Prolific Hunter Chaser I Have Dreamed won Market Rasen’s prestigious 2m6½f Summer Plate on Saturday, kick-starting a course and distance afternoon double for Oxfordshire trainer Lawney Hill.
The son of Montjeu had never won over further than 2m5½f and his stamina was pushed to the limit in the £50,000 Listed Handicap Chase. Kept prominent and travelling smoothly throughout under a positive David Bass, the ten-year-old picked himself up courageously after a final fence blunder to gamely repel the challenge of fast finishing favourite Al Co by a rapidly diminishing short-head.
The biggest success of the trainer’s career could not have come at a more appropriate time after a two-month winless run over obstacles for the stable: “People were saying beforehand that I Have Dreamed’s main negative was the form of the yard,” said Hill. “I wasn’t going into Saturday with much confidence of winning but was hopeful of him running into some prize money. It isn’t easy to be positive when your horses have not run well over the last few weeks so to win the Summer Plate and double up on the same afternoon was just amazing. It’s definitely the biggest race we’ve ever won.”
Ever-shrewd Hunter Chase supremo Steve Flook purchased I Have Dreamed for the pittance of £2,200 at Ascot in January 2011 and steadily revitalised him for owner and close friend Glyn Byard over the past 18 months. Proving himself at the sharp end of the Hunter Chase division in 2012 with three wins from his last four completed starts, Byard decided the time was right to have a crack at the Summer Plate. A new trainer was needed however, with Flook not able to field a runner due to the absence of a professional license.
“We were having a chat with Steve after he won the John Corbet Cup [with Rumbury Grey] at Stratford,” Hill explained, “He was enquiring about the availability of my son Joe [this season's joint-Champion Novice Point-to-Point rider] to ride in Hunter Chases next season. Glyn then shared his idea of running I Have Dreamed in the Summer Plate and they decided it was best to send him to a smaller yard. The next morning Steve phoned and said ‘Are you having my horse then?’ and it went from there. We got him in a couple of days after Stratford and he’s been here ever since.”
Although delighted to see a 130-rated chaser enter the yard, Hill was nervous at the prospect of gaining further improvement from a horse sent from Flook: “When you get a horse from Steve Flook, you don’t rub your hands with joy. Was I really going to be able to improve this horse? Steve’s done a great job turning the horse around but I thought we would have to improve him five to seven pounds to be competitive in a race like that. We’ve had the horse for six weeks and I think we sharpened him up in certain areas but I make no bones about that fact that Steve is the one who’s got him back to form. What was really nice was that Steve came up to Market Rasen and he was delighted for us and for Glyn.”
Since arriving at Woodway Farm, I Have Dreamed was given the stable name ‘Steve’, after his former trainer, as Hill deemed his previous term ’75′ [after his lot number at Ascot] too serious.
Hill’s two winners on the card were both chased home by Peter Bowen [who had won the Summer Plate four out of last ten years] inmates, a reversal of what has become normal service when visiting the Lincolnshire venue: “We’d never had a winner at Market Rasen and when we’ve been second it’s always seemed to be behind Peter Bowen horses. He was the first man to come up and say well done.”
Bellaboosh, who completed the yard’s double, was also ridden by David Bass: “I’m so pleased for David. He is very strong and positive, I had no doubts. Glyn trusted my judgement on his booking and he didn’t let him down.”
Hill also sung the praises of rider Dan Collins, who did most of the schooling aboard the Summer Plate hero after recovering from a broken leg sustained after being unseated in this year’s Cheltenham Foxhunters. “He told me every day how well he was and yesterday you couldn’t have wiped the smile off his face,” said Hill.
Hill commented on the Montjeu gelding’s immediate future: “We haven’t decided what we’re going to do yet. He’s had a hard season and we’ll see what the handicapper does before making plans.”
The victory was bittersweet for son Joe however as the ten-year-old is now ineligible to take part in Hunter Chases next season. The mount was a possibility after Ben Poste, who guided I Have Dreamed to two of his three Hunter Chase wins this season, recently turned conditional for Tom Symonds. The rules of racing state that a horse may not start a Hunter Chase if ‘on or after June 6th, 2010, it has won a steeple chase which was not confined to Amateur Riders, which had a penalty value of £18,000 or more’. If the rule remains consistent, I Have Dreamed would be fourteen before being allowed to compete again in Hunter Chases.
A £100,000 yearling campaigned for two years on the flat before switching codes in 2007, I Have Dreamed has shown his best form over fences on sharp, right handed tracks – the traits of Market Rasen – suggesting Saturday’s assignment was tailor made for him. He is 5/11 going right-handed over fences and 2/9 when sent the opposite way around.
The Summer Plate was his 12th rules success (7 chase, 2 hurdle, 3 flat) and took his career earnings to £106,000. With a unique style of running, maintaining his upright stance and high head carriage, the gelding is not hard to spot on the racecourse.