Our February winners

By John Scanlon

A mighty bump on leaving the stalls failed to prevent Desert Boots becoming the yard’s first February winner with a victory at Southwell on February 4.
Contesting a 0-65 handicap over six furlongs in a field of 12 runners, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed’s Belardo gelding, a winner at Lingfield in December over seven furlongs, was ridden by Andrew Breslin. The partnership got off to the worst of starts when receiving that hefty bump and they were well behind in the opening stages as Andrew took the gelding over to the rail and allowed him to recover his composure.
Turning for home, Desert Boots was still at least three lengths off the field, but he was running on for Andrew against the far rail. As the frontrunners began to run out of steam, Desert Boots took the lead in the final furlong and ran on generously to score by a length and a quarter from Silver Nemo.
After a frustrating period which saw the stable chalk up five runners-up places, the second winner of the month came in tremendous style, when Sea The Shells made a hugely impressive racecourse debut at Wolverhampton on February 17.
Owned by Teme Valley 2, the colt was bred by Kirsten Rausing and is by Sea The Stars out of the Pivotal mare, Seychelloise. The three-year-old was one of 12 runners who went to post for a novice event over nine and a half furlongs at Wolverhampton. Franny Norton took the ride.
Approaching the home bend, Sea The Shells was pushed along and received a reminder or two. Turning into the straight on the outside of Act Naturally, Sea The Shells suddenly produced a burst of speed to sprint clear of his field in a matter of strides. Despite being heavily eased in the final half-furlong, the Kingsley Park colt nonetheless scored by an impressive six and a half lengths from Reverential, with Rain Gauge three-quarters of a length back in third.
It’s hard to know whether the quality of the opposition at Wolverhampton amounted to much, but there was much to like about the ease with which the Sea The Stars colt swept them aside, especially given that aspects of his run betrayed real signs of greenness.
A Derby entry, Sea The Shells was purchased by Mark for 40,000gns as part of Book 1 of the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale in 2019. His dam, Seychelloise, ran for his breeder in 2014-16, when she won four of her 22 career starts, all on the all-weather, and finished in the frame on a further 11occasions. At its peak, her official rating reached 95. Sea The Shells is her first foal.
On February 18, Fred (pictured above) followed up his January success at Lingfield with a win at Chelmsford City. The Burke family’s Frankel gelding, a four-year-old, had won there in a 0-75 handicap on January 22. At Chelmsford, raised 2lb for his narrow Lingfield victory, Fred was one of 10 runners who went to post for this 0-80 handicap, again run over seven furlongs.
Drawn in the middle of the field, Fred, ridden by Franny Norton, was away smartly from the stalls and headed for the lead. Turning for home, Fred maintained a narrow lead as Blame Culture and Full Intention looked ready to mount challenges on his outer. Asked for his effort by Franny, Fred kept on really strongly as Seas of Elzaam came with a run on the wide outside of the field.
Always doing enough to win, Fred held on to score by a length and three-quarters from Blame Culture, with Full Intention sticking on well for third, beaten half a length by the second.
This was a fourth career win for Fred, all four successes having come over seven furlongs. He is out of the Listed-placed mare, Deirdre (by Dubawi), who won over a mile at Newcastle (on turf), and is now the winningmost of her five foals to have won to date!
Pillar of Hope was an impressive winner for the yard at Newcastle on February 20. Chris Buckley’s Awtaad colt was making his seasonal debut at Gosforth Park, having had just the one outing as a juvenile last year.
On that occasion, Pillar of Hope contested the York novice median auction event in which Gear Up made a winning, and eventful, debut, having got loose in the preliminaries. He ran well enough there, suffering a bump at the start but then racing prominently until the final furlong.
At Newcastle, Pillar of Hope faced four opponents in a mile maiden. On the basis of his price tag alone (425,000gns), the Kingman colt Three Platoon started as the odds-on favourite. Thankfully, no one told Pillar of Hope, who set out to make every post a winning one under Fran.
Sharing the lead with the outsider Blueskyandsunshine for the first furlong, Pillar of Hope pressed on in the centre of the track travelling strongly. Shaken up approaching the final furlong, the colt kept on strongly and won by three and three-quarter lengths from Three Platoon with a similar distance separating the second from the third horse, Ensured.
Snapped up by Johnston Racing for 52,000gns at Tatts Book 1 in 2019, Pillar of Hope is out of the Halling mare, Great Hope. A dual winner over a mile at Naas and Leopardstown, she is the dam of Reckoning, of Subjectivist and Sir Ron Priestley fame. Connections will be hoping that this colt turns out to share some of his near relatives’ talents!
Ghost Rider followed up his Southwell win in January with an impressive win at Newcastle on February 23.
The three-year-old Dark Angel colt, owned by John and Jess Dance, was an impressive winner at Southwell, landing a seven-furlong novice event by four lengths from Driftwood. As a result, Ghost Rider carried a 7lb penalty at Newcastle.
Six went to post for the Newcastle race, with PJ McDonald taking the ride on Ghost Rider, and they set out to make all the running.
In the early stages, he was challenged by the newcomer Colinton, with As If By Chance and Ariel racing close up in third and fourth. As Colinton began to fade, Ghost Rider was shaken up by PJ and seemed to increase the tempo.
Pulling clear of his field, Ghost Rider simply had to be pushed out by PJ to score under a hands and heels ride. At the post, Ghost Rider had won by three and a half lengths from As If By Chance, with Ariel finishing a short head back in third.
The colt has now won two of his three races and he appears to be on an upward curve. Ghost Rider is out of the Selkirk mare, Priceless Jewel, a half-sister to the Haydock Sprint Cup winner, Tante Rose, who was bred by Bjorn Nielsen and who won two races at sprint distances.
In the paddocks, she has produced four winners, including Swindler (by Invincible Spirit), who won two decent Ascot sprint handicaps in 2019.
At this stage, Ghost Rider looks well on the way to justifying the price of £55,000 paid for him by Johnston Racing at Goffs UK Premier Yearling Sale in 2019.