By Kevin Blake
First-season trainer Ollie Sangster looks to have an exciting two-year-old on his hands in the shape of Per Contra.
The Footstepsinthesand colt landed a substantial gamble when making a sparkling winning debut in a seven-furlong maiden at Chepstow on Monday, and Sangster nominated the Champagne Stakes as an option at the St Leger Festival.
Jamie Spencer’s mount was as big as 8-1 overnight before being backed into even money at the off. Having missed the kick by a few lengths, Per Contra caught the eye making headway into the clear with two furlongs to race.
He made strong progress to challenge soon after, but started to drift left and kept drifting left all the way to the opposite side of the track to his rivals. However, such was his level of superiority he still came home three and a quarter lengths in front, despite being eased down inside the final 100 yards.
What have we just seen?!
Per Contra comes from miles back and hangs all the way across the track but is much the best to make a taking debut for @OllieSangster and @JPSPENCER1980 at @Chepstow_Racing! pic.twitter.com/yAL4J8lVnV
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) July 10, 2023
Sangster was understandably delighted and revealed it was a performance that was very much expected.
“This horse will improve plenty, and I think he could be very good,” the Manton trainer told Sky Sports Racing.
“He has always shown us lots. A few months ago, we thought he could be one to aim at the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot as his dam won over a mile and a half, but he’s a big horse so we decided to take our time with him.
“He can only improve. He shows a lot of natural ability at home, but mentally he’s only just switching on and he showed how raw he is by galloping across the track as he did. He’ll have no problem stepping up to a mile this year and I’m sure he’ll stay at least a mile and a quarter next year.
“We would like to get him to the St Leger meeting at Doncaster, be it the Flying Scotsman Stakes or the Champagne Stakes, depending on how brave we want to be. But we do like this horse a lot.”
It transpired after the race that Sangster had booked Spencer for the ride a fortnight earlier, though the veteran pilot quipped that Sangster had not necessarily given all the information.
“Ollie rang me two weeks ago to say that he had a very nice one to run on the 10th, but he’s cunning, as he didn’t tell me it was at Chepstow!” he said.
“He was very raw and drifted across to the far rail, but he hit the line strong and galloped out good. Ollie is a bright young talent, and this horse did what he said he’d do and won well.”
Per Contra was introduced at 33-1 for both the 2000 Guineas and the Derby by Betfair.