Kap Auteuil continues his Stratford love affair with victory in feature handicap chase
A LARGE crowd welcomed the warm sunshine as Stratford dusted itself off for its first weekend fixture of the Spring return to action.
Kap Auteuil has a keen appreciation of Stratford by all appearances, after his third chase win here within a year in last Saturday’s Paul Diblasio Memorial Handicap Chase. The seven-year-old has progressed to an official rating of 136, putting him within reach of some of the sport’s big handicaps next autumn with this sort of progression.
Trainer Toby Lawes has good reason to appreciate this bellwether of his stable, as does his rider, Harry Bannister, replacing regular rider Tom Cannon on this occasion, who was enjoying a treble after two wins earlier in the day.
Those two earlier winners were courtesy of Hampshire trainer Richard Bandey, for whom this season has been a breakthrough year. After winners counted on the fingers of one hand these past five years whilst graduating from the point-to-point field, this year the tally from Plantation Farm near Tadley, stands at 15. The 14th of these – Give Me A Moment – never looked like creasing his trainer’s brow in the opening 25 Club Handicap Chase, making all and drawing clear two out to ease down near the line, still 31 lengths clear of runner-up Court Royal.
Half an hour later, Bandey’s cup overflowed when Ernie Bilko, ridden handily throughout, took it up two out and ran on and away from the rest of the field in division one of the Lady Ella’s Handicap Hurdle.
In the second division, Colin Tizzard edged closer to the £1m prize money marker when The Changing Man overcame Matt Sheppard’s Always Able by a comfortable three-and-a-half lengths. The stewards looked into the horse’s improved form and were satisfied with the explanation that the horse appreciated the drying ground.
Another yard close to a personal best is Emme Lavelle, who is just £60,000 off her best season, achieved in 2018-19.
With a growing number of horses rated over 150 that allow her to compete with the Saturday crowd, Lavelle is successfully making a go of her ambitious move to Ogbourne Maizey a few years back.
This time around, it was American-bred Point Him Out, transferred across from Michael Stidham’s outfit before Christmas, who broke his UK Jumps duck in the Margaret Banister Celebration Novices Hurdle. Looking likely that there is more to come here.
Stratford is a course that holds to traditions successfully, one of which is to maintain a series of selling races, which have largely disappeared elsewhere. A useful source of income to racecourses, Saturday’s was little different, the winner, a rare Dan Skelton runner in a seller, being bought in for £13,600. It also produced another winner for emerging amateur Tristan Durrell, enjoying a ninth winner this season, all bar one for the boss.
The day concluded with a race in the name of Broadway-based Cotswold Larder. Winner Lightfoot Lady clearly hasn’t been indulging herself with pastries, winning with plenty in hand on her debut for the Nicky Henderson yard by a comfortable two-and-a-half lengths.