JOCKEY James Best was the man in form at Stratford’s Oktoberfest on Saturday, landing a double on Sweet Adare and St Merryn in front of a good crowd for the course’s final weekend meeting of the season, writes David Hucker.
A week ago, Best had been in the Czech Republic preparing to ride Rathlin Rose into six place in the famous Velka Pardubicka Chase, but the obstacles were much less daunting here and the first leg of his double came on Sweet Adare, who led approaching the final flight to put daylight between herself and her eight rivals to land the F N Pile & Sons Mares’ Handicap Hurdle and bring up a first win of the season for Devon trainer Victor Dartnall.
Best’s second win was a more local affair as St Merryn, who was scoring for the first tine in 19 attempts, led on the flat to beat Golander in the Keith Appleton Is 60 Today Handicap Chase for Tanworth trainer Rob Summers.
Thanks to stable star Atlantic Storm, who has won twice at the course this year, Summers is having his best season for prize money and percentage of winners to runners in 27 years of training, although his highest number came with five in 2014/15.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls had entered three in the opening Dave Callanan’s 30th Birthday “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle over two-and-three-quarter miles and he opted for Mercy Mercy Me, withdrawn at Hereford on Tuesday because of the faster ground, who was ridden by Bryony Frost.
A consistent performer, Mercy Mercy Me was sent off the even money favourite, but had no answer to Happygolucky, runner-up in an Irish point-to-point on his only start, who made an impressive debut under Rules, winning by 11 lengths.
Frost was to gain some compensation when landing the closing Kevin Watson Lady Riders’ Handicap Hurdle on Don Juan Du Gouet, who seemed to relish the soft going, leading before the last flight and strolling clear of his rivals to complete a double on the afternoon for trainer Henry Daly after the earlier success of Honest Vic at Market Rasen.
The largest field of the afternoon lined up for the PSA Push To Pass Handicap Hurdle, with Armattiekan sent off the 4-1 favourite for trainer Donald McCain and jockey Brian Hughes.
They finished out of the money as the race went to Lochinver, one of two runners for Over Norton trainer Charlie Longsdon, who went past leader Kilinakin at the last flight and held on to the advantage on the run-in.
Skeaping, fresh from his success at Fakenham on Friday, won again for owner-trainer Phil Middleton in the Visit racingtv.com Selling Hurdle.
Although ridden in the past by leading jockeys Richard Johnson and Davy Russell when trained by Gordon Elliott, Middleton has opted to use conditional riders on Skeaping since acquiring the horse and this was the third ride, and second success, for Luca Morgan, who is based with Johnny Farrelly in Somerset.
There was no bid in the post-race auction for the winner, but runner-up First Quest was claimed for £5,000 by trainer Neil Mulholland.
Feature race of the afternoon was the £8,000 William Hill Leading Racecourse Bookmaker Handicap Chase over two miles and five furlongs and it went to One Forty Seven, who gave jockey Jamie Bargary his first winner of the season on his 29th ride.
One Forty Seven, a winner of two of his eleven chase starts, had made mistakes when well beaten on his latest outing at Perth last month and he wasn’t fluent at the third-last fence here, but still had plenty in hand to see off Native Robin by five lengths to win the race for the second year running and give trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies another winner at the course this year.