bet365 Gordon Richards Stakes
Group 3, Sandown 14:25
£85,000 guaranteed,
4yo plus,
1m 1f 209y, Class 1   
Sunday 26th April 2024

1 Okeechobee 10/3
2 Desert Hero 10/3
3 Israr 9/4F
7 ran Distances: hd, ¾l, 4¼l
Time: 2m 10.15s (slow by 3.15s)

Okeechobee fended off the late charge of King and Queen’s Desert Hero to secure victory at Sandown.

This five-year-old gelding, unraced at two, previously displayed promising form under the joint training of Roger and Harry Charlton. However, with Harry now venturing out on his own, this Group Three triumph marks a significant milestone in the young handler’s career.

Returning from a lengthy layoff, Okeechobee entered the race as a 100-30 chance, ridden by jockey Ryan Moore. Moore had already partnered with Charlton to win the Esher Cup aboard Hand Of God. As the race unfolded, Okeechobee faced a challenging situation with two furlongs remaining. Jim Crowley, aboard Israr, surged to the front after a disappointing outing in Qatar. Despite this, Okeechobee accelerated past Desert Hero, who had previously finished third in the St Leger and was racing over a shorter distance.

However, William Haggas’ Desert Hero, ridden by Tom Marquand, mounted a fierce late challenge. The finish line arrived just two strides too soon for Desert Hero, resulting in a narrow defeat by a head, with Israr trailing by three-quarters of a length.

“I thought he would go very close beforehand, but watching it was less enjoyable,” said Charlton.

“Turning in, Ryan said they really kicked off the front, which we thought might happen, as it was a field full of stamina horses. He had quite a lot of ground to make up and Ryan was impressed with him from the three to the two to the one. 

“He just got there and like they sometimes do, he just leaned in. Al Kazeem used to do it; think he was going to win then start hanging into the rail. But it was impressive. 

“He obviously ran a lovely race at Kempton the other day and was entitled to come on for that. He came here 10kg fitter and I think he can probably tighten again, he’s a big, round, rotund horse. That’s only his sixth race and there’s scope for more hopefully. 

“Dare I say it, we might have to look at something like the Prix d’Ispahan or the Tattersalls Gold Cup next, it will be one of those two I suspect.”

Trainers Quotes

Haggas will not be too despondent with Desert Hero, as he was on his way out to Hong Kong to watch Dubai Honour, the horse who beat Okeechobee on his comeback at Kempton.

Marquand said of the runner-up: “It was the perfect comeback run for him. I would have loved him to get his head in front but he’s been beaten by a good horse and it was a good reintroduction to racing for him.

“Everything went to plan and he pulled up well and no doubt we will be back up to a mile and a half next and having some more fun with him.”

Maureen Haggas said: “The ground would be too soft for him and the trip would be too short for him. They went a good clip and two from home he was on the back foot a little bit, but he stayed on very well and it’s a nice start. 

“He’s come back from a mile and six to a mile and a quarter, so it’s a bit different, but he needed to get going and it will probably be one more run before the Hardwicke. 

“For me, he is still not there in his coat and he could change a bit between now and Ascot. These horses at the moment are having a lot to contend with, it’s freezing cold and the trees are coming out and there’s pollen everywhere.

“It’s hard for them and it’s nearly May – and I know it’s the same for them all, but they all have a lot to contend with.

“He took until Ascot to come to himself last year, but he’s getting there earlier this year, so I’m really happy with that and he was good here today.”

bet365 Gordon Richards Stakes
£85,000 guaranteed, 4yo plus, 1m 1f 209y, Class 1
7 ran
Going: Good to Soft, Good in places

1 (2)    Okeechobee 5 9-2 Harry Charlton Ryan Moore 10/3
2 (4)
hd Desert Hero 4 9-2 William Haggas Tom Marquand 10/2
3 (5)
¾ Israr 5 9-2 John & Thady Gosden Jim Crowley 9/4F
4 (1) Artistic Star 4 9-2 Ralph Beckett Rob Hornby 10/1
5 (7)
Checkandchallenge 5 9-2 William Knight Callum Shepherd 17/2
6 (6)
Tasman Bay 6 9-2 Sir Mark Todd David Probert 20/1
7 (3)
19 Flying Honours 4 9-2 Charlie Appleby William Buick 17/2