Cemhaan stays on strongly to spring Rosebery surprise

By Sports Desk April 06, 2024

The burden of top-weight proved no barrier to success for Cemhaan as George Baker’s charge secured a surprise victory in the Virgin Bet Every Saturday Money Back Rosebery Handicap at Kempton.

The seven-year-old was already a dual winner at the Sunbury circuit, with his most recent triumph last May followed by a third-place finish behind Vauban in the Copper Horse Handicap at Royal Ascot.

He was subsequently well beaten in the Ebor at York, though, and while his January comeback at Kempton was not devoid of promise, he was a 25-1 shot for this £100,000 contest in the hands of Neil Callan.

After jumping out of the stalls smartly, Cemhaan briefly threatened to make all the running before eventually sitting on the heels of both Killybegs Warrior and Old Peculier.

With the pace visibly slackening before the home turn, the front end turned out to be the place to be and both Killybegs Warrior and Cemhaan found another gear once asked to fight out the finish.

Killybegs Warrior did not go down easily, but Cemhaan wore him down late on and passed the post three-quarters of a length to the good, with the free-going Intinso best of the rest in third.

“It was a very good, tough performance – he loves the track, this horse,” Callan said of the winner.

“He’s been so consistent and had a good run at Ascot last year, which just shows you the sort of level he’s been mixing it at.

“I won a small-field handicap on him last year when he dominated from the front and he jumped that well I was going to let him bowl along again today, but James (Doyle, on Killybegs Warrior) was intent on getting to the front.

“I kind of knew when he got there, he would slow it up, which I knew would suit me because my horse had a lot of weight on his back and you wouldn’t want to be stretching him from a long way out.

“I think the way the race panned out played into my hands and as long as I had the revs up going to the junction at the cut-off, I knew I’d pick them off. He’s very genuine and tough.”

Baker’s wife, Candida, added: “George is playing golf in Africa. I think he’d much rather be here today!

“I’m so pleased. Cemhaan went all the way to St Moritz and then the racing was called off, which was very annoying as all the owners were out there and it takes about three days to get him there.

“This was always the plan for him once we brought him back. With that top-weight, he was so tough, I got the saddle off Neil and I was carrying it thinking, ‘God, I’m not going to put this on him too early if I can help it’. He’s just so genuine, tries so much and I’m chuffed to bits, he owes us nothing.

“Neil is an excellent jockey – when he’s in a ride-off against another jockey, I’d back him every time, even when it’s against James Doyle.”

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    In a press conference on Monday addressing the abandoned races, SVREL Executive Chairman Solomon Sharpe expressed frustration with the rule, highlighting its potential impact on the racing industry.

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    "We were not consulted during the initial discussions on this rule, and now, with two races abandoned in a single race day, our concerns have materialized," Sharpe explained. "SVREL is open to collaborating with the JRC to review and refine this amended rule."

    Representatives from the Grooms Association, Jockeys Association, and the United Racehorse Trainers Association echoed SVREL's concerns and supported the call for a review of Rule 44.

    Sharpe concluded by appealing to regulators, stakeholders, and the public to support the growth of the horseracing industry in Jamaica. "Horseracing has immense potential in Jamaica and can become a significant foreign exchange earner. Realizing this potential requires collaboration among all stakeholders."

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