Friday 19 January 2018

Patience pays off for The Cheka

Nick Robson

Eve Johnson Houghton just about held herself together after The Cheka provided the trainer with her first Group-race win in the Timeform Jury Stakes at Haydock.

A promising two-year-old in 2008, his career has been held up by a series of injuries but he had shown solid form in his two previous runs this season, finishing second to Lolly For Dolly in Ireland and Side Glance at Windsor.

The trainer has made no secret of the regard in which she holds the gelding, but praised the patience of the owners, comedian Mel Smith and Anthony Pye-Jeary. Settled in second by Tom Queally, The Cheka was left in front two furlongs out as Kakatosi dropped away.

The favourite Regal Parade emerged as the only serious challenger but could get no closer than a length and a quarter to the 6/1 winner.

"I'm so chuffed, he really deserved that," said Johnson Houghton. "He's had so many problems but I kept on telling anybody that would listen he was a good horse. I'm so pleased for the owners as they've been patient and they've had horses in the yard for years. Being gelded has really straightened him out.

"I entered him in the Queen Anne but that looks very hot and he's also in the Wokingham, but he'll have too much weight in that. He may go to France for the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville over six and a half furlongs as seven-furlong races are so hard to find."

Queally then doubled up in the Play Poker At Handicap on Jeremy Noseda's 7/4 favourite Western Aristocrat which remains unbeaten after two starts and would have been an unlucky loser having had traffic problems.

Two very smart fillies fought out the finish to the Listed EBF New Approach Grosvenor Casinos Pinnacle Stakes. Roger Varian's Ferdoos and Henry Cecil's Vita Nova had only lost one race in six between them and they pulled clear of last year's Oaks runner-up Meeznah.

The pair had it between them and when Neil Callan hit Ferdoos (4/1) with the whip and she veered across the track it appeared her chance had gone. But she got back on an even keel and stuck to her task well to win by a neck.

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