There was further evidence of the gathering momentum of the Jumps season at Stratford on Saturday, one of three Jumps fixtures to take place for the first time since April. The sixty-one horse turnout was a reflection of Stratford’s ability to produce consistent good ground in a month when rain has been in short supply.
You can set your watch by the seasonality of Nigel Twiston-Davies, who always excels in the autumn months, capitalizing on the early season prizes before the heavyweights whose owners have deeper pockets take to the stage. This highly successful but understated yard in Naunton is a bellwether of the sport, producing result after result, and Saturday’s card was typical, with a brace of winners, ridden by Nick Scholfield and Zac Baker.
Four year old Ballintubber Boy broke his duck in the opening Jo Huxtable Birthday Celebration National Hunt Maiden Hurdle for the finish of the day, but it looked like hard work for horse and rider. Handy throughout, he was under pressure down the back straight from two out, and didn’t look like he was going to reach the front. Scholfield’s persistence counted however, as he got alongside Harde Fashion in the final 150 yards, winning by just a neck. Let’s hope such a hard race doesn’t leave its mark on the four year old.
Twiston-Davies was successful again in another birthday anniversary race, when One Forty Seven won the Paul Sheldon 75th Birthday Celebration Handicap Chase for a remarkable third time in another close finish that could have gone any of three ways for the last 200 yards. Remarkably, this 0-120 chase has only ever been won by the Twiston-Davies yard in four runnings since 2018. The tussle between Seamus Mullins’ Romanor, Richard Newland’s Makka Pakka and the winner was a real humdinger, with One Forty Seven making up five lengths after the last to win close home. Distances of 3/4l and a neck would have you believe that the result could have easily been different but for one horse’s memory of a race that is his by right. Horses for Courses is a phrase made for One Forty Seven.
Nick Scholfield continued his rehabilitation to the mainstream after injury laid him out for much of last season with his 24th winner of the term in the second, making a quickfire double, and once again showed why this freelance is in demand with a forceful finish on Kilcrest Moon in the William Hill Pick Your Places Handicap Hurdle. the winner, showing improved form, was the subject of an enquiry to which Oliver reported the horse had stripped fitter than previously and was dropping slightly in trip. at an SP of 10/1, there was certainly little evidence that connections had benefited strongly.
On a day of birthday races, it was septuagenarian John Spearing who prevailed in the Beryl’s Birthday Bash Mares Handicap Hurdle with a length win by Pillar Of Steel under Jamie Moore over Triple Nickle. The six year old has enjoyed a remarkable summer with five victories, outdoing the handicapper on each occasion, starting way back at Worcester in June. Spearing has little to prove nowadays, but horses who win five times in a season are always a joy to train.
This has been a year when the ability of our women riders has been highlighted by the likes of Rachael Blackmore, but the reality remains that little more than 10% of our professional riders are women. The talents of the fairer sex were well illustrated in the closing Jackie Bates Female Jockeys Handicap Hurdle, when Tabitha Worsely notched her sixth winner of the season and 35th in all when racing away to an 8l victory on Amelia’s Dance for Robert Walford. Tabitha, a graduate from the Point-to-Point ranks, is another in a growing posse of girl riders that threatens to force racecourses to enlarge their women’s changing rooms.
Rebel Leader picked up a second consecutive chase win in the 2m6f Philip Smith Handicap Chase after a sustained duel with Max Young’s Orchestrated from the fourth last. Both horses looked tired racing around the final bend, but it was Richard Newland’s horse that stayed on most strongly to record a 2 1/2l win and the Newland stable’s 30th of the term.
Selling races are few and far between nowadays, but they provide both a varied spectacle and a chance to pick up a winning racehorse cheaply in the post-race auction. And so it proved after Aiden Coleman brought home Al Kherb a well-backed 1/1/2l winner of the Gary Hill Stag Do Selling Hurdle for trainer John Quinn. The winner raised £7,500 afterwards, with Fort l’Ocean also claimed, more than justifying the inclusion of the race for the racecourse.