On a day when all the hype was directed toward another sport with an 8pm kick off, Fergal O’Brien scored a double when introducing two maidens to winning ways at Stratford yesterday. Meantime, everyone – even our esteemed Clerk of Course pictured below – entered into the football spirit, with no loitering after the last race as everyone rushed to their designated evening viewing place.
Former Richard Hannon – trained Burristo got the ball rolling in the opening Juvenile Hurdle, opening his account over the smaller obstacles with a 2 3/4l win over Oliver Greenall’s Boundsby Boy. In truth, none of the first three was fluent in their jumping when at the business end of the race, but there’s room for improvement in all as they finesse their racing experience.
Irish maiden Point-to-Pointer Colossus made up the second leg of the double in the maiden hurdle when Paddy Brennan kicked away from the field on the home turn, showing some good speed to finish 2 1/4l to the good. O’Brien leads the Trainers’ Championship at this nascent stage with 30 winners, whilst Brennan’s double took him to 25 for the season, 3 off leader Brian Hughes with an impressive 29% strike rate. The O’Brien – Brennan partnership has been one of the leading features of the past two seasons.
The day’s most valuable race, the Jonathan Walker Memorial Handicap Hurdle, for the Stratford Summer Salver, went to Ogbourne Maizey’s Emma Lavelle, whose Hang In There defied top weight to dominate the 2m contest, winning by 9l for owners Tim Syder and Andrew Gemmell. The drop in class suited well to get his head back in front after some mid-division performances in higher level races last winter. Emma, not of habit one to field large numbers of runners until autumn, enjoyed a great start to last season, and that winning habit may have stuck. Hang In There may target some of the summer’s more valuable handicaps with this return to form, on the proviso of good ground.
The three handicap chases all fell to small stables, the largest of which is Seamus Mullins’ yard at Willsford, which can always be relied upon for Summer jumps winners. The Daniel Sansom -ridden Romanor won a novices handicap chase over half a mile further at the corresponding meeting in 2020, and got up in the final strides to beat Tivo from Gary Hanmer’s Cheshire yard after Tivo made a mistake at the last.
By contrast, locally trained Franz Klammer continued his love affair with Stratford’s turns with a follow up victory in the class 5 handicap chase over 2m6f after his 25l victory here last month. This time around, the margin of victory was little different at 23l, and there’s little to suggest the winning sequence need not continue at this level.
The third chase fell to Sheena West’s Irish – bred Air Hair Lair, ridden out to win the 2m3f chase by 2l from a Matt Shepherd horse. Sheena is one of a diminishing group of Jumps trainers in Sussex, once a powerhouse of the sport built around Findon and Arundel.
The concluding conditionals handicap hurdle went the way of British – bred Espressino, trained by Chris Down, and a ninetieth career winner for Charlie Hammond.