.

"He can be a little tricky getting his head in front," she explained of his barren spell.

"But the straight mile and the fast ground certainly helped him. He's a really nice horse but things have got to fall right for him and today everything did but I hardly expected him to win by that amount."

As a dual purpose trainer, it is appropriate she should establish herself near Chepstow, but Living Leader's future will remain on the level and he will not go novice hurdling. "His legs are too fragile for that."

His success was the trigger for several other firsts.

Plymouth Sound did not set the River Avon on fire but there was much to admire as he tenaciously held on in a bunch finish in the six furlong juvenile maiden without betraying his racing experience and leaving trainer Eve Johnson Houghton in a quandry.

"I've loved this horse a long time and he will get furtther than this," she enthused, deflecting the suggestion that his success was a surprise, though he drifted alarmingly in the betting.

On one hand she wants to put him away for a couple of months in a softly softly approach, but he has been entered in the valuable Champagne Stakes ar Doncaster's St Leger meeting in September.

"It was £100 to enter and it is worth that having a look at what's there."

With Dean Ivory understandably concentrating on runners at the major Ascot meeting, he missed seeing Joyous finally getting off the mark in the five furlong handicap.

"He's always been there or thereabouts but today he did it nicely," said delighted stable representative Paul Booth.

"Richard Hughes thought he was going to get there, then he wasn't and finally he was, but he thought the horse would prefer the ground to be more on the good side than firm."

Another first came via Concrete Mac in the claimer. Though Charlie Bennett has ridden six winners elsewhere, none previously had been achieved at the track as he perfectly executed instructions.

"It was to take a lead, keep him comfortable off the pace and then make the best of your way home."

Ralph Beckett had a glimmer of compensation for Secret Gesture's narrow defeat in a group race at York when the well supported Air Squadron flew past one-paced opposition in the 14furlong handicap.

He was trained in France last season but owner Lady Cobham had him transferred to the Hampshire trainer's yard during the winter, and he improved immeasurably from his seasonal debut when a never dangerous fourth at Southwell.

"He prefers turf to fibresand," explained assistant Billy Jackson-Stops.

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