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Double delight for trainer Fergal O'Brien at Stratford

Lip Service (far right, hidden) jumps the final fence in the Racing Uk Free For a Month Handicap Chase. Photo: David Pratt
Lip Service (far right, hidden) jumps the final fence in the Racing Uk Free For a Month Handicap Chase. Photo: David Pratt

COTSWOLD trainer Fergal O’Brien was in sparkling form at Stratford on Tuesday afternoon, landing a double with Grageelagh Girl and Lip Service to move his score for the current season to eight, writes David Hucker.

Cheltenham winner Stylish Dancer was a short price to take the first division of the racinguk.com/freetrial Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle for Dan and Harry Skelton and, having shaken off the attentions of outsider Blazing Gold after the second flight, made the rest of the running until being joined by second-favourite Sue Be It as they turned for home with one hurdle left to take.

The jump at the last proved to be crucial, as Stylish Dancer put in an extra stride and landed awkwardly, whilst Sue Be It was foot-perfect and flew up the run-in to follow up her Towcester win under Brian Hughes.

On known form, the second division looked to lie between the two previous scorers, Grageelagh Girl, winner of a maiden hurdle at Newton Abbot two weeks ago, and Tillythetank, winner of a similar race at Exeter last month.

They dominated the betting market with Grageelagh Girl sent off the 4-9 favourite and finished as the betting suggested, separated by five lengths.

In an incident-packed race which saw three depart on the first circuit, including Darlyn who demolished the wing of the fourth hurdle, outsider Fifty Peach Way took the field along until leaving the back straight where the big two took control. With the damaged hurdle not repaired, that was the end of the jumping and Grageelagh Girl strode away for an impressive success.

Johnny Og was reluctant to line up for the £12,200 Racing UK Free For A Month Handicap Chase over two and three-quarter miles, but got off with the rest of the field, tracking early leaders Adam DuBreteau and Ravished before dropping back.

Ravished maintained his position, still leading as the runners headed for the last fence, but it was the veteran course and distance winner Fear Glic who looked to be travelling best of all and about to break his losing spell going back two years.

However, none could resist the finishing kick of Lip Service, who found another gear on the run-in with conditional jockey Richard Patrick to come home two and a quarter lengths ahead of Fear Glic, with Ravished the same distance away in third.

Highlight of the meeting was the fourth, the Class 3 Racing UK Free Trial Sky 426 Handicap Hurdle over two miles with Wells De Lune, who had been plying his trade in hunter chases until returning to hurdles recently, making the running at a good pace.

The challengers were stacking up behind him as they hit the turn for home and it was 20-1 outsider Romanor, only fourth going to the final obstacle, who showed the best turn of foot to scoot away approaching the winning post.

There was a competitive-looking field of eleven for the £10,000 Bet At racinguk.com Novices’ Handicap Chase and hat-trick seeking Just A Feeling, who had shown improved form since a wind operation, was the one that punters wanted to know, shortening from 2-1 to 7-4 before the off.

She was struggling almost from the off, being pulled up by Harry Skelton after the ninth fence, as the race was turned into a procession by Isle Road, who took advantage of a bad blunder by Diplomatico at the third-last to make the rest of the running and beat 33-1 shot Admiral Kid by six lengths.

Uttoxeter winner Mick Maestro was a pretty short price to follow up at Warwick, but pulled too hard for his own good, finishing third to 33-1 outsider Telegraph Place.

Trainer Tom George fitted a hood for his run in the Visit The All New racinguk.com Novices’ Hurdle, but he was only third in the betting behind Fakenham scorer Yensir, trained, like Telegraph Place, by Olly Murphy at Wilmcote, and Dan Skelton’s Hatcher, a faller at the last flight at Huntingdon on his previous run.

The market got it right, as Yensir and Hatcher fought out the finish, with the former finding plenty on the run-in to score by two and a half lengths with champion jockey Richard Johnson.

Course winner Iniesta had to give weight to his 13 rivals in the concluding Racing UK Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle over two and a quarter miles and, after being prominent throughout, he battled back to lead going to the last flight to deny Anton Dolin and Elysian Prince.

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