sport

Cookie has Grand designs

Peter Niven admits he could be "flying a bit high" with Clever Cookie with his stable star in the Stowe Family Law LLP Grand Cup at York.

Following a successful winter campaign over jumps, winning three of his six starts, including the Grade Two Premier Hurdle at Kelso, the six-year-old made a successful Flat debut with a smart display in a Doncaster maiden at the end of April.

Pitched into handicap company at York a little over a fortnight ago, Clever Cookie continued his progress with another authoritative victory, with Niven now forced to test the water at Listed level.

The Malton handler said: "We're probably flying a bit high, but we've got to get that third run into him and we're very short of options, to say the least.

"With his rating of 96 he can't get into 0-95 handicaps, and because he's only run twice on the Flat he can't run in any handicap worth more than 30,000.

"That leaves us with only a couple of options in handicaps, one of which was over seven furlongs at Doncaster, and we don't want to be going back to that sort of trip.

"Obviously he can run in conditions races and this is one of them, so we'll see how we go.

"I think he'll handle the ground and the track is obviously fine. We don't know about the trip. We'll just have to wait and see.

"The race is a bit classier than I hoped it would be, but he's ready to take his chance.

"His big aim is the Ebor. Saturday will tell us whether he stays the mile and six (furlongs) or not.

"The John Smith's Cup (York, July 12) could also be an option."

The size of Clever Cookie's task is clear given Godolphin's Cap O'Rushes, the Andrew Balding-trained Rawaki and First Mohican from Alan King's yard are the top-rated trio on 108.

First Mohican, who had a spell over jumps before returning to the Flat this spring, ran a fine race to finish third behind Mount Athos in the Aston Park Stakes at Newbury a fortnight ago.

Owner Henry Ponsonby said: "I'm very keen on Mohican. I think he's the one they all have to beat.

"He was only beaten a length by Mount Athos at Newbury, which is pretty good form, and we're hopeful he can run a big race.

"Richard Hughes was very impressed with him at Newbury. If there'd been a bit more give underfoot that day I think it would have been very interesting.

"We know he likes York, he's a course winner and he'll like the ground.

"Weather-wise, it looks good for us. He showed he's right back to his best at Newbury and Alan's horses continue in tremendous form."

Marco Botti is hoping for an improvement in conditions to allow Renew to take his chance in the Listed contest.

The four-year-old comes down in class after having run with credit to finish fourth behind subsequent Yorkshire Cup winner Gospel Choir in the Group Two Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket at the start of the month.

"He is in good form and he stays well, but we are going to monitor the ground," said Botti.

"He is a horse who has shown all his best form on faster ground and, ideally, we would like it to dry out at York.

"It looks a tough race, but he ran very well in the Jockey Club Stakes and he looks a much stronger horse this year than he was last year.

"This race has been the plan since he ran at Newmarket, but I was hoping the ground would be faster than it is."

There is an intriguing Irish-trained runner in the 13-strong field in Pat Shanahan's star stayer Ralston Road.

The four-year-old makes his first appearance since turning in a career-best effort to finish fifth in Meydan's Dubai Gold Cup.

Shanahan said: "I think he's got a big chance, as long as the ground doesn't go too heavy.

"He's a smart horse and ran some good races out in Dubai on faster ground. I thought he ran a very good race in the Gold Cup on World Cup night.

"He's come back and he's been in good form since, so he should go well on Saturday if the ground isn't too testing.

"He has an entry in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, but we'll see how he goes this weekend."