4:31pm Friday 18th October 2013
By Niall Hannity
MARK JOHNSTON bagged one of the most competitive handicaps of the season last Saturday with Scatter Dice, who stayed on dourly to win the Betfred Cesarewitch under Silvestre de Sousa at 66-1.
Running in a visor for the first time, it was a remarkable performance after she lost several lengths at the start but made relentless headway to lay down a challenge to eventual third Lieutenant Miller approaching the final furlong.
She soon had his measure and ran went on to score by three lengths from Waterclock on her 16th start of the campaign, a credit to her and Johnston.
Chiberta King was fourth while Pallasator’s fifth placing means Sir Mark Prescott’s quest for a first winner in the race continues.
“It’s unbelievable. She’s such a trier. She a visor on for the first time but she was just a bit sleepy (in the stalls). She’s done really well,” de Sousa said.
Johnston, winning the race for a third time, said: “She’s had a long, hard season but has run well on so many occasions.
“She’s going to retire at the end of the year, that was the plan anyway, so I suppose this was her last chance.
“She’s run a couple of strange races recently, dropping herself out, so I was a bit concerned in the first half of the race that she was all right but then I saw her hanging in with the pack. I saw her coming from a quite a long way out.”
York also raced on Saturday, their final meeting of the year, and Paul Mulrennan’s loss was PJ McDonald’s gain as Mass Rally bounced back to his best in the Coral Sprint Trophy.
Mulrennan had struck up a great partnership with Michael Dods’ mercurial sixyear- old, who needs to be produced at just the right time, but the jockey was the victim of a terrible fall last month which brought his season to a premature end.
Sent off at 14-1 after finishing only 11th in the Ayr Gold Cup, he was last early on before McDonald switched him right round the whole field, at which point he quickened up impressively to go away and win by a length and a half Seeking Magic was second with Hallelujah third and Jimmy Styles fourth.
McDonald said: “That was some thrill. Paul was an absolute superstar – the only negative about this is that he’s not riding it. He told me how to ride him to the letter and it worked out perfectly.
“This is my biggest win of the year.”
Dods said: “What he needs is a fast pace he can come off.
I was worried about the draw but told PJ to just drop him in.
“It’s a shame Paul wasn’t here as it’s his ride, but I use PJ a bit so I like to stick with who I know.
“He ran OK in the Gold Cup at Ayr but I had him a bit heavy there as I couldn’t get the races into him I wanted. I knew I had him better today.”
Mark Johnston had another landmark success on Monday when Commissioned took the concluding handicap under Joe Fanning and in doing so give the Middleham trainer his 200th success of another fine season.
Tomorrow really is a super Saturday with Champion Days taking centre stage at Ascot and a cracking card over the sticks at Cheltenham as well.
Ascot is brimming with equine quality but the weather hasn’t been kind all week and it will be interesting to see the final runners as the ground is set to be very testing indeed.
Mass Rally is set to line-up again in the Group 2 Champion Sprint and connections will be delighted to see the rain falling, and the ground getting softer by the minute.
Closer to home, Catterick are ready to stage a competitive card as well with the action due under way at 1.55pm.
The ground, will also, be testing but you won’t miss a thing with the big screen showing the best of the action from elsewhere.
© Copyright 2001-2013 Newsquest Media Group