TOP weight Mcgroarty led all the way to land the Class 2 Old Tannery Whisky Handicap Chase, feature race on Stratford’s popular Ladies Day and Syndicate Sunday, writes David Hucker.
Winning trainer Dr Richard Newland, successful last year with Vosne Romanee, also saddled Capitoul, the mount of Sam Twiston-Davies, who attracted market support before the off, but it was Mcgroarty who came out ahead. Sean Bowen led from start to finish on the 15-8 favourite to beat Dandridge and Capital Force, who would have finished closer but for a mistake at the last fence.
There was a gamble in the opening Allan Atkinson Memorial Mares’ Handicap Hurdle over an extended two and a quarter miles, with former point-to-pointer Superefficient sent off the 11-10 favourite to score on her first run for trainer Dan Skelton.
Prominent throughout, Superefficient took the lead at the third-last flight, but that was as good as it got, as she faded out of contention when the pace quickened. Dora’s Field, visored for the first time and running in this race rather than the later selling hurdle, had too much speed for her rivals, the best of whom was Chilli Romance, in the frame for the fourth time this season.
Hepijeu was bidding for a hat-trick in the Stuart Stanley Handicap Hurdle over three miles and three furlongs and was running from the same handicap mark of 122 as when beating Fifty Shades over fences at Fakenham. He made a valiant attempt but, after mounting what looked to be a winning challenge approaching the final flight, faded on the run-in to finish only third to Young Wolf.
Racing keenly behind early pacesetters Linguine and Sporting Boy, Young Wolf had pulled his way to the front with more than a circuit to go and responded to the urgings of Jonjo O’Neill Jr when tackled going to the last to hold off Win My Wings by one and a quarter lengths.
Champion jockey Richard Johnson was looking for a 42nd birthday winner on favourite Rakhine State, trainer Gordon Elliott’s selection from three entries, in the Ardencote Destination Spa Selling Hurdle. He drifted in the betting market, having been as short as 11-8 at one stage, with money coming late for Show And Go, who disputed the lead with outsider Empresario.
Johnson was in no hurry to make a move on Rakhine State as Show And Go tried to slip the field approaching the third-last flight, but the leader was soon treading water and, once the favourite hit the front, the race was over, although the champion needed to keep him up to his work as he idled on the run-in.
For Johnson, who rode his first winner on Rusty Bridge on 27th April 1994, this was his 40th success of the season as he chases a fifth consecutive title. For Rakhine State, a bid of £7,000 at the post-race auction will see him race for new owner Stuart Stanley next time.
Some Day Soon and Ruthless Article stood out in the Resplandor Body Contouring Novices’ Hurdle over two miles, although the 10lb difference between them in the weights should have made it a close contest. Sent off the odds-on favourite, Some Day Soon made virtually all the running, pulling out more when his rival challenged round the home turn to score by two lengths and record his fourth win in a row.
Magic River reappeared after wind surgery to score over the course earlier in the month and was looking to defy a rise in the weights in the RSA “Join A Syndicate” Novices’ Handicap Chase. He was always struggling to close the gap on Alexander The Grey, on whom Lilly Pinchin set a fierce pace from the off but Game Line finished the strongest, coming through to collar the leader on the run-in and win going away.
Dazibao, the only winner amongst the five runners for the closing Touch FM Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, made a successful return to action after 464 days to brush aside favourite Hit The Bottle. In a race where nobody wanted to make the running, only three were in contention in the final furlong as Lermoos Legend ran wide on the bend and outsider George Edward was pulled up.