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Pickanumber routs Swinton rivals with ‘remarkable performance’

Pickanumber routs Swinton rivals with ‘remarkable performance’
Pickanumber routs Swinton rivals with ‘remarkable performance’

Olly Murphy admitted to being “a bit shocked” after Pickanumber turned what was meant to be a competitive Pertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle into a procession in the sunshine at Haydock.

Bought for £30,000 as a nine-race maiden at the Goffs UK September sale, the six-year-old had already looked a shrewd purchase after winning three of his first four starts for his new connections.

Despite lining up on Merseyside in rude health, Pickanumber was a 22-1 shot for what appeared a much sterner test, but he proved more than up to the task in the hands of 5lb claimer Dylan Johnston.

On the pace from flag-fall, the Shantou gelding had most of his rivals in serious trouble from the top of the home straight and the result was not really in any doubt from the second-last hurdle.

While riders in behind were rowing away for all they were worth, Johnston was able to salute the crowd as he passed the post a yawning 15 lengths clear of his nearest pursuer Tapley, picking up the lion’s share of an £80,000 prize fund for a syndicate that includes racing broadcaster Gary O’Brien.

“I’m a bit shocked really, especially because I didn’t think they went very quick and I thought there were a lot of horses beat turning in,” said Murphy.

“He’s a horse we picked up cheap from Doncaster last autumn and he’s four from five for us now. He’s kind of not scraped home in a couple of ordinary races, but he hasn’t exactly been hosing up and it’s just a remarkable performance.

Pickanumber and Dylan Johnston after winning at Haydock
Pickanumber and Dylan Johnston after winning at Haydock (Ashley Iveson/PA)

“I couldn’t quite make head nor tail of it really. I wouldn’t say I thought we were running in the wrong race, but I thought he’d done his winning and I’m as shocked as anyone.

“I don’t remember a Swinton winner winning by 15 lengths and it probably won’t help us going forward, but it’s a big pot to win today and we’ll enjoy it.

“I said before today, he’s been on the go all winter and probably wants a holiday, but that holiday might be cut short now and we might look over the Irish Sea at a Galway Hurdle.”

Zain Nights with Lucy Wadham (left) and Gavin Sheehan at Haydock
Zain Nights with Lucy Wadham (left) and Gavin Sheehan at Haydock (Ashley Iveson/PA)

Zain Nights signed off an excellent campaign on a high in the Pertemps Network Long Distance Handicap Hurdle.

Lucy Wadham’s charge lined up having won three of his previous four starts and was two from two since being stepped up to three miles in the spring.

The 4-1 favourite to complete his hat-trick in this £40,000 contest, Zain Nights moved powerfully throughout in the hands of Gavin Sheehan before knuckling down to get the better of game front-runner My Bobby Dazzler by a head.

“He’s unbeaten over three miles and he’s as tough as anything, now he’s got his jumping together he travels so well, being off the Flat, and he loves this good ground,” said Wadham.

“He’s a five-year-old who’s just improving. We’ll give him a summer break now, we were slightly umming and ahing about running today, but he came out of Cheltenham so well we thought we’d have one more run.

“I think we’ll stay hurdling next season and hopefully he’ll be good enough to go for something like the Pertemps Final (at the Cheltenham Festival), he’s going that way.”

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