Light Speed shows promise in Lingfield stroll

By Sports Desk December 05, 2023

Light Speed can be expected to go on to bigger and better things judged on an all-the-way victory on his handicap debut at Lingfield.

Previously successful in maiden and novice company at Newcastle and Wolverhampton respectively, the Mehmas colt was an 8-11 favourite to complete his hat-trick in the hands of Oisin Murphy.

Andrew Balding’s charge was soon bowling along in front in the BetUK. Home Of The Acca-Fenwa Handicap and was not hard pressed to score by two and a quarter lengths from Enough Already.

Murphy told Sky Sports Racing: “He broke quite well and I didn’t want us to walk around and fight him, so I was happy to let him tip away in front.

“He’s a lovely model. On pedigree there are mixed signals as to what trip he’ll want, being by Mehmas, but he’s out of a Sadler’s Wells mare and he stays 10 furlongs quite well.”

There was a degree of poignancy to the success as Light Speed was a final lead-up for Kingsclere stalwart Geoff Rigby, who is now set to enjoy his retirement.

“I’ve been at Kingsclere for 55 years – I started there in 1978 when I was 15 and I’m 70 now,” said Rigby.

“It’s a lovely place to work and the highlight was looking after Mrs Penny. She won the Cheveley Park, the Cherry Hinton and the Lowther Stakes, then she won the French Oaks and the Prix Vermeille and was second in the King George.”

Balding said: “Geoff’s been at Kingsclere since 1978 and he’s been a star. He lives in the village and we’ll be seeing plenty of him, I’d hope.

“The horse read the script, which is great.”

Light Speed was a second winner on the card for Balding and Murphy following the earlier success of the previously unraced See That Storm (11-10 favourite) in division one of the Boost Your Acca At BetMGM/EBF Restricted Maiden Stakes.

Dashing Darcey (10-11 favourite) impressed in division two for Roger Varian and David Egan.

“He ran a very nice race last time at Newcastle (finished second), I was drawn very low and he didn’t jump overly quick. The horse that won that day had track position in a slowly-run race and quickened away from us, but we were staying on all the way to the line,” said Egan.

“I was slightly expecting him to do the same, sort of go through the gears, but I thought he quickened up quite nicely to put the race to bed very quickly. He’s improving all the time.”

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    However, despite failing to start at Ascot and cruelly unseating Nico de Boinville with the King George at his mercy, he heads to Prestbury Park as Britain’s leading hope of Gold Cup glory and with a fine chance of handing the master of Seven Barrows his third success in the highlight of the meeting.

    “It’s funny how going into Newbury the other day he was treated like a criminal who was let out of prison,” said Henderson.

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    “We had to be mindful at Kempton he could and Newbury he was no bother, he just walked straight in.”

    Many questioned whether the application of first-time cheekpieces played a part in Shishkin’s refusal to start on his seasonal return at Ascot and although the thought of reapplying the headgear for the 10-year-old’s Gold Cup tilt has crossed Henderson’s mind, he reveals it was Ruby Walsh who first put the idea into his head.

    “I won’t say I haven’t thought about cheekpieces and we’ve thought about it since Newbury, but I would say it is very unlikely. I can’t see us doing it,” added Henderson.

    “It had nothing to do with why he didn’t start at Ascot, despite what may have been written.

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    If the Festival’s most successful rider was playing the role of mole in the camp for the Festival’s most successful trainer Willie Mullins, then Henderson is unperturbed.

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    Henderson said: “Galopin Des Champs is very solid and sometimes I don’t think he’s as flashy as some. He’s a big, fine, good-looking horse and he’s very classy. He gets the job done. There are moments (in a race) when you wonder, but he’s one of these horses.

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    “I’m sure Willie will have his plan and we’ll have our plan and the jockeys will probably have a completely different plan and not listen to either of us!”

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