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Saturday 24 August 2019

horse racing

Melrose Day!

For months, Lydia Hislop has been preparing Tortoise members for the horse race of the year. Now it’s finally happening

By Lydia Hislop

Happy Melrose Day! It’s the most wonderful race of the year. In recent months, I hope I’ve persuaded you to spare the three or so minutes it takes for three-year-old thoroughbreds to complete 1 mile, 5 furlongs and 188 yards of the Knavesmire turf at York today.

Hamish, a 3-year-old bay gelding

Happily, two of our three-to-follow in the new edition of the Tortoise Quarterly were present when entries were published on Monday: Kiefer, our chief striker, and Hamish, our wild card. Skymax, one of our original trio back in March, was also on the list. All three were declared on Thursday among the 13-strong final field.

With a dry forecast, the ground is likely to be good-to-firm. Positive news for Kiefer and less than ideal for Hamish and Skymax. I infer this from Hamish’s breeding and how he gallops – a rounded, flick-hooved action – and from Skymax’s improved form on softer going.

Skymax was surely also helped by wearing first-time blinkers (headgear promoting greater concentration by restricting peripheral vision) and leading from the outset. But here he’ll have company on the pace in the Melrose, so a strong tempo looks likely.

Kiefer, a 3-year-old grey colt

Again, that’s good news for Kiefer, who was unsuited to a steadily run 12 furlongs last time. The extra accent on stamina and York’s long straight is perfect, but we must hope jockey Charles Bishop doesn’t opt to challenge towards what has appeared the less favoured grandstand side.

Nascent stayer Hamish acquired a favourable handicap mark – the rating that, based on what each horse has achieved so far, dictates how much weight they carry – via competing over an inadequate ten furlongs. His likely handy tactics have played well at York this week.

Others to eye warily are Eminence, from master Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien, and Land Of Oz, whom wily Newmarket trainer Sir Mark Prescott has archetypally transformed from clueless gawk to progressive athlete.

You can watch the Melrose live on ITV at 2.25pm or a replay via York racecourse’s website.

But you’ll watch it live, obviously.

Illustrations by Nathalie Lees