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Coral Champion Stakes - Romford 575M - £10,000


JOHN MULLINS became the third member of his immediate family to land the Coral Champion Stakes when Ascot Woodie got the verdict after a nail-biting finish with Starring Storm in the 575-metre Category One competition over 575 metres at Romford.

Mullins watched on as younger brother David landed it in 1998 with Pottos Storm, and he was assistant trainer when his mother Linda landed this popular summer showpiece with the exceptional Palace Issue in 2000.

Add to that the success of John and David’s father Pat, who landed the 1978 Derby with Lacca Champion amongst other big races, and surely we have the most successful dynasty in UK racing.

It’s worth digressing for a moment to consider the achievements of the aforementioned Pottos Storm. After winning the Champion Stakes in 1998 the son of Droopys Fintan out of the fabulous Certain Way dead-heated in the following year’s Grand National before reaching the Derby final won by Chart King. He also won the 1997 St Mungo Cup at Shawfield. Quite a versatile hound!

But back to Ascot Woodie who was something of a shock but very much a deserved winner of the £10,000 Champion Stakes. It was also a smashing training performance from Mullins, who coaxed a best of the competition 35.40sec (normal) out of the dog who at four-years-old was the oldest in the line-up.

At Romford so much depends on getting away to a good start and Ascot Woodie did just that. He led by the first bend but that looked a vulnerable lead as the favourite and a dog with a huge finish in the shape of Starring Storm moved into second.

Mullins’ first string was Badabing. He had beaten Ascot Woodie at the semi-final stage and looked a lively contender but being a doubtful stayer his whole game plan is based around getting away to a good start.

Sadly, for his connections and those that had invested in the Produce Stakes runner-up, a fast start was absent and his fate was known when his thrilling early charge was blocked by crowding.

The way the race unfolded worked in favour of Ascot Woodie. Starring Storm held second place for the first couple of bends but allowed Newlawn People to pass him at the third turn and then he prevented Seamus Cahill’s dog from moving in second until the fifth bend. That could well have been the difference between first and second for Starring Storm.

Off the final turn, the race was on. Ascot Woodie still held a decent lead but Starring Storm was beginning to unwind his finish. He closed quite dramatically on the leader as they raced towards the line and swooped to conquer at the post.

A long delay whilst the judge consulted the photograph suggested it might even be a dead-heat, but the verdict went with Ascot Woody who, the photograph revealed, had just held on in an absolute a thriller.

Newlawn Peter ran a cracker to take third, six and a half lengths behind the second. Badabing did well to take fourth given his poor start. Swabys Millward, perhaps the quickest from the traps, but didn’t show the required pace to turn prominently positioned, finished fifth, whilst Bog Brae who was never a factor after first bend trouble, finished last.