CHAMPION jockey Richard Johnson took up where he left off at the last meeting when Longtown brought up his 173rd winner of the campaign in the opening race at Warwick’s 188Bet Raceday on Thursday, writes David Hucker.
Johnson, who landed a four-timer at the course a week ago, had failed to add to his seasonal tally the day before when, having made the long trip from his Herefordshire home to Sedgefield, his only mount Little Miss Poet was headed at the last flight and could only finish second.
But, he had better luck here as, having taken the lead at the fourth-last flight, Longtown, who looks a chaser in the making, had too much power for the Dan Skelton trained Earlshill, who had looked a real threat turning for home.
Just four turned out for the novices’ handicap chase, with Bandon Bridge and Tommy The Rascal dominating the race from the start. It was Bandon Bridge who found an extra gear to go clear under Gavin Sheehan with two fences to jump and give Hay-on-Wye trainer Katy Price her first winner since October.
Devon trainer Nigel Hawke, who rode Seagram to victory in the Grand National back in 1991, has hit a rich vein of form and sent out Deauville Crystal, a winner at Newbury the previous Saturday, to land another good prize when scooping the feature 188Bet St Mary’s Lands 4-Y-O Fillies’ Handicap Hurdle.
Evening Hush took the field along at a good pace, until passed by Giveaway Glance at the third-last flight, Stalking the leader was Deauville Crystal and, after laying down a challenge at the penultimate flight, she quickened away, coming clear on the run-in for a comfortable success to give her jockey Sean Bowen his 75th winner in what is proving to be a breakthrough season.
Regal Flow, and After Hours fought a ding-dong battle over the last three fences in the 188Bet.co.uk “Confined” Handicap Chase over three miles and, with amateur jockey Sean Houlihan able to claim a valuable 7lb off his weight, it was After Hours who came out on top.
For trainer Bob Buckler, who is in his 27th season, this was a welcome change of fortune, with the win of Somerset Lias at Taunton in November his only other success in what has been a lean campaign.
Bookmakers were offering 7-1 the field in a wide-open betting market for the long-distance handicap hurdle but, at the end of the three and a quarter mile trip, there was only one horse in it, as 9-1 shot Doctor Look Here led into the straight and was always holding his rivals to score his first success since December 2015.
Late Shipment had been up with the leaders until dropping back four flights from home, but then ran on again to snatch second spot, with top-weight Easter Day in third.
There was plenty of market support for Puppet Warrior in the first division of the National Hunt Flat Race, which saw Arthur’s Reuben withdrawn after behaving badly on the way to the start and Corzeam refusing to race.
Although handily placed from the off, Puppet Warrior had to settle for a place again, as Harry Skelton shot Whiskey In The Jar, who had been runner-up on his only start at Roscommon in October, into the lead a furlong and a half out, drawing right away for seven-length success.
Johnson completed a first and last race double when landing the second division of the Flat Race on €155,000 purchase Mance Rayder, who made a winning racecourse debut in the well-known colours of Diana Whateley.