Ashutor powers to victory in Stratford's feature race
CONTINUOUS rain in the lead-up to Stratford's meeting last Wednesday made for testing ground more usually found in January than August, but that didn't worry Ashutor, who powered away from his pursuers to land the afternoon's feature race, the Sheila Vaughan Memorial Handicap Chase, writes David Hucker.
The withdrawal of Monsieur D'Arque reduced the field to just four and, after Fanzio had taken them along to the second-last fence, it was Ashutor who went to the front.
Three-time course winner Atlantic Storm, whose wins have all been on good ground, tried his best, but he was fighting a losing battle from the home turn as Ashutor, on just his second run over fences, won with plenty in hand.
Courtandbould was sent off a red-hot 2-5 favourite to complete a hat-trick of course wins in the opening Join Racing TV Now Novices' Hurdle, but he just failed in the attempt, going down by a neck to Olly Murphy's Grey Spirit, who was winning over jumps at the third attempt.
The two came to the last flight together, but Courtandbould didn't jump it as boldly as he has done in the past and Grey Spirit won the battle up the short run-in to record Wilmcote-based Murphy's 11th winner of the season.
The runners were well strung-out at the end of the Watch On Racing TV Novices' Handicap Chase in which Tis Fantastic, who had been pulled up in his last two runs over hurdles, made all the running to win over fences at the first attempt.
Tis Fantastic and Phoebus Lescribaa had led the field from the start but, a mistake at the penultimate fence put paid to the latter's chances and, from then on, there was no real danger to Tis Fantastic as Doctor Haze, who had been hard ridden from some way out, could find no more.
As the rain continued to fall, Chantecler, who finished third on his first run for the Nicky Henderson stable, toughed it out in the increasingly holding ground to see off the challenge of Radjash, who out-performed his 20-1 starting price, and land the Visit racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle to chalk up his second win over jumps.
Longest race of the afternoon was the Bet At racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle over an extended three-and-a-quarter miles and, after disputing the lead with Fort Gabriel early on, it was Transpennine Star who went clear.
That was the last time any of his rivals saw him, as he went further ahead under Jonjo O'Neill Jnr, coming home 56 lengths in front of North Star Oscar, with Henry's Joy back in third.
The Racing TV Profits Returned To Racing Novices' Handicap Hurdle had been divided into two, with Nicky Richard's top-weight No Regrets easily defying a penalty in the first and First Man making all the running to become the third wide-margin winner of the afternoon in the second.
With leading fancies Romanor and Blue N Yellow among three absentees from the Watch Replays On racingtv.com Handicap Chase, Mon Palois was well supported to beat his four remaining rivals and he made most of the running, with the judge needing a telescope to spot the only other finisher It's For Alan who was 85 lengths behind.
Although the rain had finally stopped by the time of the closing Every Race Live On Racing TV Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, it still proved a test for the runners with little racecourse inexperience to call on, but Maninsane proved another clear-cut winner at his local course for Over Norton trainer Charlie Longsdon.
Well-backed favourite Keyboard Joan faded tamely down the back straight, as two point-to-point winners in Found On and Bravo Buddy filled the places.