Ashforth’s Angles: Raven to fly? Don’t put your house on it

Neil Mulholland: trainer of Dusty Raven, who is seeking a first win

PICTURE: Rob Watson Raven to fly? Don't
put your house on it By David Ashforth 5:50PM 31 JAN 2017

CAN Neil Mulholland and Noel Fehily persuade Dusty Raven to win a race? Will Jonathan Burke regularly partner Rebecca Curtis's horses? Who is Alan Rhead?

These are just some of the fascinating questions that face the racing community on the first day of February. What a cracking start to the month.

Mulholland is one of my favourite trainers and Fehily one of my favourite jockeys so it was always going to be interesting to see whether or not they succeeded where Sir Mark Prescott had not and persuaded Dusty Raven that winning is the name of the game.

In defiance of his respectable pedigree, Dusty Raven has shown a limited appetite for a career in horse racing. The importance of passing the winning post first has passed him by.

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After failing the test at Prescott's Heath House, Dusty Raven was sold last summer for the insulting sum of £1,400.

Competition for the three-year-old maiden's services was not, apparently, intense. Responsibility for owning Dusty Raven passed to Steve Noyce.

Mulholland has faced the challenge manfully and if not successfully then not unsuccessfully. Armed with cheekpieces and down to a handicap mark of 50, Dusty Raven finished a close second at Lingfield. Switched to hurdles, he has finished runner-up twice, bringing his earnings for Noyce to £2,773.

Now Dusty Raven steps into a claiming hurdle (Leicester 2.40), available to be owned by someone else for £12,000. Will it be Dusty Raven's day? If you've got a house, I suggest you leave it where it is.

Tony McCoy used to ride regularly for Curtis. Just as he was getting the hang of it, McCoy retired. Conditional jockey Patrick Corbett went back to Ireland. At one time Paul Townend appeared regularly and successfully on the stable's runners. This season Jonathan Moore was doing well before deciding to return to Ireland. At Hereford, Jonathan Burke, who split with owners Alan and Ann Potts last autumn, has five rides for Curtis. A top jockey, it will be interesting to see if his booking becomes a regular feature.

Burke doesn't, of course, have a ride in the hunter chase (Hereford 4.00) where Paul Nicholls and Dan Skelton take on Alan Rhead, Martin Peaty and various other unfamiliar names. Whereas Nicholls is represented by Pacha Du Polder, immortalised by finishing fifth in last year's Cheltenham Foxhunter when ridden by Victoria Pendleton, Rhead is represented by Pay Your Way, well beaten in a point-to-point in December. While Skelton will be hoping for his 67th winner of the season, Peaty will be hoping for his first ever winner under Rules.

It hardly seems fair, a bit like James Moon's ambitious raid from Jersey with Granit Man. Last year Moon, a familiar figure at Les Landes racecourse, ran two horses at Goodwood and so far this season he has run three over jumps. Sadly, they haven't been good enough to be competitive and Granit Man is out of his depth in the beginners' chase (Hereford 2.00).

One day, hopefully.

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