Valley brings the best out of Spirit
Neither cracked hooves nor the no-go zone against the inside rail were able to stop tough five-year-old Helene Spirit from rescuing Caspar Fownes' day at the Valley.
Fownes went to Happy Valley with chances of winning several races and went within a short head of breaking through in the eighth, but was still empty handed before Olivier Doleuze took the road less travelled in the last.
As has been the case at the most recent Happy Valley day meetings, against the inside was not the ideal position down the straight, however, Doleuze elected to stay there.
'The inside was terrible, I agree, and I didn't want to be there but when I tried to get away from the fence early, he started to hang. I put him next to the fence and he raced truly, so I thought I have to stay there and he was brave to keep going,' Doleuze said. 'When Military Attack came in the straight, I thought for sure he would beat me, but my horse kept trying and was strong.'
Strength at the finish was all the more surprising because Helene Spirit had been borderline about even running when he had foot problems earlier in the week.
'He's a tough bugger. He was sore on his right side, front and back, earlier this week so that's a terrific effort,' said Fownes, only just starting to get the best out of the former France-based gelding, who had been slow to jump, pulled hard in his races and not done much right for his first seven runs here. 'I think bringing him to the Valley has made the difference, it's just a bit kinder underfoot for these European horses. I'll give him a break now, we'll get him over any foot problems and bring him back a little later in the season when he might strike some wet tracks. I think that's when you'll see he is a pretty decent horse.'
Two races earlier, Fownes' Valley sprint specialist Jumbo Gold nearly managed to stretch to the 1,650m trip successfully, but was nabbed on the line by another Valley horse, one who specialises at the extended mile - the Derek Cruz-trained Fun Rider (Tye Angland).
Fun Rider has had 15 goes at the trip for four wins, seven placings and fourth, and Angland has a knack with the gelding, too.
'It was a good win with no speed on to help him finish off. He pulled all the way, I had to check off heels two or three times, but I popped out early and got going on him and he kept on coming,' Angland said. 'That was how I rode him the first time I won on him last season and he seems to respond to it.'
It was a welcome change of luck for Cruz, who had been without a winner since March 7.