It was an evening when England football held the thrall of much of the country as England beat Germany to progress to the quarter-finals of the Euros, but the action was quite as exciting as Stratford reached its halfway point of the summer.
Harry Cobden is making up for lost time over Jockeys’ Championship rivals since his return from injury on June 11. The West Country rider, out since Aintree in April, is riding with his usual gusto, and took the opening novice chase with Rhythm is A Dancer, opening his account over the bigger obstacles after 4 hurdle wins for Paul Nicholls. Winning owner William Harrison-Allan is a former sponsor of the Cheltenham Foxhunter with his company the CGA.
This was a good quality novice chase despite just 5 runners, and throughout, any one of four of the runners could have been a winner. Runner-up The Bull McCabe is already a course and distance winner over hurdles at Stratford, and he and the winner jostled for the lead throughout, until joined at the last by Ballymoy, who looked highly dangerous, until falling. This didn’t help third placed Premier D’troice, but in truth, he was held at that point. The winner lengthened away nicely to win by 6 1/2l.
We were treated to another chase 30 minutes later when Irish Point-to-Point graduate Scardura rewarded trainer Neil Mulholland with a third win since joining the stable in October 2019 in the handicap chase. Sam Twiston-Davies led pretty much throughout to test his rivals and was never under duress in the 5 1/2l victory. The Mulholland yard can do no wrong presently. They enjoyed a four-timer at Les Landes Racecourse on Jersey – one hurdle and 3 flat wins) last week, which went pretty much unreported, even if the quality of racing in the Channel Islands leaves a bit to find on the mainland.
The last of the three chases looked to be in the hands of Chris Honour’s Shortcross Storm turning in for the 2m 3f novices Handicap chase, with Sparkleandshine and eventual winner Authorize off the bridle. Over the last pretty much together, SparkleandShine hung right, whilst Authorizo, from Henry Greenall’s Cheshire yard, stayed on dourly to win by 2 3/4l. The Greenall stable already has 10 winners on the board and a handsome 25% strike rate for its chasers this term.
The middle distance handicap hurdle produced a terrific finish as Graeme McPherson’s Calum Gilhooley and Nicky Henderson’s Chives battled for supremacy over the last 150 yards. But whilst Kielan Woods’ efforts on the former delivered a neck victory at the line, the previous 100 yards was littered with various pieces of tack that had come adrift from under the saddle, leading to an inevitable objection by the Clerk of the Scales for weighing in light. The winner was disqualified, denuding the Stow-on-the-Wold yard of its fifth winner of the summer. Given his robust attitude to racing however, it surely can’t be long before this game horse finds another race of his own.
Favourite backers got behind 11/8 market leader Butte Montana to improve on his runner-up berth at Uttoxeter at the start of the month in the Maiden Hurdle, and Paddy Brennan took the race by the scruff of the neck and made no mistake about ensuring the winner lost his maiden tag. This was a 25th winner of the new term for the Ravenswell team, that have carried on the good work from the Spring.
Lucy Wadham’s youngsters are always to be respected in bumpers and novice or maidens, and Ocean Heights, a son of Dubawi no less, prevailed to break his duck at the fourth attempt in the concluding bumper, under conditional Corey McGivern, enjoying a third career winner.