Close finishes aplenty at Stratford's penultimate meeting of the season
DAVID BASS and Bryony Frost were the jockeys to follow on an afternoon of close finishes at Stratford's penultimate fixture of the year on Saturday, writes David Hucker.
Bass took the opening race on favourite The Bull McCabe, who put his hurdling experience to good use to land the first division of the Support The Injured Jockeys Fund "National Hunt" Maiden Hurdle.
Jumping well throughout, he went to the front at the third-last flight, coming home nine lengths clear of hurdling debutant Barbados Buck's, who ran on past Frankie Baby to snatch second place close home without ever threatening the winner.
The second division also went to the favourite in the shape of My Way, sent off at 2-5 to record his first win in his 18th start over hurdles and jumps.
Making all the running with Frost, My Way had to be shaken up on the run-in as 33-1 outsider Filou Des Issards and C'Est Le Bonheur, who had both been prominent throughout, came to mount a challenge.
Judge Emily Jones needed the camera to separate Brave Jaq, who had a clear lead coming into the home straight, and the strong finishing Crocodile Dundee in the Retraining Of Racehorses Handicap Hurdle.
The photograph showed that Crocodile Dundee had just got up to snatch the verdict by a short head to give amateur jockey James Jeavons his first winner under Rules, with the one-paced Project Mars back in third.
Dariya scored by 20 lengths on her previous visit to the course and was bidding to follow-up in the Even Keel Foundation Selling Hurdle.
Although well-beaten behind Pink Sheets at Warwick last time, she was dropping back in class and headed the market with Authorizo also well supported.
It was Authorizo, never out of the first three, who came out on top, going clear approaching the final flight with Ross Turner to come home four lengths in front of Homing Star, with Dariya, who had struggled to go the pace down the back straight, running on too late to finish third.
Jack Savage became the second amateur to ride a winner when making all the running on Templehills to land the feature race of the afternoon, the Pragnell Gold Cup Handicap Chase over two miles and five furlongs, holding the challenge of favourite Francky Du Berlais by one-and-a-quarter lengths.
With the last fence omitted due to surface works, it was a long way home from the final jump in the back straight, but Templehills, who was scoring for the first time in two years, ran on well in the colours of owner/trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.
Getariver and Bridget Andrews looked to have set up a winning lead in the Racing Welfare Supporting Racing's Workforce Mares' Handicap Hurdle, but Diamond Gait, who was a remote fifth and seemingly getting nowhere turning for home, found another gear for Bass to reel in the leader and win by a length.
There was a long wait before the result of the Early Happy Birthday Kian Burley Handicap Chase was announced, as Bogoss Du Perret and Game Line were separated by the minimum distance of a nose.
In a race of changing fortunes, Bolving and Opechee had jumped the final fence together but, on the long run-in, neither was to feature in the finish as Frost took Bogoss Du Perret into the lead, only for Game Line to finish fast and late and force the closest of photo finishes.
Along with Frost, Page Fuller was by far the most experienced rider in the closing Greatwood Female Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle and she took the race on Scrutinise, trained in Sussex by Zoe Davison, who collared Lady Reset right on the line to win by a neck in yet another tight finish.