Spectators return to Stratford Racecourse for first time in over a year
THE crowds returned to Stratford for the first time in more than a year on Saturday evening when the Class 2 Peter Allen Thanks For The Great Memories Handicap Hurdle over an extended two-and-a-quarter miles topped the seven-race card, writes David Hucker.
Heading the betting was the progressive Hooper, ridden by Ben Ffrench-Davis, the pair having been successful in a race for conditional jockeys at Cheltenham last month.
Some Day Soon took them along from Reserve Tank, but Hooper was always well-placed and he went past Reserve Tank on the run-in to complete a four-timer.
Olly Murphy’s Market Rasen winner Restandbethankful was a red-hot favourite for the opening Welcome Back To Stratford Annual Members Novices’ Hurdle over two miles and half a furlong with Small Bad Bob, having his first start in Great Britain, second best in the market.
They finished in that order, as Small Bad Bob led until the final flight where Adrian Heskin eased Restandbethankful into the lead and the pair went clear on the run-in for a comfortable win.
Next up was the Class 3 Happy Birthday Flos Handicap Chase and, in the absence of top-weight The Unit, five lined up at the start.
The race was soon reduced to just four, however, as Darcy Ward jinked and unseated Nick Scholfield as the tape went up.
It was dual course winner Western Miller who set out to make the running over the two-and-a-half mile trip and he stayed there until the penultimate fence, when both Forecast and favourite Go Steady went past him.
By the final jump, it was Forecast, having his first run since wind surgery, who had pulled his way clear with Sam Twiston-Davies to win with plenty in hand, with Western Miller running on again to claim second place.
Multiple course winner Hatcher was one of three withdrawn because of the soft ground in the Come Camping At Stratford Racecourse Handicap Chase and the race went to the outsider of the trio, Lock’s Corner, who was brought from last to first by Richie McLernon to win, despite an awkward jump at the last.
The trip was two-and-three-quarter miles for the Support Retraining Of Racehorses (ROR) Novices’ Handicap Hurdle and, even with three non-runners, there were still 11 remaining – the biggest field of the evening.
Franz Klammer made much of the running until the home turn, being headed before the final flight by 13-2 shot Always Able, who stayed on strongly under Stan Sheppard to beat Baby Jane.
The longest race on the card was the 25 Club Handicap Chase over three-and-a-half miles and, with course winner Bbold and Reve both absentees, that left six runners headed by Southwell winner Big Nasty, who was running over this trip for the first time.
He disputed the lead from the start, but gave way after the second-last fence to Ballyegan Hero, who ran out a seven-length winner for Nick Scholfield to make up for his earlier bad luck.
With five of the eight runners in the closing Sunday 18th July Is Ladies Day Open Maiden National Hunt Flat Race making their racecourse debuts, form was a bit thin on the ground and it was one of the newcomers, Ultimate Fame, a half-sister to dual bumper winner Ultimate Getaway, who prevailed under Paddy Brennan by half a length from Salcombe in a thrilling finish.