Tom Dascombe is a name more familiarly associated with Ascot or York. In fact, his runners over obstacles these past five years can be counted on the fingers of one hand. But in Gifted Angel, he found the longer distance and breathers permitted by jumping enough to score a maiden victory under either code at the fifteenth attempt in the Betting.Bet Free Tips Juvenile Hurdle at Stratford yesterday under Gavin Sheehan.
This does not herald a new favourite for next March’s JCB Triumph Hurdle however. Some sketchy jumping, even in a slowly-run race, gave no indication of precocious talent, but he was evidently well-fancied from the 13/8 favouritism.
One of 45 runners to grace the Stratford turf at our first August fixture held on unseasonally Good to Soft ground, the Dascombe winner was one of three short odds favourites making a happy day for punters amid the showers.
Brian Hughes has an excellent record at Stratford, and added to his tally in pursuit of Riders’ Championship leader Sean Bowen with Sophie Leech’s Arcade Attraction in the 2m 3f handicap chase. It’s been an excellent week for the Leech stable with a winner the previous day at Perth, when ridden by daughter Roisin, who has taken a role as stable amateur to Lucinda Russell.
Leading most of the way, Arcade Attraction made little of top weight, and is likely to defy a penalty and run again in this class.
One of the charming aspects of the cadre of small trainers gracing our sport is their patience with horses in their care. The cynical among you might consider this is because an empty box earns no fees for the yard. I like to think it’s because they always look to find talent in any thoroughbred, however hard to find.
One such thoroughbred masking his latent talent could be Justshortofabubble, trained by Grace Harris, who bizarrely found himself elected favourite for the 2m 6f handicap chase, despite a lack of familiarity with the winner’s spot stretching to 21 previous races. However, as is often the case, Stratford brought out the best in the six year old, who kept on well under a low weight to beat Dindin from the Pipe yard by 1 1/2l under Ben Jones. Let’s hope the next winner doesn’t require another score of blank runs beforehand.
Mares races have proved an excellent device for the sport’s governing body to extend the horse population, and there are certainly signs that these are fostering a fresh generation of quality broodmares in British breeding, already financially disadvantaged against Irish and French competition.
Pillar of Steel, now with Henry Oliver after the sad death of John Spearing, notched up her sixth victory in the mares handicap hurdle over the minimum trip, her first win since a similar contest here at Stratford in October ’21, Jamie Moore in the plate this time.
This was a rare day without a winner for either Fergal O’Brien or Milton Harris, normally bellwethers of these summer meets. Another who has made it his business to field a summer jumping team is Ben Pauling, who opened the card with his 17th winner of the term with hat-trick-seeking Mole Court, the first leg of a Ben Jones double. Wins at Worcester (twice) meant he was sent off at 85/40, one of those bizarre prices that happen irregularly, whilst favouritism fell to Richard Newland’s Tiger Orchid, also a recent Worcester winner. The Naunton challenger prevailed however, keeping on to put 4l between him and Charlie Hammond’s mount at the line.
Sy Hosie is getting to know the road between Sherborne and Stratford pretty well, having sent Hunting Percival to three of our last four fixtures. That judgment looks pretty sound after the 8 year old son of Derby winner Sir Percy notched up a second course victory in the staying handicap hurdle that concluded the card, and relegating Milton Harris’s Mr Yeats to a 1 1/4l second. In so doing, he broke James Best’s seasonal bow at the belated 75th attempt.