Racing was delayed by one hour to allow the frost to come out of the ground. It survived a 9.30 inspection and having walked the course about two hours before the new schedule time of 12.30 the course was still frosty, particularly on the landing side of the jumps. Indeed, the final fence was omitted all day (Fence 2, 10 & 18). The actual fences looked in great shape and credit must go to the staff concerned. The official going was good with soft patches.
The weather was glorious though with the sun shining for most of the day for this historic fixture and the first West Midlands meeting of the season.
Irilut was the market leader in a bid to record his twelfth victory in points. Trainer Robert Waley-Cohen and jockey Sam Waley-Cohen had recorded an easy winner on Bica in the first hunter chase of the season in the North at Wetherby the day before; second favourite was Lough Ennel, the mount of Julian Pritchard and Minella Silver for Richard Burton.
In the race itself, it was Minella Silver and Jakari for George Scott who made the early running with Guignol Du Cochet also prominent for Josh Hamer, with both Irilut and Lough Ennel held up in mid division. On the second circuit, Minella Silver weakened disappointingly to leave Jakari clear at the fourth last together with Mister Banker and they both still held the lead approaching the straight; Irilut had made significant headway from the tenth. As they jumped the last (normally the penultimate fence) and met the long in, Jakari still led but Irilut gained the lead soon after, however Lough Ennel appeared late on the scene with Julian Pritchard seen on his best splitting the front two and getting home on the line under a driving finish (went to the judge) by a neck from the favourite with Jakari just one length further behind.
What a start to the day! This was Lough Ennel's fourth points win for owner Ray Jones. Trained by Nicky Sheppard at Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire, the winner qualified with the Pentyrch. Irilut should have no trouble winning again in this sphere and Jakari is one to note having just been run out of it in the last one hundred yards. Mr Banker was fourth for Ran Morgan.
Time of 6 mins 15 secs
There was no great pace in the opening division with the field tightly grouped together. The hot favourite, Something Small (1/2), for the Waley-Cohen partnership were in mid division when crashing through the wing at the ninth (the roadside fence) having also fallen at the ninth last time at Barbury when odds on that day. Fortunately, both horse and jockey were unscathed. Something Small obviously has talent but is going to be a risky betting proposition in future.
The first circuit was led by On The Forty, Ballingale Dawn and Youwouldhave That. Second time round, the 2 nd fav Belligerent took up the running with Adam Wadlow and looked the likely winner two out, however, a slow jump at the penultimate fence saw Lathyrus, who had been held up by Will Kinsey, come with a wet sail to join Belligerent on the line; another cracking finish and another for the judge with Lathyrus getting the verdict by a short head; a shock result for the punters as 16/1 was readily available. Another exciting finish and with the judge working overtime after only two races.
The winner is owned by a syndicate from the Welshpool area headed by James Evans and trained in the same area by Phil Jones.
The winner had won a short maiden last season at Eyton but had also failed to complete on his other five attempts in points and the runner up is improving steadily. Trained by Belinda Keighley at Condicote, this was his seasonal debut and this progressive seven year old will win again
Time of 6 mins 21 secs
Lord Of The Hollow was still in with a fighting chance two out but Boolabawn with William Hill and On Top, the mount of Fred Hutsby and both market rivals to the fav, had come to join the leaders but Boolabawn ran on strongly to record a comfortable two length victory from Lord Of The Hollow. On Top weakened close home and will come on for the run; Gossip and Intaglio stayed on close home.
The winner is progressive. Placed in all three outings last season, including an encouraging third at Tabley, trained/owned by Clive Bennett at Dymock. Hannah Watson won the prize for the best ride of the day from a novice rider having never giving up on Lord Of The Hollow who having finished third behind Temple Dog last time at Dunthrop will hopefully go one better next time.
Time 6 mins 19 secs
Time 6 mins 07 secs (quickest of the day)
In the betting ring, the action was hectic with good support for both Ladzod'alm and Mel In Blue for the Waley-Cohen's with the first named going off the slight favourite. Infrasonique was solid at 10/3 with Another Raleagh and Twenty Degree slightly weaker.
In the race itself, three horses dominated on the first circuit; Ricky B, Tourniquet and Carthago with all the well fancied runners held up. Four out saw Mel In Blue making significant headway and looking the likely winner. As they approached the straight, four had pulled clear, Ricky B, Carthago, Mel In Blue. Mel In Blue took up the running at the last, but amazingly just like the first race, Julian Pritchard on Twenty Degrees came from nowhere to get up near the line with a perfectly timed challenge to beat Mel In Blue by two lengths. It wasn’t Sam's day! Much to his credit, Ricky B stayed on to be third for Adam Wadlow. Some of the big guns never really got into the race including Another Raleagh for Liam Payter who pulled up at the open ditch and Infrasonique.
The winner is trained by Alison Dare and comes on the back of his promising second behind Honourable Spider last time at Barbury Castle. He was formerly trained by George Moore, winning two races both at Plumpton and subsequently bought at the Ascot Sales, he looks a useful recruit to pointing.
Time 6 mins 12 secs
Crested Penguin was a well backed 7/2 chance with Go Classic at 4/1 and Tender Tangle at 5/1. There was drama at the very first fence as Sherwood Rose (looked well) and Lord Payne, two fancied runners, both fell independently of each other and there was yet more drama at the fifth when Richard Burton crashed out on Go Classic (bypassed the fence next time round). Tender Tangle from the in form Loggin yard tried to make all but he was already weakening as they went round a second time and was soon pulled up. Crested Penguin, with Claire Allen aboard, took up the running and was never headed again, going away at the finish to win by 2 lengths from Scuttlebrook with Lindbergh Law back in third.
The winner is owned by David & Lynn Cullimore and trained by Alison Dare, this was his fourth points victory and looks progressive.
Maiden (Div 1) For 5,
6 & 7 year olds
The race was dominated by one horse, Another Taipan who led from start to finish and came home in splendid isolation to win by twenty five lengths… no need for the judge on this one. This was Jamie Snowden's first ride of the day and is trained by trainer Richard Lee's daughter, Kerry and jointly owned by her and Tanya Stephenson from Channel 4 racing, although she wasn’t to be seen (neither was McCririck).
Another Taipan can certainly go on and win a Restricted on this performance. He finished third at Kelso as recently as October in a handicap chase and was subsequently sold at the November Doncaster sales for 9,500gns.
His market rival Aaron's Run, my eye catcher at Barbury, was overall disappointing finishing fourth; never really getting competitive for Claire Allen. A couple of mistakes didn’t help and may need more time.
Time 6 mins 15 secs
Photographer John Beasley had his work cut out trying to photo the winning connections and then dash off for the action in the next race. It was also difficult trying to keep a note of all the runners in the programme.
The market was dominated by three horses; fav was Cheers Thank You for Gary Hamner, Always A Brownie for Katie Baimbridge/Julian Pritchard and Chief Americo for Tim Stephenson.
The second division of the maiden was run in a much slower time with a sedate pace set by Just In Front and Chief Americo and the latter named was still in with every chance when running wide and pulling up four out. I’m not sure what happened as the view was obscured behind the trees. This left the finish to be dominated by two Cheshire raiders with Would Wouldn’t holding off the challenge of the favourite. Trained and ridden by Will Kinsey, this ex Irish gelding had pulled up at Barbury on his only start last season, but looked well in the paddock. Cheers Thank You was patiently ridden by Gary Hanmer and should soon open his maiden account. Sandy Lie and Nicky finished third and fourth. Always A Brownie never got into the race.
Time 6 mins 27 secs
Maiden for 8 year olds
and over (Division 1)
Runner up was Zaffre D'or for Geoff Barfoot Saunt and third was market rival Sarrococca for Jamie Snowden; both can win a small maiden.
Time 6 mins 23 secs
It was virtually impossible to follow the race properly, however another thrilling finish and a treble for Julian Pritchard as he came home late yet again on The Baillie to get the better of Rock Royale by 1 1/2 lengths with favourite China Chase back in third, seemingly failing to stay out the three miles. Early pacemaker Drive On Driver was fourth for Lorna Brookes. The winner was trained by Katie Baimbridge.
Time 6 mins 22 secs
A total of 124 runners contested the ten races making it good value for money for the admission fee of £10.
Undoubtedly the highlight of the day was the treble for Julian Pritchard coming late on all three of his wins and was worth staying for the last race on what had been a long day.