by Simon McInnes

Tiger Inn Novice Hunter Chase, incorporating the Guy Peate Memorial Challenge Trophy [3m 2f]
Had the pace been quicker, there could have been a new rule by which horses had to complete quicker than the rider could shout the race title, a bit like a sort of hunter chasing Qabbadi. Are you listening Channel 4 because this sport will sweep the globe. Clearly responding to an observation made here before that she gives every horse a waiting ride (I would like to think!), Lisa Stock actually made the running on Kincora, but the old fellow was not on his best form, and lost ground on the turn into the straight each time by running wide - usually rogues do it turning out of the straight here. Veteran market leader Peafield had been winning races this year that were not the most taxing and in this company he could only manage a one-paced third, which left Itsmyturnnow and Westfield John to battle out the finish. When he went on four out and put three lengths or so between himself and the pursuit, Itsmyturnnow looked a certain winner, but he drifted left when tiring in the home straight, and ended up on the stands rail. This almost allowed the more direct Westfield John to pinch the race, and had the hurdles track been in use, the winner would have had more room to drift and probably would have been pipped. Having seen him be a clear non-stayer over an extra half mile at Huntingdon recently, I am still unsure why I failed to back Itsmyturnnow! Even this trip may have been a touch too much.

Grant's Cherry Brandy South East Novice Hunter Chase [2m 5f]
Nine of the qualifiers went to post, with seven still young enough to perhaps see it lead on to better things. A furious pace was set by thorough stayer Jack Of Kilcash, but it failed to burn off the main rivals and he eventually only got fourth due to others giving up the ghost. Favourite Sea Haitch Em took best advantage, despite fluffing the twelfth and seemed to have a little bit in hand when he crossed the line ahead of Fine And Dandy. Having won three times since refusing in March, Eastern Point thought about not jumping off and lost plenty of ground at the start. Philip York was patient and did not rush to make up the ground. She crept into third with half a lap to go, but then was unable to go with the first two. Physical talent seems to exceed her metal stability. 

Stuart Adamson Memorial Open Hunter Chase for the Royal Judgement Challenge Trophy [3m 1f]
Six lined up, and with a lap to go five were still bang in contention. From that point on, they began to scatter. Rounding the home turn, Belvento was cruising all over Bitofamixup, but found nothing and ended up being well beaten and very tired. This gave Jenny Gordon the win, and she was slightly fortunate that Bitofamixup did not down tools at any stage in the race - he seems to have had more going days than off ones this season! Spring Gale, who is a rarely out of the first two in ladies opens, has a hatred of racing under Rules, and tried to pull himself up on the bend away from the stands, which means he has been whiskers away from refusing to race in his last three hunter chases. And as neither Cedar Chief nor Brackenheath showed much dash at the business end, it does raise doubts as to how much the winner actually achieved in landing the spoils.

Shepherd Neame United Hunts Open Champion Hunter Chase [3m 7f]
Foxhunters near hero Bright Approach took this option rather than a paddle over an extra three furlongs at Uttoxeter and duly snaffled almost three and a half grand with the aplomb that might be expected, given that the Cheltenham race is at the bottom end of his distance range. Grecian Star was best of the rest in the betting ring but he was beating a retreat when he unseated three out. The two that chased home Bright Approach both emerged with credit. Rated only 84 as a chaser, Woodlands Beau had nigh on three stone to find with the winner but galloped home strongly and certainly saw out the trip. He was closely pursued by Tom Cobbler, who was twelve pounds higher rated in handicap chases. With one win in seven points, the horse has not been booted home as regularly as might have been expected, but suggested here that marathon trips might be thing. The Kent National looks a good option for next season.

Donald Duffus Maiden Hunter Chase for the Cuckoo Maiden Challenge Cup [2m 5f]
Ironically, after Bright Approach's win, the weather began to close in and visibility for the race was not great. It produced an all the way winner in lightly raced Little Farmer, who stuck to his guns bravely when a challenge was mounted by Tricky Trevor. The runner-up has reportedly been treated for stomach ulcers, and although not good enough today, he has clearly regained his form as a consequence. Third was Judicious Norman, confirming the view that three miles is too far for him. Alas, he does not really have the pace for two and a half.

Hugh McCrossan 60th Birthday Open Hunter Chase for the United Hunts Cup [2m 5f]
The drizzle had really got a grip and leading up to this race, the second last fence and first one going away from the stand were only visible occasionally, and the last fence was partially obscured at some moments. The big screen would have done a good job, but the cameras could only pick up anything within ten yards of them, so the race should not have much to write on. But what a finale it proved. Odds-on favourite and legend in these reports Rustic Revelry thumped three out and never got going again, securing the minor place, ending a run of nine finishes in first or second. This left two jaded handicap chasers to fight out a superb last furlong, which ended in a dead heat. The long delay in announcing the result meant that most people had guessed what was coming, but the combination of no displayed still photo, no replay on the CCTV and Jane Stickels as judge meant that quite a few people suspected something dodgy going down. The two winners were Shu Gaa, whom Richard Young got up on the line to record the horse's second success since April 1997 - his only point run being in an open at Bratton Down, where he was third. As they loomed into view, he looked all over the winner, but Hannah Grissell had what must be her finest hour in the saddle to date, as she persuaded Buckland Lad to match everything Shu Gaa had. Having been a gutsy two miler under Rules, Buckland Lad had declined to the stage of pulling up or refusing, so it was no mean
feat to even share the spoils. And guess what, like Shu Gaa his only point run had seen him be third in an open. It's not quite the Lincoln ? Kennedy Assassinations Coincidence list, but bears mentioning.