Trainer Ben Pauling bowled over by Stokes

Ben Pauling is hoping Stokes can prove as talented as the England World Cup-winning cricket star, after whom he named his winning debutant.

The equine Stokes did his namesake proud when he led throughout his first racecourse appearance under David Bass on Sunday, en route to a three-length victory at rewarding odds of 28-1 in the opening bumper at Wolverhampton.

Cotswolds trainer and cricket enthusiast Pauling named the gelding in honour of Ben Stokes, immediately after the all-rounder’s match-winning heroics in last summer’s World Cup final against New Zealand at Lord’s.

After instant success on the track, Pauling is excited for the future with the five-year-old – who carries the colours of his wife Sophie.

“We named him after Ben Stokes’ heroics in the World Cup final,” he said.

“We were happy to get it – it’s a great name – and hopefully he’s as good a horse as he is a cricketer.”

Pauling intends to nurture Stokes’ talent, and will not rush the well-bred son of Califet – out of a half-sister to high-class hurdler Iktitaf.

Reflecting on Stokes’ highly-encouraging debut, he said: “I’m chuffed to pieces.

“He did it really nicely.

“He’s been a horse that has taken time to come to hand. He’s a big horse and we couldn’t have been more impressed with him.”

Stokes has recovered well from his exertions and is likely to run just once more this spring – before graduating to hurdles next season.

“All seems fine today – which is great,” added Pauling.

“At the moment, he’ll just be kept to bumpers this season. I can’t see us going hurdling yet, but he’s a horse that has got a fair bit of ability.

“We’ll get him out again before the end of the season – once more I should think and that will be it.”

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