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Jonathan strikes gold for Norton

Franny Norton realised a long-held ambition as Our Jonathan gave owner Dr Marwan Koukash back-to-back victories in the William Hill Gold Cup at Ayr.

Trained in North Yorkshire by Kevin Ryan, the four-year-old had promised to deliver in a big race for some time, and could be called the winner from some way out.

Sent off an 11/1 chance, Norton elected to go to the far side from his middle draw in stall 12, and it was to prove a shrewd move. His mount hit top gear approaching the last of the six furlongs and strode out powerfully, with two lengths the margin of victory over heavily-backed favourite Eton Rifles, which led home the runners on the stands rail.

Son Of The Cat, which also raced on the far side, was one and a half lengths back in third, with Colonel Mak fourth home from the near side.

Koukash had celebrated 12 months ago when the Dandy Nicholls-trained Redford won in his colours.

A delighted Norton, a veteran of the weighing room, said: "I've been on two horses in the past that I've been meant to ride and they have gone on to win, so this is great.

"I was supposed to ride Redford last year, and Bahamian Pirate a few years ago (2000), so I am not winning it out of turn. Marwan has brought a bit of life back into the game, he has got 80 horses in training and it is incredible what he is doing. This horse is special to Marwan. We are both from Liverpool, so it is a great day for us all.

"I was messed about a bit in the race, a horse at the side of me kept poking out, but we went to the leaders and I had a look across the course to try and see if those on the other side were in front, and then I let him off at the furlong marker and he went and did his job."

Ryan said: "He has been threatening all season, but he has been gradually coming to hand all the time and he has really been sparkling in the last 10 days. When the ground came as testing as it is, I was pleased because he has form over seven furlongs and for a race like this you need a staying sprinter.

"We had him in good order and I wasn't really concerned about the draw -- my daughter Amy rode Advanced to finish third in the Silver Cup (earlier on the card) and they came up the middle. I think people read too much into it (the draw).

"Franny rode the horse so well at Chester, and Marwan let him keep the ride. He gave him a great ride."

Koukash said: "It is great to win the race again.

"He is a very good horse, he had good form as a two-year-old -- he lost his way a bit last season, but he is now back to his best.

"There is a seven-furlong race at Ascot which is a possibility, Redford won it after this race last year, and then there is a Listed race at Doncaster on the last day of the season.

"Franny rode the horse very well at Chester and he has missed out on this race on a couple of occasions, so it is great to give him a big winner."

Connections of Pepper Lane, which had beaten the winner last time out at Ripon in the Great St Wilfrid, had no explanation for the poor run of the filly, which beat only four home.

Sunday Indo Sport