Shearer shines at Warwick's New Year's Eve meeting to give Nicholls 100th winner of season
AFTER passing an early morning inspection, Warwick’s New Year’s Eve meeting brought British jump racing to a close for 2020 – and leading trainer Paul Nicholls chalked up a century of winners for the campaign when Shearer took the seventh and final race, writes David Hucker.
Odds-on favourite Shearer, beaten a head on his debut at Hereford, took the concluding National Hunt Flat Race in the familiar colours of the McNeill family, running on resolutely in the final furlong to beat Bowtogreatness, part-owned by Harry Redknapp, and debutant Lac De Constance.
There was a gamble in the opening Jonjo Says Join Me At jonjooneillracingclub.co.uk Novices’ Handicap Hurdle with the Henry Oliver trained Durouyn backed from 11-2 into 2-1 favourite to step up on his second place behind Cash Again at Sedgefield last time out.
The money stayed with the bookies, however, as Durouyn could finish only third to easy winner After The Fox who, having taken over the running from Queen Among Kings coming out of the back straight, ran right away from his rivals in the hands of Chester Williams.
After The Fox, owned and trained by the jockey’s mother Jane, had been unlucky to stumble and fall on the home bend at Exeter on his previous start and this seven-length success over top-weight Darksideoftarnside suggests that there will be more races to be won with him.
Tom Scudamore came in for the ride on 16-1 shot Trump Lady in the LPS British Stallion Studs EBF Mares’ “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle, replacing Tom Bellamy who had been stood down by the doctor following a fall at Taunton the previous day.
Taking over from Kelso winner Bourbon Beauty before the fourth flight, Trump Lady made the rest of the running, holding the challenge of Stratford bumper winner Hunny Moon, who was sent off the even-money favourite, to give Dorset trainer Nick Mitchell his first winner since taking out a licence again.
Champion Chase took the field along at a good pace in the Local Parking Security Handicap Chase over two miles and the runners were already strung out after just two fences.
He surrendered the lead to Ben Brody who, having survived a blunder at the first fence in the back straight, proved too strong for Flight To Nowhere over the last two fences.
Aubusson made a gallant attempt to carry top weight to victory in the LPS Carlow Conditional Jockeys’ Veterans’ Handicap Chase, making all the running until the final fence where he was joined by Western Climate, who found the better turn of foot against the far running rail to score by five-and-a-half lengths.
Winning jockey Lorcan Williams had done well to keep the partnership intact after Western Climate made a bad blunder at the penultimate fence, but they were going away at the finish and trainer Henry Oliver will look at a return to the course for the Classic Chase at the next meeting.
The grey Florrie Knox and Shah An Shah made the running in the day’s longest race, the Jonjo O’Neill Racing Club Handicap Hurdle (Challenger Stayers’ Hurdle Series Qualifier) over three-and-a-quarter miles, with favourite Mr Washington held up in the rear by Lilly Pinchin.
Four were in a line jumping the penultimate flight, but it was Shah An Shah, backed from 14-1 to 10-1, and Mr Washington who had the race between them with one hurdle to jump and, after a duel up the run-in, the favourite got his head in front.
It’s two years since Skipping On last won a race but, despite carrying top weight of 12-0, he had been given a chance from a rating of 107 in the Jonjo O’Neill Racing Club Amazing Benefits £99 Handicap Chase.
Lickpenny Larry looked to have a winning lead when jumping to the front four fences from home, but the veteran Skipping On wore him down on the run-in to win.