Dandolo Du Gite looks set to strike at Stratford
FOR many, last weekend’s Chepstow meeting signalled the start of the jumps season proper but, whilst the rain and wind reminded us that summer has well and truly gone, Stratford still has two fixtures to go before the end of its 2018 campaign, writes David Hucker.
Although Saturday’s highlight on the Flat is Ascot’s Champions Day, there are three meetings for jumping enthusiasts to choose from, although the going is likely to be different to that seen for the last five months.
With Monday’s Flat fixture at Windsor having being abandoned due to the heavy overnight rain, the word “soft” is now appearing in going descriptions and those horses who enjoyed the fast summer ground will soon be giving way to the winter mudlarks.
Ten-times champion trainer Paul Nicholls went home from Chepstow to his Ditcheat base with four winners, although the one that got away was the highly-regarded MasterTommytucker, who came down at the 13 fence on his chasing debut and should be one to follow through the season.
After starting the week as soft, the ground has dried out to good ahead of Stratford’s meeting which gets underway at 2.30pm with the Aye Aye Reggie "National Hunt" Maiden Hurdle over two and three-quarter miles, in which Fontwell bumper winner Dandolo Du Gite, who had three entries in all during the week, could strike for trainer Neil Mulholland, who was on the mark with The Young Master at Chepstow.
Twelve will line up in the Euan Robertson Memorial Novices' Handicap Hurdle in which Great Alne trainer Robin Dickin runs Twycross Warrior, returning after a long absence and wind surgery, from his two entries. A couple who have run at the course in recent weeks are Hoponandsee and Turnbury, the latter having made much of the running when fourth at the last meeting.
The drying ground will certainly help Dan Skelton’s consistent Excellent Team in the Amadeus Catering Selling Hurdle, with all four of his wins coming on good or fast going.
The danger looks to be Atlantic Storm, the mount of Aidan Coleman, a winner of two races when trained by Skelton, but now with Pembrokeshire trainer David Rees.
The veteran Moorlands Jack, eight times a winner over fences, has scored on a variety of going descriptions and could be the one to beat in the William Hill Leading Racecourse Bookmaker Handicap Chase over two miles and five furlongs.
Coleman is on top-weight Mont Royale, who was pulled up at Market Rasen last time out after some indifferent jumping and looks one to avoid until showing better form.
Although set to carry plenty of weight, Shambra looks to have a good chance in the Watch Racing UK On Sky 426 Mares' Handicap Hurdle. The danger could be Solstalla, the mount of Page Fuller, who was pulled up on her only run on heavy ground and is another for whom the drying conditions have come just in time.
Owner Rob Aplin will be hoping that his horse Hammersly Lake, trained at Over Norton by Charlie Longsdon, triumphs in the $450,000 American Grand National to be run at Far Hills Racecourse in New Jersey.
Stratford has marked the occasion with the Hammersly Lake Good Luck In America Tonight Handicap Chase in Saffron Prince is taken to score for Cotswold trainer David Bridgwater in a race where all of the runners look to have something to prove.
The Kevin Watson Lady Riders' Handicap Hurdle brings the curtain down on the afternoon’s action and Clock On Tom, who has dropped to a handicap mark of 93, could notch up his third jumps win with Tabitha Worsley.