Botti delight as rejuvenated Spifer comes in from cold
Spifer's victory in the feature handicap at Kempton is unlikely to rank highly in Marco Botti's career achievements, but he was still grateful the prize was on offer at all.
It was a minor surprise to see one of the rising stars of the sport braving the snow for the only British meeting left yesterday and he could have more rewarding days yet with a horse who arrived at his yard with a dubious reputation.
With all but the strip of Polytrack covered by a white blanket, it was rather appropriate to see an all-grey finish to the William Hill – iPhone, iPad, iPad Mini Handicap as Spifer (9/2) held Greylami by a short-head, with Noble Silk half a length behind in third.
When in the hands of Newmarket's other Italian-born trainer, Luca Cumani, Spifer had shown plenty of potential, but threw away several winning opportunities by ducking to the left and this was his first taste of victory since shedding his maiden tag in the spring of 2011. Andrea Atzeni rode him cautiously behind a sedate pace carved out by Aquilonius, sneaking into the lead up the inside with a furlong remaining.
"This is enjoyable," said Botti with a chuckle."The snow hasn't been too much of a problem in Newmarket and we've been able to work as normal."
Of Spifer, he said: "We learned a lot from his second run for us and I told Andrea to take his time and not be in a hurry. I bought him at the horses in training sale last year as I thought he had ability. I think he won with a bit left in hand and he was never going to win by far.
"There are a few more class two and three handicaps on the all-weather so I would think we will keep him going."
Other trainers had been suffering more from the weather, with John Bridger reporting difficulties at his Liphook base.
At least he had been granted the use of Willy Twiston-Davies, who had been booked for the abandoned meeting at Lingfield, but diverted to replace Sean Levey on Welsh Inlet (5/1) to land the William Hill – No.1 Downloaded Betting App Handicap.
"I rang them three times to see if it was on today as we're quite high up and I was worried about driving through the lanes," Bridger said.
"Willy normally rides her and his 5lb claim is a big help.
"The surface is riding slower and I think it helped her as she won on the soft at Brighton in the summer.
"I have her in here tomorrow as well, I probably won't run her but I'll see how she is."
James Unett's long drive was rewarded as his only runner Big Sylv (11/4) bolted up under David Probert on her first visit to the Sunbury course in the William Hill – Download The App Fillies' Handicap.
"I think she's an improving sort and we'll keep her ticking along," said the Oswestry trainer.
Jeremy Gask's excellent handling saw Toga Tiger win his fifth race from his six most recent starts in the William Hill – iPad App Now Available Handicap.
The 4/1 chance arrived an out-of-form horse from Paul Midgley just over a year ago, but stuck his neck out in plucky fashion for Raul Da Silva to finish a nose and a short-head up on Diplomatic and Light From Mars.
"He's had issues. It's just a case of managing him and he does nearly all his work on the treadmill," said Gask.
Gertrude Versed, a half-sister to Gertrude Bell bred by John Gosden's wife Rachel Hood, landed the William Hill – iPad App Now Available Maiden Fillies' Stakes as a 4/5 favourite should.
"The jockey [Franny Norton] said she tries hard. She doesn't have gears, she just gallops, and she ran well enough last time to win this," said Gosden's representative, Les Reynolds.
Valdaw finally lost his own maiden tag at the 16th attempt as 10/11 favourite for first division of the William Hill – Download The App Handicap.
Division Two went the way of 7/2 chance Whipphound for jockey George Baker and trainer Mark Brisbourne.
Sunday Indo Sport