New recruit Hermes Allen repaid a little over 1% of his purchase price when winning the Maiden Hurdle at Stratford on Saturday, earning £4,084 toward his splendid £350,000 purchase tag. The Kirkistown maiden Point-to-Point winner of last November made a smooth Rules debut under Bryony Frost for Paul Nicholls and his power-team of owners that include Sir Alex Ferguson, Ged Mason and John Hales. This is precisely the role of our smaller venues in providing opportunities for the stars of the future to learn their trade, and star appeal was here in abundance.
Whilst the five runner field was hardly the cavalry charge of a Ballymore Novices in its heyday, the winner took control of the race from early, and never saw any danger, winning unopposed by 27l.
It was a day for the ladies, with half the races won by lady riders, and whilst it doesn’t do any more to draw attention to these coincidences, they still remain remarkable insofar as the odds remain stacked against women succeeding at the same rate as men.
The opening contest was a rare hurdle race confined to women riders, and drew the full range of expertise, from Bryony Frost and Gina Andrews, with 600 winners between them, to 7lb claimers. On this occasion, the latter won the day, when Thomasina Myers conjured up a last gasp run from Man Of The Sea between the last and the winning line to win by 3/4l from My Poem and Zamond. Thomasina was riding her fifth winner of the term, and seventh in all, for boss Neil Mulholland, also riding high with 33 Jumps winners under his belt.
At the opposite end of the card, Lilly Pinchin made all on David Dennis’s Flying Verse to land her twelfth winner of the season to date, and second in as many days, in the 2m6f handicap chase. Lilly is earning a reputation as a go-to conditional with Gloucestershire trainers like Ben Pauling, Charlie Longsdon, DJ Jeffreys and David Bridgwater.
It was another Wiltshire trainer who showed his liking for Stratford when Milton Harris won his seventh race of the Stratford summer with four year old mare Aliomaana under Mitchell Bastyan in the Mares Handicap Hurdle. Harris has frequented Newton Abbot and Stratford with equal enthusiasm this past few months, and with pretty much equal success. This 28th winner of the term keeps him in the top flight whilst the big guns keep their powder dry.
One such, who hasn’t been fielding runners much this summer, is Kim Bailey. When the weather dried up back in the Spring, many of his horses were sent away on their summer break, but there’s evidence that they are fresh and ready to run in a couple of winners and promising form among those now reappearing. One example is Samatian, not likely to be one of Thorndale’s star performers, who nevertheless started his season in the best possible fashion with a 2l victory over Lazy Lover Boy in the William Hill Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap Hurdle. Just 40 runners have contributed to Bailey’s five winners, but on the basis of the past few richly endowed seasons, we can expect some higher profile excitement.
An eventful Pat Smyth 60th Birthday Handicap Chase saw thrills and spills in equal measure from the seven runner field as Nick Gifford celebrated a 40/1 winner in Fairway Freddie. Midnight Jewel, seeking a fourth summer victory under Lilly Pinchin, set a brisk pace which caught out Godrevy Point at the ninth, also bringing down Ahead of the Field. Thereafter, Pinchin appeared to have the rest of the field on the back foot, but James Davies harried her and Midnight Jewel all the way from the second last, and was able to capitalize when Midnight Jewel tipped up on landing at the final fence. Gifford’s horses are in good form; this was his second winner in as many runners, but Findon is sadly not the powerhouse of 25 years ago.
Stratford bows out on October 27, so we hope you’ll join our swansong before the winter kings take over.