Follow The Plan Springs Bowl Surprise
1 Follow The Plan 50/1
As a 50/1 shot, Follow The Plan surprised most racegoers when he went two better than his third place in last year’s Betfred Bowl. But his trainer Oliver McKiernan had been hopeful of another good run, at least, in today’s Grade One contest. “The way he’d been working at home there was no reason to believe he’d not have a bit of a shout.
“The drying ground helped him a lot, for he’s not a horse to run well on soft ground. And the way the race panned out helped too, they went a good pace and he was able always to have something to aim at.”
Follow The Plan was the first winner in Britain for McKiernan, who has a small string of a dozen, including point-to-pointers, at Rathcoole, Co Dublin. The trainer also has a building business, but said ruefully “You wouldn’t want to be relying on building in Ireland at the moment!”
The Betfred Bowl was Follow The Plan’s third Grade One victory, after a novice contest at Leopardstown four years ago and last year’s Guinness Gold Cup at the Punchestown Festival, which will be his next target. “It’s a local meeting,” said McKiernan, “so I guess we’ll go there and we are based not far from the course.”
Follow The Plan was ridden by Tom Doyle. “I was in front maybe sooner than I wanted,” he said, “but he was travelling so well I thought I’d better let him drive on. He was a bit sticky at the first but after that, no problems, and I could hardly believe how easy he was finding it. But we know that the sun on his back and better ground suits him.”
Follow The Plan was the first horse to arrive at Aintree this year.
BURTON PORT FOLLOWS PLAN HOME
Trainer Nicky Henderson said: “Burton Port has had a great year but it’s just a shame he hasn’t won a race. He was second to Long Run, fourth in the Gold Cup and now second again.
“We schooled him over an Aintree fence but he’s a little horse and Barry [Geraghty] says he rides a little horse too. You can get little horses who ride with size and scope. He was off the bridle all the way and he probably wants a stiffer track.”
Burton Port’s owner Trevor Hemmings added: “That was a super run. You can’t knock that. He gave it everything and has had a pretty hard race. I’m really pleased.”
Henderson also saddled the favourite, Riverside Theatre, who was struggling from early in the race and pulled up by Barry Geraghty before the 13th.
Henderson said: “I think he’s gone backwards a bit. I know he won the Ryanair but that wasn’t as good as [his win at] Ascot. I think next year it will be King George, Cheltenham and bed. Keep him fresh.”
REMARKABLE IMPROVER HUNT BALL KEEPS DREAM ALIVE
Hunt Ball, the season’s most improved chaser and winner last month of the Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Handicap Chase at Cheltenham, made the progression to Grade One company today.
Jockey Nick Scholfield said: “I can’t wait until next season - Cheltenham would suit him even better because he’s so well balanced, while trainer Keiran Burke said: “That was brilliant and I can’t complain. He was spot on for today, but he’s still a young horse and will improve again.
“He’ll have a summer out at grass and he’s still only seven - I’m sure he’ll be a better horse next season. We’ll set out a plan for next season but the dream is still alive.
“He’s had a lot of races, but they were easy at the start of the season. We had to come for this today and have not lost anything in defeat. He got the trip no problem.
“He jumped better today than at Cheltenham where the ground was perhaps a little bit dead - the ground’s definitely a key to him because he was beaten on soft at Plumpton earlier this season when I should never have run him.
“I trained ten horses at the start of this season and I’ve still got ten, so I’m looking for some more orders.”
Owner Anthony Knott said: “I’ve no excuses he was just beaten on the day. It was a Grade One race today and he’s done us proud - I thought he was going to do it at one point, but he’ll be back as a stronger horse.”
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