Boola Boss underlines Welsh centre of excellence

It can’t be easy recruiting owners in the furthest reaches of South Wales where Rebecca Curtis plies her trade, but talent will out, they say, and the Pembrokeshire trainer with perhaps the most picturesque gallops in the country, has enjoyed success at the highest level, with no less than five Cheltenham Festival winners.

The Festival is a long way away from a May Sunday at Stratford, but proof of concept is alive and kicking after The Boola Boss made all under Paul O’Brien to win the feature William Hill Extra Place races Handicap Chase yesterday by 8l. Setting off in front, he was briefly challenged by Henry Daly’s Petty Cash, but pulled out extra to put the 2m 6f contest out of doubt. He’s likely to be rested now until the autumn.

The Boola Boss and Paul O’Brien win at Stratford. 19/5/2024 Pic Steve Davies

The Curtis stable is just 10 miles away from Peter Bowen, a Welsh powerhouse that, injury allowing, would likely have propelled son Sean to his first Jockeys’ Championship in ’23-24. Take nothing away from the stylish Harry Cobden, but Bowen’s January layoff was critical in allowing the Somerset rider to catch up.

The energetic Bowen jnr is wasting no time in pressing on and a double yesterday at Stratford brought his tally to 8 already. Gary Hanmer is a man to respect around the summer tracks, and punters latched on to 2/7 favourite Minella Rescue in the 2m6f novices hurdle on the back of a 4 1/2l third in a higher class race at Cheltenham last month. It looked a textbook ride for Bowen as he took close order two out, challenged for the lead approaching the last and won going away by a 2l that could have been a great deal more.

A half hour later, he was back in the Winner’s Enclosure with Tom Gretton’s Fancy Stuff after a facile 8l victory in the Mares’ Handicap Chase. Clear after two out, this was a straightforward route to earning his £214.63 riding fee. Gretton’s runners are to be noted currently. Two winners from just 7 runners gives him a 29% strike rate.

The day had begun in warm sunshine with a competent display from Jamie Snowden’s Dusky Days, earning a maiden chase victory in the William Hill Epic Value Novices Handicap Chase from Barest of Margins, who deserves a short head victory on name credentials alone. Second here in a handicap hurdle 13 months ago, he was sent chasing shortly afterwards. Gavin Sheehan had something in hand with a winner who was stretching his advantage with every stride at the line.

Georgie Nicholls evidently learnt a thing or two during her time with ex Paul. Now training under her own name around Wantage, she teamed up with Lorcan Williams to deny Rebecca Curtis a double when 7 year old Saint Bibiana had enough up her sleeve to outpoint4/1 favourite Bridget Mary. A length down at the last, she found some speed to put 3l between her and the runner-up by the line. There was a race for the minor placings, Curtis’ charge just getting the better of fellow Welshman, David Brace’s Newmill Getaway by a neck.

No bumper would be complete at Stratford without the introduction of another youngster from the Twiston-Davies centre of excellence. If Georgie Nicholls had been hopeful of a double with Chattamento in the concluding bumper, she was swiftly disabused. Debutant Little Watson, running in Twiston-Davies colours, made pretty much all, and kept on well to win by 2 1/2l from the aforementioned Nicholls runner. again, the race was for the minor placings, Fergal O’Brien’s Hola Hermosa losing out by a neck for second.

Little Watson and Sam Twiston-Davies win the Maiden National Hunt Flat Race at Stratford. 19/5/2024 Pic Steve Davies

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