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Dan's the man as Zamparelli cruises to victory

Zamparelli clears the last in the Totepool Cashback Club At tote sport.com Novices' Chase at Stratford Racecourse on Sunday. Photo: David Pratt
Zamparelli clears the last in the Totepool Cashback Club At tote sport.com Novices' Chase at Stratford Racecourse on Sunday. Photo: David Pratt

AFTER the thunderstorms of the night before, spring sunshine returned in time for Stratford’s first race meeting of the 2018 season on Sunday and Alcester trainer Dan Skelton took up where he left off last year, saddling another winner to bring up his 154 success of the campaign, writes David Hucker.

Skelton had run away with the prize for leading trainer at the course in 2017, with Royal Beekeeper making it 12 winners in all when scoring at the last meeting of the season.

He has been in prolific form throughout the current season and Zamparelli was fancied to add to his tally in the Totepool Cashback Club At totesport.com Novices’ Handicap Chase.

Outsider Ballina Lady took the field along at a good pace, but Harry Skelton always had the leader in his sights and, having taken the lead soon after jumping the penultimate fence, Zamparelli quickly put the race to bed, coming home well clear of Not a Role Model to bring up the jockey’s 130 success in his best-ever season.

The opening £20 Free Bets At totesport.com “Confined” Handicap Chase over two and a half miles was restricted to horses that had run in at least three handicap chases over the last year, but not won any race under Rules.

It gave a chance to those who have been knocking on the door to get their head in front and Princeton Royale, who had been runner-up in his last three races, took full advantage, leading all the way with conditional jockey Harry Teal to see off the challenge of Champagne At Tara by five lengths.

Market leader Minella Whisper and Fontwell Park scorer Fizzlestix looked to have the third race between them jumping the second-last flight and once Fizzlestix asserted coming round the home turn, his backers would have been counting their money.

But, just when he needed a good jump at the last flight to see off any late challengers, Fizzlestix made his only mistake of the race and, although gathered up by Harry Reed, he had lost his momentum and was passed on the run-in by 20-1 shot Boss Mans Ladder.

There was another good prize fund on offer in the Irish Lotto At totesport.com Mares’ Handicap Hurdle over two miles and it produced the closest finish of the afternoon as Litterale Ci was produced on the run-in by amateur Anne O’Connor to deny Lucca Lady by a neck, with the consistent, but luckless Passing Call back in third.

Based with winning trainer Harry Fry, Miss O’Connor was riding her 13th winner in total under Rules in Ireland and the UK, a tally which includes victory on the same horse in a hurdle for lady amateur riders at Ludlow in December.

The Skeltons were looking for a double with Marley Firth in the Novices’ Hurdle but, after being prominent from the start, he was back-pedalling approaching the second-last flight as Peculiar Places moved through to lead, only to come down and give Harry Bannister a nasty fall.

The jockey left the course clutching an ice pack to his face, but having fallen under the legs of another horse, the damage could have been much worse.

That left the Paul Nicholls trained Secret Investor in front and this point-to-point winner comfortably opened his account under Rules at the sixth time of asking.

Sussex trainer Zoe Davison, who is in her 21 season of training, doubled her previous best total when Brother Bennett brought up her 13 winner when scoring with Page Fuller at Plumpton the week before.

The combination struck again with Dylanseoghan in the day’s longest race, the Bet In Play At totesport.com Handicap Chase, seeing out the three and a half mile trip well to hold off the only serious challenger from the home turn in Boyfromnowhere by three lengths.

It was only by half a length that Abricot De L’Oasis went down in a point-to-point at Lockinge on his last run and he got his head in front this time to land the concluding Hunter Chase, holding off the late challenge of favourite Billy Merriott after going clear five fences from home.

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