3 winners for Marlborough

Alan King is seen sparingly at summer jumps meets nowadays, having fielded just 45 runners in five seasons across Stratford’s March-November calendar. Rather more fruitful pickings have been found pursuing the more lucrative flat calendar which now makes up half the Barbury handler’s stable winnings nowadays.

However, his infrequent runners always merit consideration, as a 30/1 double yesterday confirmed. Both ridden by Tom Cannon, juvenile Zodiac Star and handicapper On Se Calme brought the seasonal tally to five, of which 3 have been at Luddington Road.

Four year old Zodiac Star has failed to score in 8 starts on the level, but got his act together to overhaul Archie Watson’s Polling Day on the run-in to win by 3/4l and break his duck. He hadn’t looked the obvious winner turning in, but stuck to his task admirably under a form ride from Cannon.

Three jumped the second last in a line in the Hook Norton Vets Handicap Hurdle (Div II) with a winner possible from any of the 9 runners remaining in the tightly bunched field. On Se Calme was the first to make the bend and kept on well to the line, despite a renewed challenge from Bernard Llewellyn’s Good Impression.

It might well have been a Marlborough – themed evening, as near neighbour Robbie Llewellyn returned his second winner of the new term when Paddy’s Island avoided the early race incident to win by 3 1/2l. A Day To Dream proved to be a nightmare, unseating Brian Hughes at the first then running across the field and carrying out two more and precipitating the fall of a third at the second hurdle. That left just five to continue, and Charlie Price had Paddy’s Island well-placed to pick off the leader Hot Fizzy Lizzy who eventually faded into third place behind Scintillante.

Llewellyn scaled up significantly last season, scoring 25 winners, mostly of low calibre, but at a 23% strike rate, which measures favourably with the senior stables. He’s a welcome addition to the 5 stables now surrounding Barbury Castle following the move of Simon Earle to the estate.

The summer campaign is populated by familiar names for the most part – Jonjo O’Neill, Ben Pauling, Fergal O’Brien, and not merely because Stratford is in close proximity to their yards. The summer’s low grade races afford a chance for some of the lesser lights of these big stables to have their moment in the sun, whilst also establishing a position in the Trainers’ Championship.

No surprise then to see a winner for two of these, as Fergal O’Brien led in commentator’s nightmare Sacchoandvenzetti to score for the first time since his transfer to Ravenswell from John Queally’s twelve months ago in the Saige Composite Products Handicap Hurdle over 2m 6f. It was a smooth and accomplished ride from Jonathan Burke, but won’t have enamoured the affable O’Brien to his landlord Rupert Lowe, busy campaigning in Great Yarmouth for the Reform Party, whose Art Approval came in second.

Ben Pauling is another to make hay during the summer, and he may need it to resolve a property dispute with debenture holders at Naunton Downs Golf Club, home to the stable, which Pauling purchased 2 years ago. Suffice to say, golf and racehorses are not proving a perfect mix; reason enough to press home the success of course and distance winner Chess Player in the visitracingtv.com Handicap Chase over 2m 3f. The four time chase winner is not always the most fluent of jumpers, but Kielan Woods steered him home to a 2 1/4l win over Nibra’s Gold, who may have been closer with a cleaner jump at the last.

Chess Player wins at Stratford. 2/7/2024 Pic Steve Davies

Bob O’Rhino pinned his colours to the mast from flagfall in the second division of the maiden hurdle, disputing the lead from the off under Gavin Sheehan. Sheehan asserted from 3 out and had enough in the tank to see off the resolute Far Away West by a length.

Paul Nicholls’ summer team is very select; in truth, it’s not really his scene, but if he is to wrest the Championship back from Willie Mullins, and keep former assistant Dan Skelton at bay, then some pretence at the summer’s calendar is necessary. 12 winners to date compares poorly to Skelton’s 38, but Matterhorn’s 12l stroll in the Davisons Law Anniversary Novices Handicap Chase helped the total along just a smidgen for prominent owner Johnny de la Hey.

Matterhorn wins at Stratford. 2/7/2024 Pic Steve Davies

That 38 winners for Skelton was helped along by a final race winner for the local Alcester yard in the concluding bumper. A maiden Point-to-Point winner at taylorstown in May, Ronnies Rules was in a hurry from the off, and made out an easy debut 5l Rules winner under Ben Sutton to add to the young horse cavalry squadron at Skelton HQ awaiting the autumn.

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