Saffie Osborne begins defence of Racing League title with a win

Saffie Osborne’s love affair with the Racing League looks set to continue after she took the opening contest of this year’s event aboard Rod Millman’s Chinese Knot at Yarmouth.

The 21-year-old was one of the stars of last year’s six-week event, scooping the leading rider’s title thanks to an inspired treble at Newcastle on the final night of action and she picked up where she left off on Wales & The West’s sole representative in the William Hill-sponsored Nursery.

Although slightly reluctant to enter the stalls, Chinese Knot showed plenty of guts to hold off Michael Dods’ Midnight Lir at the business end, with the victory also helping Wales & The West make the perfect start to the defence of their Racing League title.

“We’ve started the way we finished last year,” team manager Jamie Osborne told Sky Sports Racing.

“We’ve more runners than anyone else, we’ve 13 runners tonight, sadly not quite the full team.

“We got maximum points there and we’ve got some strong chances later on and in the middle of the card we might just be medium and you might need a bit of imagination to see a couple of them winning.

“But I’ve got a great team of trainers and unlike some, mine are right behind this and behind their leader.”

Wales & The West quickly extended their advantage at the top of the table when they picked up another 25 points for winning race two with Ed Walker’s Dark Trooper.

“It was a good performance from this lad, I thought he really enjoyed the ground and a bit of ease,” said winning rider Ross Coakley.

“He’s been running on the all-weather predominantly up until now, but stepping back a furlong on that ground I think really suited him. I was always travelling and felt like the winner.”

Yorkshire claimed second through Brian Ellison’s Northern Spirit.

The East’s player-manager Frankie Dettori was narrowly denied a winner in his first ride of the night when Charlie Fellowes’ Shahbaz, the 15-8 favourite for the one-mile handicap, was unable to reel in Dean Ivory’s Achillea.

There were some weary runners at the end of the eight furlongs but the mount of Marco Ghiani pulled out extra to score by a neck and give London & The South their first success for the 2023 competition.

“The last time at Ascot over seven furlongs it still looked a little bit short and Dean was happy to go up to a mile,” said Ghiani. “He thought she would have a great chance and she did.

“This is a great opportunity to ride for different trainers and different owners that you wouldn’t normally ride for and is a good way to create more contacts for Saturday’s when there are seven meetings.”

However, the East did not have to wait long to get on the scoreboard on home soil as George Margarson’s Farhh To Shy proved superior in race four over seven furlongs.

There was barely a rival in sight as the mount of Callum Shepherd came home a two-and-a-quarter-length winner, with Dettori’s East region leapfrogging London & The South into second position.

“We’re on the board,” said the Italian.

“So far so good, we’ve had a winner and a second and we have one in the last with a chance.

“I’ll be panicking if we are too far back on the second last week, but if we are in reach on the last two days like last year it can make a big difference.”

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