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New season at Stratford Racecourse just around the corner

THE BetVictor Season Opener heralds the start of Stratford’s 2019 campaign on Monday with a total of 18 fixtures running through the summer and finishing on Monday, 11th November, writes David Hucker.

One meeting for the diary is the popular Hunterchase Evening on Friday, 31st May, which sees a number of awards being presented by the Point-to-Point Owners and Riders Association following the point-to-point season which got underway at Buckfastleigh in Devon back in November.

New to this year is the Peaky Blinders Evening on Saturday, 1st June and there will be the ever-popular Family Day fixture on Sunday, 14th July.

Champion jockey Richard Johnson, who is on track to secure his fourth consecutive title next month, was the leading rider at Stratford in 2018 with 12 winners from 40 rides.

His strike rate of 30 per cent was bettered, however, by Brian Hughes with 46 per cent, having ridden six winners from just 13 rides.

Leading trainer was Alcester-based Dan Skelton with ten wins from 36 runners.

Four of these successes came courtesy of Hatcher, who rattled up a four-timer in July and August.

He ran five times in all at the course, but was beaten on the first of them in June by Yensir, trained by Olly Murphy, whose Wilmcote stable continues to go from strength-to-strength and has already passed last season’s totals for winners and earnings.

Skelton is continuing his climb up the training ranks, having already passed last season’s career-best tally of 156 winners.

The success of Goodthyneaway at Southwell on Monday was his 162nd in the current campaign, although his prize money haul is around £140,000 down on last season.

He currently sits in third place in the championship table above Colin Tizzard, but the Dorset trainer has a stronger hand at next week’s Cheltenham Festival with its large prize funds.

Ideally placed as a curtain-raiser to the four-day Festival which starts on Tuesday, Stratford’s six-race card features two Class Three events, with the most valuable being the £13,800 David Cowgill Memorial Handicap Chase to be run over two-and-three-quarter miles.

The Best Odds Guaranteed with BetVictor Handicap Hurdle (qualifier for the Challenger Two Mile Hurdle Series final) over two miles and half a furlong is the second-most valuable race on the card, with £11,800 in the prize fund and Skelton has four amongst the 21 entries.

The meeting gets underway at 2.20pm with the Lengthen The Odds With BetVictor Juvenile Hurdle and concludes at 4.40pm with Maiden Open National Hunt Flat Race.

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