Stan Sheppard continued what is becoming a season to savour with his first Grade Two victory aboard Lossiemouth in the Ballymore Winter Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown Park on Friday.
The 24 year old jockey has found winners hard to come by for the last two years but hailed this win in the feature two and a half mile contest aboard the Makfi gelding as “definitely my biggest success”.
Moving well into contention entering the home straight the 7-1 chance pressed on to gain an advantage he would hold all the way to the line as the field approached the second last.
Despite flattening the penultimate flight it failed to stop the momentum of Lossiemouth who continued to extend his lead on the run to the last.
Jumping the final flight well Lossiemouth only needed to be kept up to his work to defeat the previously unbeaten Viva Lavilla by 14 lengths.
And Sheppard said: “A Grade Two winner is definitely my biggest success. I had a Listed winner on Tea Clipper a few weekends ago and now a Grade Two so I can’t complain.
“He races a bit behind the bridle - that is why he has blinkers on. Half-way down the back I thought, ‘I’m not sure how much I’ve got here’.
“Gav (Sheehan) went to the front (on Brave Kingdom) and I wanted to stay close to him and every time I grabbed hold of him he picked up again.
“I think it will be a hard race to gauge as we were rated 136 going into that and you are guessing what the others are rated. They were all 10 lengths behind him but they are hardly going to be 115 rated horses.
“That was my 16th winner of the season so things are getting better again now after having only 14 winners last season and nine the one before that.
“I’ve had a few good days for Tom (Lacey, trainer) already. Things didn’t go to plan yesterday (where he fell at Market Rasen on Nocte Volatus) but hopefully that has more than made up for it.”
Winning trainer Tom Lacey paid tribute to owner-breeder Lady Cobham for sticking by the dual bumper winner, who until this season had suffered a number of problems with his feet.
Lacey, speaking away from the track, said: “We always thought he was a very good horse but he has had major feet problems. I’m so happy for Lady Cobham who has stuck by him as he has had a lot of remedial work done on his feet.
“He came back in this time and he started working him and he had that enthusiasm back provided we could train him.
“He was given 13lbs for winning at Ffos Las last time out, which I thought was harsh, but it looks like the handicapper has got it right this time.
“It hasn’t surprised me what he has done as when he was winning those bumpers when he was younger you had to be careful what you worked him with as he would just break other horses hearts.”
As for future targets Lossiemouth could return to Sandown Park on January 8th for the Grade One Unibet Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle which is one of two potential top-level targets.
Lacey added: “You could think about the Tolworth back here or the Challow at Newbury. Although the Tolworth would be back at two (miles) that is often a grind in soft ground if the rain comes. We will just get him home and think about it.”
Following the race Lossiemouth was introduced at 20-1 for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ and 25-1 for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival by Paddy Power.