Stratford all set for the new season
THE new season gets under way at Stratford tomorrow, Monday, when the crowd will be boosted by racegoers staying in the Cotswolds ahead of the Cheltenham Festival which starts the following day, writes David Hucker.
Although the track was waterlogged in parts a week ago, a mainly dry spell leading up to Monday has improved conditions, with racing going ahead after a morning inspection today, Sunday.
The Low6 Season Opener Raceday is the first of 17 meetings in all running through the summer and finishing on Thursday, 20th October.
Highlights of the season will again be the Hunter Chase Evening on Friday,29th May, plus successive Sunday meetings in July with Family Day on the 12th and Ladies Day on the 19th.
Prior to the meeting, there will be a Cheltenham Festival Preview in the Pavilion, featuring champion jockey Richard Johnson, Low6 ambassador Aidan Coleman, Luke Harvey and Charlie Post.
It's open to annual members and anyone with a Club or Tattersalls for the day, although spaces are limited and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
The seven-race card kicks off at 2.10pm with the Win £1000 Today On The Low6 App Juvenile Hurdle over two miles and three furlongs, in which French winner Ga Law makes his debut in this country.
He beat Guernesey at Argentan, but that horse finished a long way down the field at Warwick in January, putting a question mark over the form, and it may pay to side with The Pink'n, who was in front of Guernesey that day before running third to the useful Sir Psycho at Haydock.
Ludlow winner Darling Alko could be the one to back in the Download The Low6 App Novices' Handicap Chase for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, who saddles Kapgarry in the feature £50 Free Bet Low6 App Handicap Chase, which boasts £13,800 in the prize fund.
Just four have been declared for the Read The aidan-coleman.com Blog Novices' Chase, but it's a fascination contest nevertheless, with Tidal Flow, a useful hurdler achieving an official rating of 139 at his best, looking an even better prospect over fences.
After winning at Uttoxeter, he failed to concede 10lbs to Burbank at Newbury in December, but has every chance here, with Moonlighter, fourth to Rouge Vif in Warwick's Kingmaker Novices' Chase, looking the danger.
With 13 declared runners, the Low6 Cheltenham Festival Preview Handicap Hurdle (Qualifier For Challenger Series Final) looks a trappy affair in which the consistent Karakoram could be worth an each-way interest.
Chase Me might come out on top in a wide-open Low6 Sports Betting Reborn Novices' Hunters' Chase over two miles and five furlongs, before Grandads Cottage, one of four runners for Wilmcote trainer Olly Murphy, can land the closing Play Low6 Picks On The Low6 App Maiden Open National Hunt Flat Race.
"We have spent a considerable amount of time over the winter refurbishing areas, including the hospitality boxes, which we hope will improve our visitor experience and enjoyment of the day's racing," said manager Ilona Barnett.
“We are really looking forward to starting racing again on the 9th March.”
The first day of the Cheltenham Festival sees local rivals Olly Murphy and Dan Skelton hoping to lift one of the feature races of the card, the Grade One Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy.
Murphy saddles hat-trick seeking Brewin'upastorm, who returned to action after a wind operation at Carlisle in October and followed up with another win at Taunton three weeks later, but has not been seen on the racecourse since.
A training set-back prevented him from running in last month's Agetur UK Kingmaker Novices' Chase at Warwick in which Rouge Vif, another contender in the Arkle, put up a sparkling performance to lower the colours of the Skelton-trained favourite Nube Negra.
Skelton's representative this time is Maire Banrigh, bought for £320,000 after winning an Irish point-to-point, who will be looking for a seventh win in a row, after two victories over hurdles and four over fences, starting with carrying 12-6 to an easy success at Stratford in October.
She followed up in a better class race at Warwick where she readily saw off the challenge of Murphy's Thomas Darby, who has reverted to hurdles, winning at Ascot in January and misses Cheltenham for a race at next month's Aintree Festival.
On official ratings, Maire Banrigh has a bit to find on some of her rivals, but her fluent jumping will stand her in good stead and, as a mare, she carries 7lb less in weight than the geldings.
She runs in the well-known colours of John Hales, carried in the past by the high-class One Man, a winner of 20 races, and Neptune Collonges, winner of the 2012 Grand National.