Glorious Goodwood: It’s Alston systems go for Stewards’ Cup

There'll be a packed field as ever for the Stewards' Cup / Picture by Malcolm Wells
There'll be a packed field as ever for the Stewards' Cup / Picture by Malcolm Wells
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Trainer Eric Alston is looking forward to seeing Ridge Ranger return to the Qatar Goodwood Festival for the £250,000 Qatar Stewards’ Cup, one of the highlights of the fifth and final day of the meeting.

The five-year-old mare, one of 111 entries remaining in the most valuable six-furlong British heritage handicap of the year following the July 12 scratchings deadline, gave the Lancashire handler a first Goodwood success with an easy win in the Weatherbys Private Banking Handicap over five furlongs at the 2015 Qatar Goodwood Festival.

She is set to return to Goodwood on the back of a career-best effort in the six-furlong Group 3 Summer Stakes at York on July 8, when she made all of the running to beat Besharah by a length and three quarters.

Ridge Ranger, a half-sister to this year’s King’s Stand Stakes winner Profitable, will have to carry a 6lb penalty for that York success, taking her weight in the Qatar Stewards’ Cup to 9st 9lb.

Alston, who celebrates his 73rd birthday in November, commented: “Ridge Ranger is an intended runner in the Qatar Stewards’ Cup at this moment in time.

“She came out of her win at York with no bother whatsoever and I think her owner (and breeder) Mr (Con) Harrington would like to go back to Goodwood with her. She will have to carry a 6lb penalty, but her rating has gone up to 110 now anyway.

We thought five furlongs was her trip after she won at Goodwood last year but she was very good at York.

Eric Alston

“We had no intention of making all at York and I said to Jason Hart beforehand to ride her where she felt comfortable. After the first two furlongs, I thought ‘Bloody hell, he’s going too fast and will never keep that up’ but, when he came back, he said that she was always feeling comfortable.

“She won over six furlongs earlier in her career but then seemed to get quicker, so we started running her over five. We thought five furlongs was her trip after she won at Goodwood last year but she was very good at York.

“I think the main thing is the ground with her. She seems to get bogged down if it’s too soft but we were worried about it being too firm at York. They had six millimetres of rain overnight and it just made the going perfect for her.

“I trained her dam Dani Ridge and Ridge Ranger is a very strong filly like her mother, only a lot better!”

The weights for the Qatar Stewards’ Cup are headed by Brando (9st 10lb, Kevin Ryan), who was runner-up to Outback Traveller (9st 9lb, Robert Cowell) in the Wokingham Handicap at Royal Ascot before winning a Group Three sprint at Sandown Park on July 2.

Buckstay (9st 9lb, Peter Chapple-Hyam) and Glen Moss (9st 4lb, Michael Dods), third and fifth in the Wokingham Handicap, go forward along with Golden Steps (9st 5lb including 6lb penalty, Marco Botti), who was successful in the seven-furlong Bunbury Cup at Newmarket on Saturday.

Toofi (9st 2lb, Robert Cowell) and progressive handicapper Orion’s Belt (8st 11lb, David Nicholls) feature highly in the ante-post betting, while the progressive Dancing Star (8st 11lb including 6lb penalty, Andrew Balding) also won a competitive handicap on Newmarket’s July Course last week.

Dancing Star, a three-year-old Aqlaam filly who is related to owner/breeder Jeff Smith’s most famous sprinter, Lochsong, winner of the 1992 Stewards’ Cup, could struggle to make the field for the 2016 Qatar Steward’s Cup, which has a safety limit of 28 runners. She is number 40, at best depending on the official handicapper’s assessment of all those on 8st 11lb, in the present list.

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