Hugs for McKeown


Hugs Dancer landed the Tote Credit Club Cumberland Plate (Showcase Handicap) under a fine ride from Dean McKeown at Carlisle yesterday, but he is unlikely to attempt to add the Foster's Lager Northumberland Plate to his haul at Newcastle tomorrow.

McKeown made the most of the gelding's stamina, sending him into the lead with three furlongs to run and he gave his all to hold the persistent challenge from the favourite Collier Hill by half a length.

He has 7st 3lb plus a 3lb penalty for the Newcastle test, but trainer James Given reasoned: "He lost 20 kilos after the Ascot Stakes last week and obviously I will have to see how he is in the morning, but I would think it is less than 50-50 that he will run there."

Given had no worries about dropping him back to a mile and a half after the Royal Ascot race over a mile further, saying: "He finished third in today's race when it was run at Newcastle last year and this is a much stiffer track."

But a step up in trip is definitely on the cards next month as the Gainsborough trainer added: "He will be going back for the Marriott Hotels Goodwood Stakes at Goodwood over five furlongs, he won it last year and the smaller field suits him."

McKeown thinks a great deal of Hugs Dancer, who was bought out of the Michael Stoute stable as a backend unraced two-year-old, and the former explained: "I think he would have won at Ascot (seventh to Riydah) but we had to come very wide and he was beaten only just over two lengths."

Big Bertha is certainly well named and has a big heart into the bargain, because she still had the strength and determination to win the European Breeders Fund Fillies' Handicap despite completing a full circuit of the course beforehand after slipping up and unseating Ted Durcan.

Kieren Fallon was making his first visit to the course for at least two years, and after getting Michael Bell's Fluent home in front in the Royal Scot At Morton Park Median Auction Maiden said with a smile: "I used to do quite well here when I was based in the north - but riding for Lynda and Jack Ramsden made it easy"!

Treaty Of Utrecht, Jeremy Noseda's first runner on the course, made the lone 540 round trip from Newmarket pay off when landing the auction maiden under Darryl Holland.