Lucky escape for Woods emphasizes inherent dangers of our sport

Racing at Stratford is always dramatic, but officials were faced with more than the average drama yesterday when the Alex Hales – trained For Pleasure unseated Kielan Woods in the Parallel Creative Handicap Hurdle, precipitating the voiding of the race on safety grounds. It remains rare in the UK to void races; in over 3000 Jumps races every season, voided events are in single figures, but in this instance, there was no alternative in order to treat Woods. He eventually walked back into the Weighing Room with cuts and a limp, a reminder, were one needed, that riding Jumpers carries a health hazard.

Action from the void race at Stratford with the loose horse For Pleasure [right] nearly taking out our snapper Steve Davies. 20/6/2023 Pic Steve Davies

39 horses faced the starter on a day of sport where many eyes were elsewhere. Competing with day one of Royal Ascot goes with the territory in horseracing; competing with a compelling fifth day to the first Ashes Test not far distant at Edgbaston less so. There were as many bitten fingernails for England’s attempt to unseat the Aussies all afternoon as for the race results, which had more room for manoeuvre.

Market leaders in the Trainers’ Championship Fergal O’Brien and Donald McCain regularly clash horns and honours were shared with a winner apiece after Brian Hughes took the Mares’ Novices Hurdle with a pretty much unchallenged run from odds-on favourite Titanium Moon for McCain, from Stowaway Jess for O’Brien. The race set the scene for a series of comfortable margins of victory in which the shortest winning distance was 2l, the largest 12. the five year old mare seems to have found her metier after transferring to a Jumps campaign with the Cheshire maestro. Three runs at Hexham, Cartmel and Stratford have offered up a second and two wins on the bounce.

The first two positions were reversed 30 minutes later when O’Brien’s Carrigeen Kampala stretched an 8 1/2l advantage over McCain’s VE Day in an all gender novices hurdle over a 2f shorter distance. Carrigeen Kampala, a daughter of Mahler, is another enjoying a summer purple patch completing a hattrick that began here at Stratford at the end of April and has continued through Newton Abbot in May. this time around Liam Harrison was on board, with his first winner as a fully fledged professional, five years after setting out with a winner at Stratford as a conditional.

Another budding conditional making headlines of the right sort for himself is Bradley Harris, who teamed up with his namesake (but no relation) Milton Harris in the opener, the handicap Hurdle for conditional riders. Milton Harris won this race with Appreciate in 2022, and the 2l winning distance was sufficient for Sufi to pick up his third career win and maintain Harris’s current winning momentum following a cross card and cross code double at Sandown’s flat fixture and Hexham’s jump on Friday.

Two chases concluded the card with the welcome return to the winner’s enclosure for two trainers whose record last season in no way reflects their ability.

Neil King is the lesser known of the Kings training on the Barbury downland. Little more than a holler across the hilltop from Alan King lies the equally splendid Burderop stable from which the likes of Collier Bay won a Champion Hurdle. Neil King endured a torrid 2022-23 season with a mere 10 winners from just 138 runners. The 3 3/4l victory of Go Fox under stable rider Bryony Frost sets him up to pass that total soon if this momentum is maintained. Witha winner at Uttoxeter on Saturday, and evidence from placed horses that a run of form is imminent, studiers of form will do well to take note. Go Fox certainly looks capable of defying a penalty.

Go Fox and Bryony Frost win at Stratford. 20/6/2023 Pic Steve Davies

Also back among the winners was Kerry Lee, saddling Do It For Thy Sen in the concluding Watch On RacingTV Handicap Chase, certainly not the highest quality event, under Sam Twiston-Davies. Lee hasn’t been a frequent sight around summer fixtures, but the top weight of 12st 4 wasn’t enough to prevent a hattrick of summer chases, this 4 1/2l victory coming after wins at Uttoxeter in May and earlier in the month.

Do It For Thy Sen completes a hattrick of wins by winning at Stratford. 20/6/2023 Pic Steve Davies

Look out for runners in stars and stripes come our next fixture on July 4.

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