O’Meara hoping for another Summer special

Horse Racing

Popular veteran heads to Ripon on the back of solid Ascot effort.

David O’Meara relies on veteran sprinter Summerghand to provide him with a fourth victory in the William Hill Great St Wilfrid Handicap at Ripon.

The eight-year-old has won 13 times for the Helmsley handler, with the 2020 Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood, the All-Weather Sprint at Lingfield and Group Three and Listed wins at Newmarket on his big-race CV.

Although winless so far this season, Summerghand finished strongly to place fifth in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot in June and again shaped with credit after meeting trouble in running when bidding to regain his Stewards’ Cup crown a fortnight ago.

Those defeats have seen him drop to a rating of 98 – his lowest mark in well over three years – and O’Meara is keeping his fingers crossed his stable stalwart gets the breaks he needs this weekend.

He said: “The draw isn’t ideal (stall three), but he’s run well in the race before – he was second in it a few years ago.

“He didn’t get a clear run at Goodwood the last day, or at Ascot the time before.

“He’s in good form at home and hopefully he’ll win a big one again soon.”

One of the least exposed runners in the race with just 10 runs under his belt is Blackrod, who makes his first start for Ed Bethell having previously been trained by Michael Dods.

The four-time winner was just a length behind Summerghand when seventh in the Wokingham and Bethell is excited to see him in action.

Blackrod (right) winning at York
Blackrod (right) winning at York (Nigel French/PA)

He said: “Blackrod seems to be in good form, he’s favourite and James Hutchinson (Ripon clerk of the course) has promised us the ground is going to be as good as possible on Saturday.

“It’s a fact-finding mission and we don’t have a great draw in stall one – the high numbers normally win the Great St Wilfrid.

“It’s very exciting. I’m very fortunate to be training him and I’m still learning about the horse, but from what he’s showing me at home, he looks a nice horse and we’re looking forward to running him.”

Al Simmo has been in excellent form for Steph Hollinshead this term, with her five starts yielding three wins, including a victory over the course and distance in May.

Hollinshead said: “It’s hard to be confident in a race like this, but we thought we’d have a go.

“All she’s done is kept improving. I suppose at some point she’s going to find her limit, but she’s in great form and she’s a course and distance winner.

“She will have to improve again. I had her in a Listed race at Pontefract on Sunday, but that does look quite warm and while we’re still improving, we might as well have a go at these handicaps.

“If she does improve again, we might be in a place where we’ve got no option but to run in stakes races, so it’ll be interesting.”

Misty Grey at Epsom
Misty Grey at Epsom (Simon Cooper/PA)

Misty Grey had the option of running in the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury, but instead carries top-weight in North Yorkshire off the back of winning at Chelmsford three weeks ago.

Trainer Tom Dascombe said of his stable favourite: “He’s a darling, I would marry him if he was a woman!

“He’s such a sweetie and all he wants to do is make you happy. He’s just a no-nonsense, genuine horse.”

Last year’s winner Justanotherbottle (Kevin Ryan), Emperor Spirit (Archie Watson) and Tim Easterby’s pair of Hyperfocus and Snash also feature in a typically wide-open contest.

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