The growing success of Scottish racing manifested itself at Stratford on Tuesday in the feature Saige Decking Ltd Handicap Chase as three of the four home nations were represented among the field.
On a drab and chilly evening, whence the rain had mercifully stopped mid-afternoon, Ewan Whillans made the 540 mile round trip from Hawick in the Borders to win with Cracking Destiny, under Craig Nicholl. It was a subdued affair even so. Ewan Whillans’ wife Louise doubles up as owner, but had stayed at home, leaving Alistair to lead up and drive.
Cracking Destiny was best-rated of all the 8 runners, but has taken a couple of runs to get fit. Handy throughout, he came to pick up leader Blaze A Trail at the last, and went on to win by 4l. That’s 2 – 2 at Stratford for the handsome dark bay gelding.
Second home Blaze A Trail is part of a syndicate run by Chepstow supremo Phil Bell, trained by John Flint. The £9,000 purchase owes this group nothing; since their purchase in autumn ’21, he’s picked up six races, including a hat-trick of handicap hurdles here last summer. Keep an eye for future runs as he’s certainly not finished yet.
Race of the evening, however, has to go to Hunting Percival under Nick Schofield in the 2m 6f handicap hurdle. Turning into the straight, the race was between the aforementioned. Pink Eyed Pedro reverting to hurdles from chasing, and Hurricane Vichi, from the on-fire Milton Harris team. At the final hurdle, the David Brace – trained Welsh runner looked to have gained the advantage on the inner, but Hunting Percival was not to be denied. Game is an adjective that might have been coined specially for this son of Derby winner Sir Percy, outstaying both others on the run-in to win by 1/2l.
Hurricane Vichi being the third of his runners that evening, Milton Harris had no cause to be downcast, however. For starters, he was away on holiday in Thailand, but the stable had already enjoyed a brace of winners starting in the opener – cause for a Siam Sunray or two. Call Me Rocky needed the most urgent riding by Harry Cobden to get up by a neck in the first division of the Royal Equestrian Racing Club Maiden, whilst an hour later, Uggy Uggy Uggy illustrated that the speed in his flat breeding hasn’t been dulled by a switch to the winter code, this time ridden by Bradley Harris to a 6l victory over Coal Fire from the Bowen yard in the 2m 5f novices handicap hurdle.
Bowens however are difficult to keep out of the winners’ enclosure right now. Sean Bowen leads the riders’ championship with 44 winners, remarkable by any standards at this early stage of the season, and he was on the mark for that latest winner in division two of the Maiden with Sobegrand for Olly Murphy.
Shark Hanlon had despatched 3 runners from his base in Co Carlow, and Nasee had looked his best chance in the handicap hurdle won by Hunting Percival, folding tamely after being prominent throughout. Hanlon’s second runner, Lakefield Flyer, was also handy throughout in the Visit racingtv.com Novices Handicap Chase, but was no match for Chris Down’s Opening Bid, who had already asserted after the second last and ran out a comfortable winner under a 5lb penalty, this the third leg of a hat-trick following wins at Newton Abbot and Worcester.
Son Paddy was in the plate for the Irish trainer in the concluding bumper, but had to give way to Bradley Harris, this time riding for Seamus Mullins, enjoying his 8th winner of the new term on four year old filly Basilette, winning on her debut appearance on the track.