Ranch Hand continues perfect record in Betway All-Weather Marathon Championships
Classy stayer Ranch Hand made it four wins from as many All-Weather appearances as he powered home to take the Betway All-Weather Marathon Championships.
The Andrew Balding-trained five-year-old had scored on his first two career starts at Southwell before booking his Finals Day place with an all-the-way success in a Chelmsford City Fast-Track Qualifier on March 13.
James Doyle was happy to track the leaders in third on Ranch Hand behind Australis and Amtiyaz. Rainbow Dancer made a significant move around the field with half a mile to race and the 3/1 favourite looked to have his six rivals in trouble as he kicked on into a clear lead entering the final quarter mile.
Ranch Hand (7/2) quickened well in the straight to head Rainbow Dancer approaching the furlong-pole and galloped out well to beat the staying-on Rock Eagle by a length and a half. Lucky Deal finished a neck back in third, with another neck to fourth home Rainbow Dreamer.
It was a second Betway All-Weather Marathon Championships success for Balding, who sent out Mymatechris to victory in the near two-mile contest in 2015 and also saddled the third home in both 2014 and 2016.
“I thought James [Doyle] always had Ranch Hand him in the right position. I was just a bit anxious when they suddenly accelerated before they turned in – I just thought he might get caught a bit flat-footed. But James gave him a wonderful ride. He is a classy horse and very tough as well.
“I think he's four from four on the All-Weather now. We were a bit concerned that Lingfield might not be his ideal track, but as it turned out it was fine. We know he can perform well on the turf as well, so I think we will stick to the Flat for the time being. We always have the option to go back jumping if we want to
“This was always plan B. It was only because we ran out of jump options for him that we went to Chelmsford. He won there so that gave us the ticket to run today, and it's worked out really well.” Doyle added: "I was a bit frustrated because Ranch Hand jumped nicely, but we then had pressure from the outside, so I let a horse go on in front of me. He is quite a generous horse, so I held him back as I thought it would be better to get him into a rhythm.
"He got balanced up well in the straight and stayed on well. He did get caught flat-footed off those sedate fractions, but it is a long way out from the top of the hill, so when they did go I was pretty confident he would keep galloping, it was just a case of whether they would come back to me.
"Ranch Hand has been jumping and that seems to have made a man of him. It was pretty faultless to be honest.
“His run at Newmarket back in the Listed race, where he won, it was a small field but Withold was in behind him and Ghost Watcher... it was a pretty solid race, so I thought he had the form coming into today.”
2.00pm Betway All-Weather Marathon Championships
1 Ranch Hand (Kingsclere Racing Club) Andrew Balding 5-9-05 James Doyle 7/2
2 Rock Eagle (Jeff Smith) Ralph Beckett 6-9-05 Rossa Ryan 11/2
3 Lucky Deal (Kai Fai Leung) Mark Johnston 6-9-05 Franny Norton 14/1
3/1 fav Rainbow Dreamer (4th)
Andrew Balding - 2nd winner on Finals Day
James Doyle - 4th winner on Finals Day