Runners were in short supply during Saturday’s fixture when just 33 horses faced the starter in the seven race card, with ground conditions the primary reason. Even with a going description of good, good to firm in places, the recent summer sunshine is impacting field sizes across the country.
Honours for the evening go to Brian Barr, who scored a double but familiar names of the summer campaign were much in attendance.
Among those Stratford stalwarts who have been noticeable by their absence from the winners’ podium over the past 12 months is Seamus Mullins. The Mullins horses do not generally live up to the reputations of his Irish relations, but are to be respected around courses like Stratford and, in particular, Plumpton. His four runners on Saturday night were a welcome addition to small fields, and between them took home a tally of £12,314 from a winner, two seconds and a third placing: a more than respectable day’s work.
Tommie Beau made the most of the lack of competition in the four runner Charles Peters Recruitment Handicap Chase over the extended 3m 3f, defying a penalty from a winner just 4 days earlier at Newton Abbot to beat Captain Tommy by 1 1/2l under Micheal Nolan. At this grade, he looks as if he could win again; there was more in the tank at the line. Mullins is surely one to follow just right now; he is one of few trainers to show a positive return to a £1 stake if following all his runners.
Milton Harris is another to show prominently in Stratford rankings, and left his mark on this fixture through the efforts of 5/6 favourite Komedy Kicks, bustled along by Harry Cobden in the opening Royal Equestrian Racing Club Novices Hurdle, and to all appearances, destined for the runner-up spot jumping the last. But persistence wins the day, and Cobden’s efforts were rewarded as Komedy Kicks found more under pressure, running on to win going away by 1 1/2l. Milton Harris is already prominent in the Trainers’ rankings, but Cobden has laid his cards on the table for a Championship bid, and is within 5 of the leader Sean Bowen, with current champion Brian Hughes sandwiched in between. There’s a long way to go, all three will concur.
The first of Brian Barr’s two winners came from the neatly named Begin The Luck, who pitched in a winning turn against Stratford three time winner Romanor from the Seamus Mullins stable in the 2m 5f Handicap Chase. Harry Reed won’t have done the Barr runner many favours in terms of his handicap rating, but he’s an improving horse; this was a fourth winner in just six races since he turned to chasing in March.
Pak Army proved another multiple winner for Barr in the concluding Grace & Dottie Novices Handicap Hurdle, making all and running all the way to the line to record a 2 3/4l victory over Nadim. Pak Army is another to keep improving. His four wins since March have seen his official rating rise 19lb and he looks far from finished yet. All in all, a good evening’s work for the drive home to Sherborne.
Just 4 faced the starter in the Knights Bullion Handicap Chase over the minimum trip, but just 2l covered the four at the line. With the last omitted, the race turned into a speed contest from the second last, but it was Elios D’Or for Robert Walford, ridden by Harry Kimber, who prevailed, a 1/2l separating him and Admiral’s Sunset at the line. Who’s to say a small field cannot set the pulse racing?
Two handicap hurdles made up the remainder of the card, and it was no surprise to see Kim Bailey’s Shantou Express sent off favourite for the Farmers Fresh Handicap over 3m 2f. Bailey’s horses are running out of their skins presently whilst their trainer enjoys a 50% strike rate. Shantou Express won as he pleased under David Bass.
An equally easy winner was Lighthouse Mill for David Dennis, one of three trainers ensuring the Edgcote estate maintains its resurgent racing reputation. This former base for great horses like Spanish Steps now houses three trainers and some 200 horses, within easy reach of all the Midlands tracks. Lighthouse Mill has been knocking on the door this past few months, and whilst his first hurdle victory in 14 runs hardly set the world alight, he accomplished it in a style which might lead the observer to believe he could improve. Gavin Sheehan was the lucky man in the plate.