CLASSY hurdler Black Op, reappearing after a wind operation, scored an impressive first win over fences at Stratford’s Halloween Raceday on Thursday to get his career firmly back on track, writes David Hucker.
A Grade One winner over hurdles at Aintree in April 2018, Black Op opened last season over fences at Exeter in December, but reverted to the smaller obstacles for the rest of the campaign.
He still ended with a rating of 152, well above his rivals here and, making all the running under Jonathan Burke, left the rest for dead on the testing ground to land the Charlotte Cole Memorial Beginners’ Chase.
With favourite Lisnagar Oscar never looking like justifying his odds, it was left to Mr Antolini to chase the winner home but, although closing around the turn, was soon left behind as Black Op opened up a 15 length lead on the run to the line.
Winter Getaway was trainer Philip Hobbs only entry in the opening 25 Club Maiden Hurdle over two-and-three-quarter miles and she duly obliged, leading at the penultimate flight and proving too good for Tide Times in the hands of champion jockey Richard Johnson.
Disappointment of the race was favourite Wayfinder, a winner of a bumper at Worcester on his last start, who never looked like following up, finishing a well-beaten fourth.
Skeaping’s win at the last meeting came just 24 hours after he had beaten Ballyellis at Fakenham and the two met again in the Annual Membership Conditional Jockeys’ Selling Hurdle over an extended two-and-a-quarter miles.
There was just a short head between them that day but Ballyellis, an easy winner of his previous two races, including over the Stratford course, got his revenge this time.
Winning trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has had a good time at the course this year and he doubled up when Rocco, ridden by his son Sam, landed the most valuable race of the afternoon, the Charlie Longsdon Racing Handicap Chase over a distance just short of two-and-a-half miles.
Always in the leading group, Rocco went clear approaching the final fence to see off the challenge of King’s Odyssey with top-weight Kilfilum Cross back in third.
Longsdon’s runner Western Miller was withdrawn because of the ground which, despite the recent rain, was perfectly raceable, although some of the public parking areas had to be taken out of use.
The familiar hooped colours of the McNeil Family were carried to victory by Seddon in last year’s running of the British Stallion Studs EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle (Qualifier) and their Wetherby bumper winner Sheshoon Sonny, owned in partnership with Niall Farrell, was backed into 5-4 favourite to take this year’s running.
Wilmcote trainer Olly Murphy ran three of his four entries, but none looked like winning, with Eaglehill doing best in fifth place, as Adjourned cut out the running, being joined at the final flight by 12-1 shot Imperial Flem, who quickened away and looks a horse with a future.
Du Soleil set up a long lead in the closing J.H. Rowe Memorial Handicap Chase until coming down at the eighth fence, leaving Black Tulip and De Forgotten One at the head of affairs.
They were joined by Lord Du Mesnil down by the back straight, but it was De Forgotten One who showed the best turn of foot from the final fence