MAIRE Banrigh, running in the well-known colours of John Hales, lit up a dull, damp afternoon at Stratford on Monday when running out an impressive winner of the Finnick Group Novices’ Handicap Chase for Dan and Harry Skelton, writes David Hucker.
Set to shoulder top weight of 12-6, Maire Banrigh was looking to make it a hat-trick of wins following success over hurdles at Market Rasen and Carlisle.
She was easy to back, however, drifting in the market from 5-4 out to 2-1 before shortening up again just before the start.
However, the race itself was never in doubt as, leading from the off, Maire Banrigh didn’t see another horse and, apart from getting a bit close at the third-last fence, put in an exhibition round of jumping to come home 15 lengths clear of Song Of The Sky
Only three horses ever really got competitive in the opening Acorns Children’s Hospice Charity Day Novices’ Hurdle over two miles, with a big gap between first and last opening up after just two flights had been jumped.
It was Onthefrontfoot who raced keenly in the lead until a bad mistake at the first hurdle in the straight handed the initiative to Ashington, who was having just his second outing over jumps.
Runner-up to Armandihan on his hurdles debut at Sedgefield, Ashington had clearly benefited from that experience and, carrying 12lb less than favourite Ferrobin, he proved too good for Skelton’s dual winner, who could make no impression from the home turn.
Last year’s winner Vive Le Roi attempted to make all the running again in the Typrecraft All Things Print Handicap Hurdle, but he could never get clear enough of his rivals this time and came to the last flight with Boreham Bill challenging on his outside.
One of two runners saddled by Emma Lavelle, Boreham Bill jumped to the front and held the late challenge of Neverbeen To Paris, who was making his debut for trainer Harry Whittington, with Vive Le Roi holding on to third spot ahead of favourite Gunfleet.
A number of the runners in the Acorns Children’s Hospice Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase had been busy over the summer, racing on ground faster than they were encountering here.
One who had form in the conditions was Between The Waters, on whom Ben Hicks looked to have taken a winning lead turning out of the back straight.
But, Between The Waters couldn’t find an extra gear when needed, as Flying Verse, a winner at Newton Abbot in July, came with a well-timed challenge under Charlie Todd to lead on the run-in and score by three and a quarter lengths.
Easy Worcester winner The Accountant had been raised 15lbs for that success and had subsequently been well-beaten on the flat at Pontefract last month.
However, back over hurdles, he had no problem winning again, going clear of his rivals around the home bend and coming away to take the Finnick Group, Design & Print Solutions Novices’ Handicap Hurdle over two miles and three furlongs.
Runner-up was top-weight Celtic Joy, trying to land his first win at the eighth attempt, with favourite Onboard back in third.
Shantou Express had made a good impression when second on his debut at Ludlow to Floressa, who upheld the form when beaten just half a length under a penalty in a £15,000 race at Cheltenham next time.
He was sent off the 5-6 favourite to get off the mark in the closing Acorns Children’s Hospice Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race and came home an easy winner from Highway One O Two and Leroy Brown.