Sammy Jo regains winning feeling with Legends glory
Sammy Jo Bell made a fairytale return to the winners' enclosure yesterday when she claimed the Mondialiste Leger Legends Classified Stakes at Doncaster yesterday.
The Templepatrick native partnered Dubai Acclaim, trained by her old boss Richard Fahey, to prevail in a photo finish from Hammer Gun with recently retired jump jockey Noel Fehily aboard.
The race is run to raise money for the National Horseracing College and Jack Berry House.
The 27-year-old started her career with Kevin Prendergast and rode her first winner Celtic Dane for the trainer at Leopardstown in 2011. She hit the headlines in 2015 when, as an apprentice, she registered a double at the Shergar Cup - the international jockeys' competition - and claimed the silver saddle award for the top rider at the Ascot event.
However, Bell was out of action for almost a year in 2016 following a serious racecourse injury when she fractured her pelvis and had to spend a couple of months in a wheelchair.
She rode a total of 72 winners in Britain, plus 10 in Ireland, and announced her surprise retirement last year.
Bell said following yesterday's victory: "I thought I might have got up at the end but I didn't want to be too confident.
"It's great to ride in a race like this. When they called me to see whether I'd ride in the race my first thought was that I definitely was not a legend but that I would love to take the chance.
"It was such a good buzz, I've missed that. It was really good to team up again with Richard, who has been so supportive of me throughout my career. I'm just glad it's resulted in a winner."
Bell ended her riding career with a winner at Catterick on All My Love and now works with her partner, trainer Philip Makin.
A delighted Bell added: "It was really good. I think I hit the front too soon, but that was just me getting excited.
"I did only just hold on, but that was me going too soon - the horse was helping me out.
"He was good. The last time I sat on him he was a yearling.
"I'm not as fit as I used to be, but we're quite busy at the yard so I haven't done as much prep as I would have liked."
Kieren Fallon had to settle for fourth place as Bell took the spoils.
Six-time champion flat jockey Fallon, who hung up his saddle in 2016, gave the Nigel Tinkler-trained Kilbaha Lady every chance over the straight mile, but could never quite get into a winning position.
Destroyer had taken the 16-strong field along but was swamped as the pace hotted up over two furlongs out.
Trained by Fahey, Dubai Acclaim (5-1) hit the front and just held the late flourish of Fehily on Hammer Gun by a short head.
Flying Dragon (Adrian Nicholls) was three quarters of a length away in third.
Fallon said: "I thought I was going well enough to win, but when I asked her to quicken she just didn't let herself down on the ground."
At Listowel, meanwhile, the Ulster syndicate that owns Ravenhill finished the wrong side of a photo finish to fill the runner-up spot in the valuable Kerry National when only a head behind Poker Partner.