A BUMPER crowd of 9,500, including hundreds of children, flocked to Salisbury Racecourse on a sunny Sunday for the start of its 2014 programme and with no winner being returned at greater than 6/1, it was difficult to determine where the biggest queue lay – at the bookmakers or at the ice cream vans.
Whatever Kingsclere trainer Andrew Balding may accomplish this season, he will look back with pride on his achievement with Whiplash Willie who defied top weight and a near 1,000 day absence to take City Bowl handicap.
The classy individual, who won two races at the track and finished a creditable second in the highly competitive Melrose Stakes at York in 2011, had been sidelined with a tendon injury.
He was almost ready to run again last autumn but then suffered another setback.
With Balding junior supervising runners at Newmarket, it was left to father Ian to saddle the horse.
“To have won first time out and in this historic race is absolutely great. What a star,” he remarked of Whiplash Willie who holds an entry in the Ascot Gold Cup, though the Ascot Stakes may be a more feasible target.
Ed Walker, brought up near Balding's yard, enjoyed a winner with his first runner at Salisbury with Lightning Moon who was bought at a breeze-up sale.
The three-year-old was so backward last year connections couldn't get him onto the racecourse but his success was not a total surprise.
Walker said: “He has been showing a bit at home but will come on for this.”
The Hannon yard, who have dominated Salisbury over the years, were quickly off the mark with Tiggy Wiggy who romped home in the five furlong race.
The stable juvenile juggernaut has been uncharasterically slow this season but Tiggy Wiggy, who scored by seven lengths on her debut at Kempton, cemented her reputation to justify entries at Royal Ascot where she will probably go for the Queen Mary Stakes, though the Albany Stakes is a possible alternative.
The next meeting is on Thursday (May 15).