Jockey Connor Beasley has won two of the last six runnings of the Great St Wilfrid Handicap at Ripon; in-form rider booked on Tracy Waggott's Intrinsic Bond on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Racing at 2.50pm
Thursday 11 August 2022 16:33, UK
There is something about Ripon's biggest race, the William Hill Great St Wilfrid Handicap, that brings the best out of in-form northern jockey Connor Beasley.
He has won it twice and been second three times in seven rides in the six-furlong sprint and finished a creditable fourth last year on the horse he partners again in Saturday's £100,000 dash, live on Sky Sports Racing, Tracy Waggott's Intrinsic Bond.
Beasley, who two weeks ago won the Stewards' Cup for the second year running on Commanche Falls for boss Michael Dods, says victory for family friend Waggott would mean the world to him.
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"I've known Tracy all my life," Beasley said. "My mum Susan used to work with her at Norman Mason's when I was a kid and she lived in the next village. Then, after she started training, I began my career with her before moving to Michael. She has a great knack for finding the key to sprinters and deserves to win a big race like the Great St Wilfrid."
Her five-year-old gelding Intrinsic Bond is 6lb lower in the handicap than he was in last year's renewal and could not head to the 'Garden Racecourse' in better fettle after winning at Thirsk last month. He has never won at Ripon but has been second three times over the Great St Wilfrid trip.
"He's a gritty, hardened sprinter who knows his job and gives you everything," added Beasley, who has passed the 60-winner mark this year and is well on course to beat his previous best of 72. "In an ideal world he probably would prefer some give in the ground but he's pretty versatile.
"He's also shown he handles the track and course form is so important at Ripon. It's one of those tracks that can catch horses out. You have to hit every undulation even and if you've got a horse running there for the first time it can set them off balance.
"We're drawn lower than ideal in stall six but it's not a maximum field, so I've got options from there. If I had a choice, I would want to be on the stands' side but I've seen horses win it from the far side as well. It's wherever the pace is really and there should be enough early pace around me to help me conserve some energy."
Beasley won the Great St Wilfrid on two other prominent racers, the Bryan Smart-trained Nameitwhatyoulike in 2016 and Dakota Gold for Dods three years later.
"Nameitwhatyoulike was a good sprinter who was an out-and-out galloper," he said, recalling a victory crucial for the fact it came little more than a year after Beasley fractured his skull and broke his spine in a crashing fall at Wolverhampton that put him on the operating table for 10 critical hours.
"It was a big result for me at the time," he added. "For a sprinter he was relentless when he got to the front. You could stretch them from the three pole on him and he won well from the front that day, beating proper horses like Intisaab, Baccarat and Pipers Note."
However, his follow-up success on Dakota Gold paved the way for some of his finest moments in the saddle. "Dakota Gold is the hardest horse I've ever sat on and has been a legend. He's as tough as old boots, wears his heart on his sleeve and gives you his all every time.
"It was on the easy side of good that day and he likes to get his toe in the ground so that was ideal. I ended up winning up the middle of the track on him. He bolted up to be fair," added Beasley, who had finished second in the race on the star sprinter to David Barron's Gunmetal 12 months earlier.
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Together they have gone on to win seven more races, including the Group Three Bengough Stakes at the jockey's favourite track York in 2020, and have a possible crack at the Ayr Gold Cup in their sights come September, among other targets.
It was another Dods sprinter who was instrumental in putting Beasley's name on the map as an apprentice, however. He won five times on the mare Spinatrix, including the valuable Coral Sprint Trophy at York in October 2014.
But it was her exploits in the Great St Wilfrid that summer, and the previous year, that really got Beasley noticed when they only just failed to beat two subsequent Wokingham winners. Richard Fahey's Baccarat claimed her yards from the post before David O'Meara's Out Do defied a low draw to thwart her again, even though she was first home on the stands' side.
"I was gutted to be beaten on both occasions but at the same time she helped to put me on the map and get me going. She was a proper flag bearer for me, getting me to the big meetings on Saturdays as a claimer.
"If you'd seen her in the morning, you wouldn't think she was a sprinter. She was always behind the bridle - very lazy - and you had to give her a kick to get her into gear but she went for you every time."
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A third victory in the Great St Wilfrid on Intrinsic Bond would set up Beasley for what could be a weekend to remember, as he plans to partner the improving Dods mare Gale Force Maya in the Listed Flying Fillies' Stakes at Pontefract on Sunday.
"She's six now but just keeps on improving," said Beasley, who finished third on the chestnut in the Group Three Summer Stakes at York last month before winning on her for the third time this season back in a Knavesmire handicap.
"She had a lot of weight on her back that day which takes a bit of doing in big handicaps. The boss has done a great job with her and it would be fantastic if she could get some black type for her owners."
Fantastic, indeed, but victory in the Great St Wilfrid would be hard to top. "I'd love to win it for the third time, especially for Tracy. That'd be great," he said.
Watch the William Hill Great St Wilfrid Handicap from Ripon live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Saturday August 13.