Richard Johnson extends lead with Stratford double

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Come On Charlie (yellow colours) jumps the fifth flight in the Racing UK On Sky 426 Novices' Handicap Hurdle. Photo: David Pratt

CHAMPION jockey Richard Johnson was the man in form at Stratford on Monday, as a first and last race double took him to 96 winners for the season and stretched his lead over Harry Skelton in this year’s title race to nine, writes David Hucker.

There was a gamble in the opening Racing UK On Sky 426 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle over two and a quarter miles with northern raider The Resdev Way backed from 11-1 into 5-1 to build on his four wins on the flat this year.

His supporters never looked like collecting, however, as the race was dominated from the start by Turnbury and the Johnson-ridden Come On Charlie who turned for home clear of the remainder.

Jenkins clears the last in the Watch Racing UK On BT TV Beginners’ Chase. Photo: David Pratt

It was Come On Charlie who asserted approaching the final flight, striding clear on the run-in to beat the staying-on Malangen, with outsider Wahwonaisa back in third.

Disappointment of the race was favourite Unsafe Conduct, who pulled too hard for his own good and was beaten some way out.

Third in a Galway bumper in August, Tight Call had since changed hands for £22,000 and, ridden by Johnson, recouped some of his purchase price for new connections in the closing Visit The All New racinguk.com Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.

Vive Le Roi leads the field over the second last flight in the Bet At racinguk.com Handicap Hurdle. Photo: David Pratt

Duelling for the lead with Flash The Steel, the mount of rival Skelton, from the off, Tight Call was pushed clear by the champ on the run for the line, coming away for an easy win from Comeonthebull.

With Bags Groove withdrawn, the Watch Racing UK On BT TV Beginners’ Chase was reduced to a match between chasing debutant Jenkins, who was rated at 151 at his best over hurdles, and Sussex Road, still looking for his first win after 42 races under Rules and with a chase rating of just 44.

Despite what the form book said, there were some who must have thought Sussex Road was in with a chance, as he shortened in price from 14-1 into 9-1 at one stage, but it was Jenkins who prevailed, making all the running with David Bass and winning with plenty in hand to suggest that he could be amongst the leading novices this season.

Powerful Symbol leads over the fourth fence in the Racing UK Profits Returned To Racing Handicap Chase. Photo: David Pratt

There was an impressive performance in the feature £15,000 Bet At racinguk.com Handicap Hurdle, as Vive Le Roi made every yard of the running with Harry Bannister to see off Sleep Easy by eight lengths.

Sleep Easy, who made a bad mistake at the fifth, looked poised to mount a challenge on the run out of the back straight, but his effort was short-lived as Vive Le Roi, who had been raised 9lbs for his win over the course last month, went into over-drive going to the last flight to see out the two and three-quarter mile trip with plenty seemingly left in the tank.

With the ground at the last fence under repair, all the chases had a longer than usual run-in, with the final jump being at the end of the back straight.

Lungarno Palace (pink) blunders over the last alongside Finley’s Eyes in the Watch Racing UK In Stunning HD Novices’ Hurdle. Photo: David Pratt

It was here that Powerful Symbol, trained by Ben Pauling at Bourton-on-the-Water, looked about to be swallowed up by Vendredi Trois and the rallying Roll The Dough in the Racing UK Profits Returned To Racing Handicap Chase.

But, he wouldn’t be denied and responded to Richie McLernon’s urgings to stick his neck out and deny Vendredi Trois by half a length, with top-weight Robert’s Star running on to deny Roll The Dough for third prize

With Ludlow bumper winner Rouge Vif a non-runner, Lungarno Palace was a short price to make his first appearance since returning to trainer Fergal O’Brien a winning one in the Watch Racing UK In Stunning HD Novices’ Hurdle. Ridden by Alain Cawley, Lungarno Palace made the running until the last flight where an untidy jump handed the initiative to Finley’s Eyes, but fought back on the run-in to regain the lead close home.

Modeligo jumps the fifth ahead of eventual winner Lillington in the Racing UK Extra On racinguk.com Handicap Chase. Photo: David Pratt

A course winner over hurdles, Cillian’s Well carried a 7lb. penalty for his latest success over the Southwell fences in the Racing UK Extra On Racing UK.com Handicap Chase, but was the only one that punters wanted to know, shortening into 13-8 favourite before the off.

Modeligo, a course winner over fences, ran by far his best race for some time when runner-up at Uttoxeter last month and set out to make the running with Stan Sheppard, tracked by Newton Abbot winner Lillington.

With Modeligo fading, it was Lillington, running in the colours of the Colin Tizzard Racing Club, who led into the straight and, with no more jumping to be done, ran out an easy winner with Tom Scudamore, with the favourite a well-beaten sixth.