My Mate Mark shows he belongs in Cheltenham Festival company

TOP MARKS: Martin Smith is excited by the prospect of the weekends race-winner My Mate Mark running at the upcoming Cheltenham Festival
TOP MARKS: Martin Smith is excited by the prospect of the weekends race-winner My Mate Mark running at the upcoming Cheltenham Festival

Newmarket trainer Martin Smith’s unwavering belief in My Mate Mark was further justified on Sunday after the four-year-old eased to victory at Southwell.

Following the Strawberry Fields Stud-owned horse’s second-placed finish on debut at Newbury in January, Smith insisted he had a gelding with the potential to put his Hamilton Road base on the map.

And that viewpoint was enhanced at the weekend, as My Mate Mark drew away when challenged down the home straight to win by three lengths.

Attention now switches to the glitz and glamour of the Cheltenham Festival, where My Mate Mark is expected to be entered in the Champion Bumper on Wednesday, March 15.

It is an exciting prospect for Smith and his small yard, who will be heading in to relatively new territory.

“My Mate Mark had a job to do at Southwell and he did it well,” said Smith.

“He has beaten some decent horses and deserves to be at Cheltenham.

“Everyone at the yard was buzzing after the win. We are a small yard, so everyone has involvement with him.

“We do not have 60 to 100 horses like some other yards and we are not heading off to Dubai and the big meetings all the time.

“You can become a little complacent in that scenario, but in our position you enjoy every little bit of success.”

n Newmarket trainer Sir Michael Stoute and jockey Andrea Atzeni teamed up to clinch the Betway Winter Derby at Lingfield on Saturday.

The five-year-old benefitted from the withdrawal of ante-post favourite Mutakayyef to win by a neck.

n On the same card, 8-1 shot Royal Birth triumphed for Diomed Stables’ Stuart Williams, coming through the duo of Lancelot Du Lac and Verne Castle to win by half-a-length.

The six-year-old is now expected to head for All Weather Finals Day at Lingfield on Friday, April 14.

n During Saturday’s point-to-point meeting at Horseheath, Newmarket-based handler Lauren Braithwaite’s decision to employ sheepskin cheekpieces on Pettistree paid off handsomely as he landed the closing Maiden Race of the day for her.

There was also a victory in the Novice Riders Race for Susquehanna River, trained by Badlingham’s Nick Wright.