Milton Harris enjoys a Sandown - Hexham double
Milton Harris broke his seasonal duck on the flat at Sandown on Saturday when David Egan got Alnilam in front by a length in the 1m 6f handicap to close out the card. In truth though, Harris is not focused on the flat in the same way as his rival Alan King in the north of the county.
Whilst the same day resulted in winner number 10 of the nascent Jumps season when Mullinaree won at Hexham, flat winners have been a scarce commodity in Sutton Veney. 20 winners from 270 runners over a five year period contrasts dramatically with a 16% strike rate over jumps, over twice the rate.
Mullinaree is an owner's dream, having won his fifth hurdle race on the bounce for owner Kate Kenyon in Northumberland on Saturday since a winning run began in March. His rating has improved by a stone during that process, taking in a hattrick of winners at Fontwell, and one at Market Rasen before Saturday's northern adventure.
Harris now sits in a handy fourth place in the Trainers' Championship behind Fergal O'Brien, who continues to set the pace as has become the custom. It's all rather meaningless at this early stage of proceedings, with just 61 fixtures passed. Nevertheless, the summer months do offer a chance for ambitious stables to get a head start on their rivals.
Trowbridge trainer Michael Blake has also met with some welcome success. Five year old mare Under The Twilight notched a modest 7f handicap at Salisbury on Saturday that makes up one of six winners this year for this small yard.