AM I BLUE landed a hefty gamble when running away with the Wyvern Ices Handicap Hurdle at Hereford yesterday.
The four-year-old had failed to score on any of her previous 16 starts and had been beaten 88 lengths when last of 12 on her latest appearance at Worcester.
But having been available at 25-1 in the opening shows yesterday morning, the Delyth Thomas-trained filly was backed at all rates down to just 5-1 before the off.
In a further twist, leading jockey Richard Johnson was called up as a late replacement for 5lb claimer Dean Coleman, who was booked to ride the horse at the declaration stage.
Am I Blue was sent straight to the head of affairs by Johnson and had her rivals in trouble from the turn for home.
She continued to increase her advantage all the way up the home straight and passed the post 19 lengths ahead of second-placed Northern Lad.
A delighted Thomas, who had gone 1973 days and 44 runners without a winner, claimed the gamble came as surprise to her.
Thomas told At The Races: “I don’t know where it’s (money) come from – maybe Richard Johnson riding her?
“I found out Dean was unwell this morning, so I was stuck, but Richard did a marvellous job.
“She’s had a bad shoulder so we had that sorted and fingers crossed today it’s worked.
“She just hasn’t been travelling but we changed the tactics today because Richard said he thought she could be made more use of and it’s worked.
“She’s so sweet and a lovely mare.”
The stewards’ accepted the trainer’s explanation that the improvement in form had been brought about by the change of tactics and some spinal therapy and decided not to hold an inquiry.
In response to the gamble on Am I Blue, Paul Struthers, head of communications for the British Horseracing Authority, said:
“When a horse wins showing improved form, having been heavily supported and subject to a jockey change, it is vital for the integrity of the sport that all of the facts are established.
“Our Integrity Department spoke to the racecourse stewards, who obtained two possible reasons for the improvement in form.
“It remains entirely possible that everything was above board, but it is just as important to prove if that was the case as it is to prove it wasn’t. Therefore our Integrity Services and Licensing Department will be looking into all of the circumstances of Am I Blue’s victory at Hereford today.”
Tony McCoy enjoyed an anniversary winner on the card as he guided Mycenean Prince to victory in the Lindley Catering Handicap Hurdle.
It is 20 years to the day that the 15-times champion jockey had his first ever ride in a race at Phoenix Park and he was once again the toast of favourite backers at Hereford as he guided the 9-2 shot to a seven-length victory.
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