Graceland too good for rivals in Stratford’s feature race

Graceland on her way to victory on her first run at Stratford Racecourse back in June. Photo: David Pratt / dwprattracingphotography


GRACELAND and Brian Hughes ran their rivals into submission when making much of the running to beat Collodi and land Stratford’s feature Class Three We Are IDP Handicap Hurdle on Tuesday afternoon, writes David Hucker.

Successful at Cartmel three weeks before, Graceland had been raised 3lbs for that success but, after going past early leader Lock’s Corner after the second flight, she made light of the extra burden, coming into the home straight with a clear advantage which Collodi reduced, but couldn’t bridge after the final jump.

Hot favourite Valse Au Taillons made all the running with Tom Cannon to land the opening Join Racing TV Now Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle over two-and-a-quarter miles from ex-French bumper winner Evita Du Mesnil, who was easy to back in the betting market.

Sam Twiston-Davies, who had landed his 1,000th career winner on Molliana at Les Landes earlier this month, seemed to be going easily enough in the leader’s slipstream on Evita Du Mesnil but, once they turned out of the back straight, the writing was on the wall and Valse Au Taillons quickly put the race to bed and follow up her Ffos Las win in good style.

There was a more open market for the Novices’ Handicap Chase with Old Harry Rocks, who was denied an opportunity when last Friday’s Newton Abbot meeting was abandoned, sent off the clear favourite from top-weight Mauricio.

Impressive Duke, who was making the trip from James Black’s Northern Ireland stable, had opened up at 3-1 before drifting to his starting price of 11-2, but the market didn’t get it right this time, as he was brought to challenge outsider Starlight Court on the home bend and, despite clouting the final fence, came right away for an eight-length success.

The race had been delayed whilst Ballina Lady was checked over after receiving a kick from Sadma down at the start and, once it got underway, Old Harry Rocks landed awkwardly over the first fence and was always struggling from that point on, coming home last of the seven finishers.

Goldslinger, who had been backed from 7-1 to 5-1, had his chance, but there were only two horses in it from some way out and Impressive Duke lived up to his name, relishing the soft ground to record his first win.

The rain that had threatened to fall from the start of the afternoon was making life unpleasant as the four runners set out for the Amadeus Official Caterers At Stratford Handicap Chase with Ronava, having his second start for Dr Richard Newland, a well-backed 6-5 favourite.

Owned by former trainer Mike Hammond, Ronava had won two point-to-points when ridden by his daughter Lucy and, after seeing off the challenge of Play The Ace, who had been up the front from the start, he came clear to win his first race under Rules in this country.

Hammond’s son Charlie, who is attached to the winning stable, was in the saddle this time to make it a real family success.

Ronava flies the last fence in the Amadeus Official Caterers At Stratford Racecourse Handicap Chase. Photo: David Pratt / dwprattracingphotography

There was local interest in the Follow @racingtv On Twitter Novices’ Hurdle in the shape of Adjutant, trained at Wilmcote by Olly Murphy for the Ladies In Racing syndicate.

A winner at the last meeting when defeating Ruthless Article in a close finish, he was left in a clear lead when Avlos departed at the first flight, only to lose his advantage when the riderless horse impeded him two jumps later.

Richard Johnson sat tight and Adjutant was back in front by the penultimate flight, coming home clear to defy his penalty and beat newcomer Thaqaffa by six lengths to give the champion jockey his 24th winner of the season.

The biggest field of the afternoon saw ten runners set out for the closing handicap hurdle for conditional jockeys and there was another wide-margin winner in 6-1 shot Our Jerry, who went past leader Iusetaluvheronce after the penultimate flight, going further and further clear with Richard Patrick, riding for County Tipperary trainer Evanna McCutcheon.