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Last Updated: 21/04/12 3:51pm
Raya Star: A game winner at Ayr
Raya Star was a game winner of the Isle Of Skye Blended Whisky Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr.
Alan King's six year old had disappointed when last in action in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival but relished the stronger pace set by Charm School in this Grade Two contest to score by three and a quarter lengths.
The Milan gelding had to work hard for his spoils though, finding himself short of room approaching the second last and when forced to bypass the final flight.
His fighting spirit stood him in good stead as he appeared to be up when alongside the smooth travelling Red Merlin but Jason Maguire's mount backed out of it when push came to shove and was also run out of the places by Local Hero and the strong finishing Clerk's Choice.
Robert Thornton had his mount held up in rear initially but made a positive move from halfway, taking a more prominent position which proved vital with racing room at a premium turning into the straight.
Scotsman King said: "He's a grand horse. After Cheltenham we we were going to put him away, but he was so well so we thought we'd have another go with him.
"It's great to come back home and have another winner here. I think it was about five or six years ago since our last one and I think I'm on a losing run here of about 30 runners.
"I was born in Lanark about an hour away but was brought up in Hamilton and I worked across the road from here at Cree Lodge for about a year when horses like Harry Hastings were around.
"We were slightly disappointed at Cheltenham (County Hurdle) but the race didn't really turn out right for him.
"He's going to be a chaser next season and I don't think there is anything left for him this time.
"I came up yesterday and am staying with my parents until Monday, so it's a good weekend."
This was the second big handicap success of the season for Raya Star who had displayed similar qualities when successful at Ascot in December.
Edgardo Sol, a well backed favourite following a facile success over fences at Aintree, was held-up in rear but his supporters soon knew their fate with Ruby Walsh hard at work before the field turned for home and the pair failed to land a blow.