Pauling & Woods light up an apology for a summer evening

Ben Pauling and Kielan Woods stole the honours at Stratford’s last evening fixture of the summer when teaming up for a double that included the feature handicap chase on a damp day which gave the lie to a description of summer evening racing.

It was Queen to Rook 4 as Chess Player comprehensively outpointed his field to land a comfortable 21l victory over nearest pursuers Blaze A Trail and Arcade Attraction, both previous winners at Stratford this or last term. Taking up the lead before the last, Woods was able to put distance between him and Blaze A Trail without undue effort. In this class, he’ll be worth following even with a penalty.

Ben Pauling and Kielan Woods after completing a Stratford double. 31/8/2023 Pic Steve Davies

In the concluding bumper, there was plenty to like about the way Betty’s Tiara stuck to her task, showing great gameness on debut to win by half a length. Second-placed Baskerville is also one to follow; she jumped the course crossing a furlong out without any great break to her rhythm, but it’s doubtful she would have beaten the winner. One of the last of a Kayf Tara generation, Betty’s Tiara relished the staying effort. It’ll be worth following both horses in their next races.

Fresh from a treble at Worcester to round off August and a winner at far-flung Cartmel, Gavin Sheehan was at his best to roust Bucko’s Boy to reel in long-time leader Thirtyfourstitches from Dr Richard Newland’s yard in the feature Tom & Nicola Allen Wedding Day Handicap Hurdle. Seeking a run up the inner, the gap closed at the last and Sheehan produced Bucko’s Boy on the outer to get past the leader and win his second on the bounce after a victory at Bangor at the start of the month. Jamie Snowden’s horses are coming to hand with a brace of wins in the past week, this his ninth of the term to date.

Bucko’s Boy and Gavin Sheehan [left] jump the last behind Thirtyninestitches before winning at Stratford. 31/8/2023 Pic Steve Davies

The least showy races can provide the greatest excitement, and this point was well illustrated by the finish to the fifth race, the City Sign & Graphics Handicap Chase, in which a selection of horses without wins to their name in 18 months or more lined up. Yet it provided a gripper of a race, with maiden Famosa finally breaking his duck at the seventeenth attempt.

It is the lot of smaller trainers to find and train horses that find it harder to win. Matt Sheppard manages this task with alacrity, but even he had some explaining to do to show the apparent improvement in form of Famosa. This was no well-orchestrated coup however; Richard Patrick put up 4lb overweight and the horse drifted in the market beforehand. It was a result to secure a win by a narrow neck margin.

Famoso and Richard Patrick are joint second over the last behind Tikkinthebox before victory at Stratford. 31/8/2023 Pic Steve Davies

Donald McCain will be a key player if Brian Hughes is to reel in Sean Bowen in the pursuit of the Jockeys’ title, and the two paired up together to maintain their excellent Stratford record in the novices’ handicap chase with Latino Fling.

Turning in, July winner here Gold Link looked set to gobble up the McCain horse for Emma Lavelle and Tom Bellamy, but Latino Fling on her chase debut showed excellent resolve under a string ride from Hughes to maintain a 3/4l margin at the line.

Another with pretensions to the Jockeys’ title is Harry Cobden, whose portfolio of supporting trainers is extending all the time. In these summer months when the Nicholls team fields barely a runner, he has clocked up 37 winners for 40 separate trainers. Trainers like Brian Ellison will always be happy to have a rider of Cobden’s calibre on board, and both he and second-placed Sam Twiston-Davies were seen at their best in the opening maiden, when Cobden just prevailed on Irish pointer Dream Jet, dropped down in class for a winning hurdle debut in the UK follwoing a mid-division placing at Market Rasen in July.

It was Ellison’s day too, this being the second winner with 10 minutes after Oscar Doodle justified favouritism at Chelmsford a few minutes earlier.

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