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Sedgefield: Royal Castle proves his versatility with chase win.

Byline: Tom O'Ryan

Bargain buy Royal Castle, very much a favourite in the Kate Walton yard, underlined his versatility when winning the novices' chase on his debut over fences.

Ploughing through the rain-softened ground, the ultra-game nine-year-old got home by a length and a quarter from Boston Lass to record his third success for his owners Stan Clough and Dudley Bendall since Walton bought him for just 6,000gns at Newmarket Sales last July.

The Middleham trainer said: "He's such a lovely horse, I just love him to bits. He's now won on the Flat, over hurdles and over fences for us. All he's got to do now is to win on the all-weather - and he's already been placed - to complete the full set."

The stewards enquired into possible interference between the first two near the finish, but although they allowed the placings to stand, they found the winning jockey Paul Robson guilty of careless riding and handed him a one-day ban (May 12).

Robson went on to complete a double on Trooper in the three-mile, three-furlong handicap chase. The Andy Crook-trained gelding, also successful on the course last Saturday, was left in the lead when Dragon King slipped on the final turn and unseated Tom Greenway, and made the most of his good fortune by coming home with 29 lengths to spare.

Crook said: "He's a bit of a character, but Paul seems to get the best out of him, because he doesn't hustle and bustle him."

It seems an awful long time since horses and jockeys came back plastered with mud, but persistent rain had a drastic effect on underfoot conditions here with the going swiftly changed to soft after Graham Lee had brought home Club Royal to win the opening maiden hurdle.

Lee always had the Ginger McCain-trained gelding in the front-rank and kept rowing away from the last to keep the plugging-on favourite Princess Claudia at bay by a length and three-quarters.

Stormy Beech, who was beaten 69 lengths at Hexham on Monday, left that form well behind in the handicap hurdle when coasting home by six lengths.

Representing the father-son combination of Bob and Kenny Johnson, the seven-year-old had the tongue strap he wore at Hexham dispensed with on this occasion and, clearly much happier, fairly bounded home on this softer ground.

There was another family triumph in the hunters' chase when Vinto Tinto, owned and trained by Martina Mulhall and ridden by her husband Clive, triumphed by three-parts of a length from Buddy Girie. Next stop for the winner is the Doncaster Sales later this month.

Trainer Tom George and jockey Jason Maguire ended proceedings on a high with Polish recruit Nurzyk, who got the better of Wee Willow in the long-distance handicap hurdle.

Star performance

All the goose-pimpled young ladies who, on a wet, grey evening, gave male racegoers a treat in order to take part in the shortest skirt competition. Most of the skirts were no larger than pelmets, the sight of which will live long into the memory for some.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:May 3, 2003
Previous Article:Bangor: Barton Nic carries off prize for young trainer.
Next Article:Courts have a chance to be Wise after the event.

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