Portman hoping Thursday night is the time for Maybelater

Newbury’s Thursday Nights series begins this week with Pump Technology Irish Night on June 25, celebrating all that is good about the Emerald Isle.

The action on the track gets underway at 6.30pm and is headlined by the Pegasus Pump Ltd Fillies’ Handicap (8.30pm) over 10 furlongs. Six fillies are set to go to post, including the Jonathan Portman-trained Maybelater (Pat Dobbs) who returned to winning ways in a fillies’ handicap over the same trip at Salisbury on June 9.

The three-year-old, a 66/1 winner on her debut at Lingfield Park in March, was not disgraced when seventh in the Listed Oaks Trial at the same venue on May 9.

Portman, who trains in Upper Lambourn, said: “Maybelater has come out of Salisbury in good form and is going nicely.

“She was still fairly green at Salisbury and a bit babyish, so she is sure to have come on again.

“As we saw at Lingfield, we were probably asking her to do a bit too much too soon. She lacks experience and is still a little bit immature physically, although she ran well and probably would have run a bit better on faster ground.

“When you win a maiden well early on in the year like she did, you always think of what they can or cannot do. She is owned by her breeder and breeders are always hung up on black type, which can be easier to obtain earlier in the season than it is later in the season.

“I think if we can bring her along gradually, she will get there because we do like her and we think she has a future.”

Irish Night Shoot

In-form trainer Roger Charlton saddles her chief rival Suffused (William Twiston-Davies), who was beaten a neck in a 10-furlong handicap at Newmarket on May 29. The form of that race received a boost when the winner Space Age followed up in the King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot last week.

Portman is also bidding to land the Win Races With Jonathan Portman Auction Maiden at 7.00pm. The trainer is sponsoring this Newbury race for the fifth time and the closest he has come to taking the spoils was with Bathwick Xaara, who was fourth in 2009.

This year, he is represented by Magic Garden who finished a close third on her debut at Pontefract on June 8.

The trainer added: “It has been a long held ambition to win the maiden, but we have taken better horses than Magic Garden there in the past and not done it.

“There is sure to be a classy horse in there, there always seems to be, but we will be trying our best.”

There will be plenty of entertainment off the track too, as Pump Techology Irish Night will kick off Newbury’s new Thursday Nights series.

Coaches and staff from Premiership rugby union side London Irish, based just down the M4 at Reading’s Madejski Stadium, will be present to give coaching sessions. There will be Irish dancing performances, live music from celtic rock band BibleCode Sundays after racing, and the first 100 racegoers to arrive will receive a free steak and Guinness pie with their first drink.  Gates open at 5.00pm with the first race at 6.00pm.

The series will continue with Key4Life Charity Race Evening & 80s Night on Thursday, July 2 and will feature an 80s disco after racing in partnership with JackFM. Eighties icon Mr T will also be present, in the form of the UK’s leading impersonator, John L.

The George Frewer Charity Race at 5:55pm will feature double Olympic Gold Medallist Victoria Pendleton as she takes up her first ride in public in her attempt to become an amateur jockey as part of the Betfair-sponsored ‘Switching Saddles’ initiative. Gates open at 4.30pm.

The inaugural Proms In The Paddock will then follow on Thursday, July 9, with an evening of top-class racing followed by a Proms-style classical music performance from the Southern Symphonia. Music will also be provided during the evening by Berkshire Young Maestros. Gates open at 4:30pm with the first race at 5:55pm.

Newbury’s Thursday Nights come to a close on July 23 with the NSPCC Charity Race Evening & Comedy Night, which will feature a comedy show in the Crafty Filly Bar after racing and an appearance by jump jockey and renowned funny man Mattie Batchelor. Gates open at 4pm with the first race at 5:30pm.