AFTER 8mm of rain had fallen overnight, there were some soft places in the otherwise good ground at Stratford on Thursday, with nine runners lining up in the feature race of the afternoon, the £14,000 Sheppard Family Handicap Chase over two and a three-quarter miles, writes David Hucker.
Royal Village, involved in a controversial dead-heat at Market Rasen, had also been entered in the novices’ chase earlier on the card, but his trainer Ian Williams opted to run him in this race instead and punters seemed to agree, as he shortened in the betting before the off.
Over Norton trainer Charlie Longsdon had declared two of his three entries, with six-time chase winner Bestwork, who returned to form at Worcester, and Aunty Ann, who had recorded her second chase win at Uttoxeter with regular rider Jordan Nailor, both featuring.
Although Bestwork had been raised to a career-high handicap mark of 126, Jonathan Burke was determined to set a good pace and, with his mount sailing over the fences in front, they had most of the others in trouble.
The exception was top-weight Pawn Star, returning after a 468-day absence, who came into the straight going much the better of the two and soon put the race to bed after jumping the last.
After being placed in all five of her starts this season, Scotsbrook Night finally got off the mark when making all the running to land the opening Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber Of Commerce Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.
Bowling along in the lead with Marc Goldstein, she never saw another runner and still had enough petrol in the tank to see off a late challenge from Macksville by six lengths.
Just three lined up for the Northern Racing College Novices’ Chase, with useful hurdler Golden Birthday, who had finished second on his chasing debut at Uttoxeter, heading the market ahead of course winner El Torremoto, whose winning start to his chasing career at Southwell meant that he had to concede weight to his two rivals.
After El Torremoto had made the running, the two went head-to-head over the last three fences, with Golden Birthday taking control approaching the final obstacle, running out a ready winner.
He still needs to brush up his jumping but, when he does, this 144-rated hurdler has the speed to be even better over the bigger obstacles as the season progresses.
At the entry stage, Richard Johnson had been booked to ride Go Another One for Irish trainer John McConnell in the £10,000 Walls & Ceilings International Ltd Novices’ Hurdle but, with the champion electing to go to the day’s other meeting at Fontwell Park, it was Sean Bowen, who had won a maiden hurdle on him at Perth at the end of July, who got the call.
Bowen was also due to ride at the Sussex track later on, but Go Another One made his stop-off in Warwickshire worthwhile, as the hot 1-8 favourite had no problem in following up, cantering home well clear from Take Em Out, with outsider Touchy Subject, who was prominent early on, just jumping the last flight as the winner crossed the line.
There was another £10,000 prize fund for the ruk.com Handicap Chase over two and three-quarter miles and it proved a race for the veterans, as 12 year-old Fear Glic led into the home straight and held off the challenge of the year older What A Laugh by four and a half lengths to make the drive from Cornwall well worthwhile for trainer and part-owner Jackie du Plessis.
The Sims Financial Amateur Riders’ Handicap Hurdle had been divided into two with the defection of Diamond Reflection because of the ground reducing the field in the first division to eight.
Millie Wonnacott, who was still looking for her first win under Rules after three rides, all of which had been for Bath trainer Neil Mulholland, got the chance to break her duck on favourite Ladies Dancing.
Sent off the 5-2 favourite, Ladies Dancing made every yard of the running for owner/trainer Chris Down and was another victory for the oldies, winning his fifth race in all at the age of 12.
The second division went to Magical Thomas, a first success on just his second ride for Liam Harrison, beating the more experienced Gina Andrews on the fancied Canford Thompson, before Laughing Luis, owned and bred by former Coventry City manager John Sillett, took the concluding ruk.com Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race in impressive style.