A neck, a head, a neck… With finishes like this, racing is peerless

The attention of sports fans was perhaps centred more on events at Trent Bridge and Ascot than Stratford yesterday, but the six race card in beautiful early summer sunshine provided some highly entertaining sport nonetheless.

Appreciate is showing the form of Joe Root as he notched up a hattrick in the opening Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle for Milton Harris and Mitchell Bastyan. Showing good pace to pick off the leader Kolisi at the last, Appreciate was following up on wins here in May, and a short head victory at Newton Abbot 4 days previously, which clearly hadn’t left a mark. And whilst the standard of this race is hardly on a par with England’s talisman batsman, there would appear to be more in the tank from this improving four year old.

The ensuing Mares’ Novices hurdle over the minimum trip provided an eventful finish. Turning in, Symbolic Spirit led, with Lunar Shadow not making much of an impression, and Quiet Thunder in third. The first two fell independently of each other at the last, allowing conditional Chris Ward to pick up an unexpected 50/1 winner for Sarah Hollinshead. Both fallers were none the worse for their tumbles. This was Ward’s first winner of the new term, and 38th in total.

Alan King, trainer of faller Lunar Shadow, exacted compensation later in the afternoon in a very exciting further Novices hurdle over the minimum trip, in which Rafiki, given a forceful ride by Tom Bellamy, got up by a head to beat Tardree and Olly’s Folly. Just five ran in this race, but any one of four could have won a furlong out, proving that small fields can often make for great finishes.

Rafiki and Tom Bellamy [2nd left] wins at Stratford as four jump the last together. 14/6/2022 Pic Steve Davies

Sarah Humphrey’s small West Wratting yard in Cambridgeshire enjoyed 9 winners last term, and courtesy of Glimpse of Gold, winner of the RacingTV free for a month Handicap Hurdle, she is already a third of the way to levelling that score with just seven weeks of the season behind us. This was the eleven year old’s third consecutive win following victories at Fakenham in April and May and the gelding lacks nothing in enthusiasm. Conditional Jay Tidball was in the plate.

There was more scrubbing going on in the closing stages of the Join RacingTV Now Novices Handicap Chase than you will find on HMS Pinafore. Three were in contention coming out of the back straight, all three under pressure to maintain their position. Eventual winner Boston Joe, for Rebecca Curtis’ South Wales yard, was locked in battle with Invincible Wish from Sarah Jane Davies, with School For Scandal in hot pursuit. Conor Ring conjured a terrific late run from Invincible Wish, but the winning post came just in time for Paul O’Brien on Boston Joe. The winning distance was a neck.

Boston Joe and Paul O’Brien win at Stratford. 14/6/2022 Pic Steve Davies

The excitement was far from over however, as the golden hour from 3.20 – 4.30 was punctuated by winners by a neck, a head and a neck – enough excitement to challenge Trent Bridge, where Stokes and Bairstow were in full flow after the tea interval. As the two England batsmen made short work of the 299 run chase with overs to spare, the appropriately – named Ahead of Schedule, long time leader in the closing Watch on RacingTV Handicap Chase over 2m 6f scarped home from Wavecrest. In stark contrast to Trent Bridge’s final result, the neck winning distance was, to paraphrase Wellington, ” a close-run thing”.

The action returns to Stratford on June 28th, when we may be basking in a third test win by our boys in white at Headingly, but Stratford spectators will be most royally entertained by our six winners.

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