The 2 week break from Jump racing was perfectly timed to coincide with the latest heatwave in our glorious summer, but it was as if it might never have happened as the leading proponents of Summer Jumping took the initiative once again for our first August fixture.
A total of 47 horses turned out for the seven race card on good ground, but it was an all – military affair that stole the riding honours for the day in the Walls & Ceilings International Ltd Handicap Hurdle over the minimum trip. Colonel Lesley, trained near South Molton in Devon by Claire Harris jumped his way into the lead two out, and held off a sustained challenge from the ranker Sergeant, from the in-form yard of Wiltshire maestro Milton Harris, winning by a neck. The pair drew 16l clear of the third, and gave the buoyant mid-week crowd a terrific buzz. Claire is only in her second full season, and already making a sound start, this her second winner of the term.
The metronomic winner machine that is Ravenswell Farm will have seen the August break as an irritating interruption of normal business. Fergal O’Brien has made a virtue of the little fish are sweet approach to early season racing and a first and last race double allowed him a short – priced advance to 49 winners. He is rapidly becoming the twenties answer to the prolific Martin Pipe back in the eighties. Eagles Realm was untroubled to follow up on his July win here in the opening Wildix Way Novices Handicap Hurdle, whilst 4 year old daughter of Kayf Tara, Leave Her To Me, had to draw on all of Paddy Brennan’s most forceful riding to get home by a length in the concluding bumper.
Eagles Realm was the first leg of a quickfire double for jockey Kielan Woods, successful 30 minutes later in the Stratford Racing Club Novices Handicap Chase with 14l winner Sea Prince, trained at Edgcote by ALex Hales. With three trainers now based at this historic racing estate, we should be seeing plenty more winners from this former home of Spanish Steps.
It’s a common misconception that Temple Guiting handler Jonjo O’Neill trains almost solely for billionaire J P McManus. That McManus has more horses in training than he can count is also another falsehood; the reality of ownership in the top flight is that you need to kiss many frogs to achieve the greatness of a Grade I winner. Six year old mare La Domaniale may not hit those dizzy heights for McManus and O’Neill, but it’s difficult to fault her development this summer with two wins at Uttoxeter and a 1 1/4l victory here sandwiching runner – up berths at Worcester and Market Rasen. She’s certainly good enough now to merit a rating for a decent handicap. O’Neill jnr has had a torrid time with injuries in recent months, but to be back among the winners is welcome.
One man who knows a thing or two about riding winners is champion Brian Hughes. Rarely is a trip south wasted, and this one was no different. Rides for Donald McCain and the Pogsons may have fallen short, but Laura Morgan provided a 58th winner of the season on all-the-way winner Tardree, who never saw another rival, in the Walls & Ceilings International Novices Hurdle, with 16l back to the runner-up and a further 70l to the third. It’s a wonder the judge hung around that long.
Longest – priced winner of the day came in the 3m3f handicap chase, when Call of the Loom reeled in long time leader Regaby to provide some cheer for Wales. Christian Williams is not best known as an exponent of the summer season, but under a busy ride from Jack Tudor, ran out a 6 1/2l winner of this Class 5 event.