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Hard Not to Love cruises at Santa Monica

20th February, 15:30

It must have been her finest hour so far, as Hard not to Love (Mike Smith 3-5), sailed clear to snap the $200,000 Santa Monica Stakes by 3.5 lengths.

Trained by John Shirreffs, the sight-impaired 4-year-old daughter of Hard Stuff, clipped seven furlongs in 1:22.1/10 secs, at Santa Anita.

Hard Not to Love, who lost the use of her left eye in a paddock accident as a youth, had a bewitched crowd watching every move.

So moving when a horse of that caliber acts as if there were no handicaps at all. Stewards allowed her to break from post parade when alighting from the tunnel.

NOT BRILLIANT

Her groom, Mark Lopez, calmed her down completely. Hard not to Love is not brilliant at the gates, but reacts immediately diving into competitive mode.

Mike Smith only settled her from being too keen, then began challenging Lady Ninja and Mother Mother for front spot round the turn. She then went forward like a professional while Mother Nature had no otherwise than to accept second place.

Zusha found third. All connections treat her with utmost respect as is not easy with little sight. She gets anxious in quickly. The fans are excellent as they make no noise in her presence.

Owned by Mercedes Stables, LLC, West Point Thoroughbreds, Scott Dilworth, Dorothy Ingordo, David Ingordo and Steve Mooney, Hard Not to Love, who is out of Loving Vindication, has now five wins to her name, with increased earnings of $408,480. Next assignment might be the Beholder Mile, March 14.

***

Ron Winchell, Thomas Reiman, William Dickson and Deborah Easter's, Finite (Santana 3-1), now owns back-to-back victories on a Fair Grounds trail to the Kentucky Oaks, squashing British Idiom (Hall of Famer Javier Castellano 4-5), by 4.75 lengths in the Rachel Alexander Stakes.

Finite gains fifty points towards the Kentucky Oaks, adding to ten she already won in Silverbulletday and a further ten from Golden Rod.

IMPROVEMENT

That makes Finite well ahead of British Idiom, but Javier believes there is plenty room for improvement by the Oaks.

His Glory was right up there for a few furlongs until Swiss Skydiver and Tempers rising, dug deep to fill minor berths.

***

The Gambling Commission has temporarily suspended the licence of betting exchange Matchbook, although customers are assured they will be back very soon.

Matchbook, owned by Triplebet, contacted customers stating they would be closed for all betting and casino activity from Tuesday.

Clients were also told they would be able to withdraw funds and that open positions would be settled.

A spokesperson for Triplebet said: "The company takes its responsibility as a betting and gaming operator very seriously, and accepts the UKGC panel's findings following a two-year review.

"Triplebet believes that compliance goes to the heart of offering a betting exchange product, and through the introduction of new policies and the establishment of a Compliance Committee, Triplebet has shown that it is committed to achieving any standard of compliance required of it.

LICENCE REINSTATED

"Last year Triplebet engaged a third-party compliance specialist in order to elevate its standard of compliance beyond what is required by the UKGC. Over the coming weeks these recommendations will be completed in full, and an independent audit will be carried out with a view to the licence being reinstated."

Matchbook have been in operation since 2004 but were acquired in 2011 by a group of investors with backgrounds in British sports betting and banking.

Horseracing has increasingly become a focus for Matchbook, which was among the firms to sign up to the Authorised Betting Partner scheme in 2016.

They have sponsored a number of races in Britain and Ireland, including at Cheltenham, Goodwood and Ascot, where the Grade 1 Matchbook Clarence House Chase is the group's headline race.

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