Talking Horses: Matterhorn scales heights at all-weather championships

Greg Wood at Lingfield


The warm weather drew a sell-out crowd of 10,000 here on Good Friday but any heavy-hitting punters in the stands went home disappointed after Matterhorn’s seven-length defeat of the hot favourite, Wissahickon, in the Easter Classic, the feature event on All-Weather Finals day.

Wissahickon went to post having been beaten only twice in 10 starts and on a winning run that included three of the most significant races at Lingfield over the course of the winter campaign. As if the punters needed any further encouragement, he also had Frankie Dettori in his saddle and, though he had the worst of the draw in stall eight, he duly set off as the 1-3 favourite.

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Matterhorn, though, had an impressive record of his own on the all-weather until suffering an unexpected defeat at Kempton in late March. He was soon settled just behind the pacesetting Court House under Joe Fanning while Dettori was forced to race three wide on Wissahickon, and it was the Italian who was first to ask his mount to quicken on the turn for home.

The response from Wissahickon was brief and limited. Matterhorn, on the other hand, still had plenty of running to give and he left Wissahickon trailing in his wake as he quickened clear in the straight. The odds-on favourite was second but only just as the 40-1 chance Pactolus closed all the way to the line.

Mark Johnston, Matterhorn’s trainer, blamed a change of plan for the colt’s disappointing performance in his previous race. “It was a step up in class last time out,” Johnston said. “It was a diversion from the plan, as we thought we could take in a Listed race along the way. I think this is clearly a better performance. We thought long and hard if he was going to run over a mile [earlier on the card] or a mile and a quarter and we decided we shouldn’t run away from one horse [and] he was fantastic when he hit the front.

“Once he started running on the all-weather and winning we always had this race in mind, and that was great to see. He’ll have to go into Pattern company now and it might be a different story but we’ll have to find out. I don’t think grass will be a worry.”

John Gosden, Wissahickon’s trainer, pointed to his wide draw as a possible reason for his below-par performance but this was still many pounds behind his form from earlier in the winter.

“He was three wide and had no cover all the way,” Gosden said. “Racing three wide from that draw, it’s tough round here when you meet the bend quick and you spend the whole way in the middle of the track. He is a cover-up, turn-of-foot horse. The draw has slightly done for him but that is life.”

Favourite-backers had more to cheer in the Sprint Championship, where Kachy, at 4-9, went one better than last year from the front, and also the Three-Year-Old Championship, where Christophe Soumillon delivered the 11-4 market leader Pizzicato at the furlong pole apparently full of running but was forced to fight by Deputise before getting home by a short head.

Pizzicato’s win was a first in Britain for his trainer, Fabrice Chappet, and also Soumillon’s first on Lingfield’s all-weather. “When he hits the front, he tends to stop,” Soumillon said, “and that is what he did today. I was lucky that I could keep close to the second as that kept him concentrated all the way to the line.”

The huge crowd at Lingfield was a return to the sell-out of previous years after a disappointing turnout due to poor weather when Good Friday fell in late March last year. The meetings at Bath and Newcastle also saw big jumps in attendance with 10,500 passing through the turnstiles at the west country course, up from 5,000 in 2018, and 7,000 at Newcastle, up from 3,402 12 months earlier.


Lingfield 1.30 Starlight Romance 2.00 Amade 2.30 Gorgeous Noora 3.05 Kachy 3.40 Charming Kid (nb) 4.15 Wissahickon 4.45 Straight Right (nap) 

Newcastle 1.40 Lady Kermit 2.10 Rocket Action 2.45 Chosen World 3.20 Bayroot 3.55 Island Brave 4.25 Smarter 4.55 Burford Brown 

Bath 1.50 The Cruising Lord 2.20 Zulu Zander 2.55 Robert L’Echelle 3.30 Petrus 4.05 One Last Night 4.35 Given Choice 5.05 Acclaim The Nation 

Tips by Greg Wood