Skelton looks to close in on double century at Stratford on Sunday
SUNDAY sees the second Inspire Racing Club Race Day at Stratford and, with 59 declared runners across the seven-race card, it should prove to be another good afternoon’s racing at the popular course, writes David Hucker.
Last week’s Randox Health Grand National meeting attracted much national attention and a massive international television audience, but it’s a much quieter time for jumps racing over the next couple of weeks as the 2018/19 season comes to a close.
Richard Johnson will be crowned champion jockey for the fourth time, but Warwickshire’s Harry Skelton has made him fight all the way, having ridden 168 winners, a career-best total. Most of those have come on horses trained by his brother Dan, who has also had his best-ever season with 190 successes so far, beating the 171 posted by his mentor Paul Nicholls two years ago.
Martin Pipe remains the only trainer to have reached a double century, a feat he achieved eight times, but Skelton is closing in on the target and needs less than a winner a day over the reminder of the season.
Whatever the outcome, he will, no doubt, be going flat out from the start of the new season with plenty of runners at Stratford over the summer.
Despite having a host of runners around the country this week, Skelton has just two at his local track on Sunday, starting with Ferrobin, the choice from two entries, in the opening Inspire Racing Club Annual Race Day Novices' Hurdle over two-and-three-quarter miles that gets the meeting underway at 2.05pm.
A wide-margin winner at Huntingdon last month, he should take the trainer another step nearer the double-century.
Skelton’s other runner is Ratoute Yutty in the Inspire Free Racing Day Mares' Handicap Hurdle, but preference is for top-weight It’s All A Lark, who has gone up 7lbs for a comfortable win at Doncaster last time but, with Abbie McCain’s claim cancelling out most of the extra weight, she should go close.
Feature race is the Class 3 Inspire Racing Members Day 'Confined' Handicap Chase over two and a half miles for horses rated 0-135, in which Aintree My Dream, formerly trained by Skelton, makes his debut for Milton Harris.
He has to bounce back after a couple of disappointing runs and may struggle to concede weight to The Bottom Bar, who ran encouraging at Ludlow on his return after wind surgery.
Cillian’s Well, a course winner over hurdles, tops the weights in the intriguingly-named Inspire Racing Club Mr Bow-Tie Man Novices' Handicap Chase, but should run well even with 12-5 to carry.
Although restricted to horse that have not won more than four chases, there are some prolific point-to-point winners in the closing Inspire Exclusive Racing Club 'Grassroots Hunter's Chase over two-and-three-quarter miles and it could turn out to be the best race of the afternoon.
This would be a good bit of placing for Arthur’s Secret, a winner of four chases and eight point-to-points and, together with Master Baker, successful in three chases and ten point-to-points, they look the two that the rest of the field have to beat.