All the talk at Stratford yesterday was of the return of racegoers the following day. Since July last year, whilst the professionals of the sport have been thankful to be able to carry on their business on the track, the process has been largely functional without the ability to celebrate winners with owners, recruit new ones, or merely accept congratulations from the public. With last week’s announcement, all that is set to change for the better; one more step on the road to normality.
Some courses lend themselves better to course specialists, and in the case of Atlantic Storm, trained by Rob Summers at Tanworth-in-Arden, that’s certainly the case. A winner of seven of his 43 starts, he’s now won 3 of these around Stratford’s tight bends, since being bought out of a selling hurdle here in October 2018. It’s standard-bearers like these that keep small trainers in the sport, when faced with the large battalions.
Stratford remains one of the few courses still running selling races. Generally considered low grade contests, they do occasionally throw up some great theatre in the ring afterwards. Sadly, there were no surprises when the Sam England-trained Pepper Street justified 11/10 favouritism to win yesterday’s seller, and the winner went home too after there were no bids.
French-bred Shaman du Berlais was the most impressive winner of the day, making a winning debut over fences in the 2m6f handicap chase for Kerry Lee. A graduate from UK Point-to-Points at Cocklebarrow and Didmarton, the eight year old had reasonable form for Tim Vaughan, but hadn’t been seen on the track since September 2019. A change of scene seems to have done the trick after a long layoff.
Seamus Mullins has a good record around Stratford, although Plumpton would have to be his favourite course. However, he was off the mark for this new season at the fifth attempt around Stratford with 10/1 shot Barrowmount in the Maiden Hurdle, as was Neil Mulholland, sporting a 100% strike rate from his single runner and winner of the handicap hurdle with The Wicket Chicken.
Tickets are now selling for Stratford’s fixture on May 22, where public attendance will be permitted.