Scholfield advertises his ability with quick double

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.

Kilchrest Moon and Nick Scholfield [right] jumps the last with Alramz before winning at Stratford. 16/10/2021 Pic Steve Davies

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.

Pillar Of Steel and Jamie Moore winning at Stratford. 16/10/2021 Pic Steve Davies

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.

Who says mid-week crowds are poor? Stratford sets example for others to emulate

The results tallyboard for Monday’s card at Stratford took on a more familiar view as the big names of the sport flexed their muscles in preparation for Chepstow’s big prize money fixture this weekend that is the traditional launch of the autumn campaign.

Winners for Skelton, Twiston-Davies, Hobbs and Fergal O’Brien punctuated the meeting, with Evan Williams, Jamie Snowden and Chris Gordon also keeping their end up, watched by a large crowd of over 1,300 spectators. Proof, were it needed, that post Covid, the experiences market may allow racing to benefit from higher attendances now that people can get out and about freely once again.

Evan Williams has moved to new premises over the summer, and the largely dry autumn has, to date, kept his forays pretty limited. Less than half his anticipated volume of runners in September and October (to date) is largely a function of ground conditions, although there was no fault to be found with Stratford’s Monday Good To Soft ground.

But there was no mistaking the quality of finish from Howdyalikemenow in the opening Retraining of Racehorses Novices Hurdle, a comfortable 14l winner from Dan Skelton’s Jay Jay Reilly. In truth, there was but one horse in it from the fourth, and there’ll be more races to come from this admirable galloper.

As bellwethers of the sport go, you’ll find few better than Philip Hobbs, whose strike rate is consistently around 18-20%, and who has passed the £1m mark in win & place prize money in 6 of the last 8 seasons. If last season was less than vintage, this has as much to do with the Irish rout in March as being second bested by his peer group at home.

Irish – bred Canastero finally found the winning post at the ninth attempt when just getting up at the death in the Even Keel Foundation Handicap Hurdle. Too many finishes like that will bring on grey hair at the double.

There was an exciting finish to the Support the IJF Novices Handicap Chase, when Representing Bob, for Jamie Snowden’s Lambourn yard, overcame leader Give Me A Moment in the final 110 yards to produce a 24th winner of the term for Gavin Sheehan. In this week, when steeplechases have been thin on the ground, the other chase, for conditional riders, also produced good entertainment.

Representing Bob [left] wins at Stratford from Give Me A Moment. 4/10/2021 Pic Steve Davies

Winner Templehills, last a winner in mid October at this very course in 2020, came good once again when hitting the front under Jack Savage just before the last. Although less than foot perfect, he ran on well to score by 4 1/4l.

The remaining three races were all for youngsters, among which the most notable was Too Friendly, once a Derby Hope for Tim Gredley, now gelded and switched to a life with Dan Skelton. The Skelton team is another in no great hurry to get going this summer, but their winning presence at each of the past two Stratford fixtures is a sign that the behemoth is girding up once again.

Flat speed came into play as Too Friendly joined the leaders at the last, but he was less than foot perfect, and needed to persist to come out on top against Alan King’s Oceanline in the Stratford racecourse Supporting Racing Charities Juvenile Hurdle.

Too Friendly and Harry Skelton win at Stratford. 4/10/2021 Pic Steve Davies

Fergal O’Brien and Paddy Brennan kept up the pace at the head of the Trainers’ Championship when Samba Dancer ran out a 6l winner of the Novices’ Handicap Hurdle, whilst the concluding bumper, which attracted just 6 runners, fell to the 6/5 favourite, Chris Gordon’s Aucunrisque.

Caramelized provides topping to a regal weekend for King

We’ve not yet reached September, but it’s clear from Monday’s results that the established leaders of the National Hunt game are flexing their muscles in preparation for the autumn. Four of the sport’s market leaders put their marker down on the winner’s enclosure in statements of intent for the easing of the ground when better quality horses will make the competition yet stiffer.

The Skelton team has been noticeably quiet this summer in comparison to last summer, but opened their account for the day with just their 16th winner since the season began, and the third of Stratford’s season. Cast your mind back to the final 8 weeks of the season, when Harry Skelton and Brian Hughes were head to head in consecutive Stratford fixtures with doubles and trebles to see the difference in tactics this time around. Brian Hughes leads his rival by nearly 30 winners at this juncture.

Percy’s Word, beaten a neck in his last outing at Uttoxeter, finally broke his maiden in the opening Join RacingTV Now Maiden Hurdle, joining issue with the leaders between horses as they approached the final obstacle and forging clear to justify his even money favouritism.

The next few months are always a timer to identify newcomers to the sport in the form of flat recruits searching for a place in the JCB Triumph Hurdle. Fresh from saddling Asymmetric in the Prix Morny at Deauville on Sunday, Alan King produced an early contender in the form of Caramelised, a son of Dansili, who fairly trotted up in the second division of the Juvenile Hurdle, winning with a penalty by 19l. Alan told Racing UK, He’s not a good work horse; he shows nothing at home, but we’ll have to take him more seriously now!”

Meanwhile, another yard that excels in autumn races accentuated its well-being when Goa Lil broke his chasing duck at the fifth attempt in the 2m 5f Novices Handicap. Owned by the trainer after having been sold on by Isaac Suede and Simon Munir in the Spring, Goa Lil was last of the leading group of five turning into the straight, but showed good speed under strong driving from Sam Twiston-Davies to win by 1 1/4l in the end. “Hopefully that’ll get him sold,” remarked the rider afterwards. Expect Goa Lil to make the most of the yard’s autumn. Whilst there are only 7 winners on the board, autumn has traditionally been harvest time for the Naunton yard.

Goa Lil [Sam Twiston-Davies] centre and winner jumps the last with Fat Sam [left] and Royal Ruby [right] before winning at Stratford. 23/8/2021 Pic Steve Davies

Another mainstream yard rarely seen out over the summer is Oliver Sherwood’s Rhonehurst yard. Indeed, bumper winner Puffin Bay was their only runner in August, and may make for a 100% record with less than a week to go till September, winning ears pricked from a fast-finishing Shantou Champagne for the Bowen team.

Rider Sean Bowen had previously been successful in the Dr Roberts 50th Birthday Handicap Hurdle on Wbee, enjoying a third hurdle victory at Stratford in five months for Gary Hanmer. Indeed, Hanmer clearly has a liking for Stratford, with 8 winners here, second only to his local course at Bangor. This relatively new outfit is making a name for itself around the smaller venues on the promise of something bigger to come.

The runners are flagged around the fences in the straight due to the low sun. Wbee [in rear] tracks the leaders before a fourth consecutive victory. 23/8/2021 Pic Steve Davies

Justin Landy’s is another small yard finding success through a couple of good horses, with the likes of Shetland Bus enjoying consistent success for the yard, now joined by eight year old Captain Cobajay, a modestly rated horse who has nevertheless been well placed to win consecutive handicap chases before the handicapper anchors him. This second victory a week after the first, in the RacingTV Profits Returned To Racing Handicap Chase shows a good return for a horse from a switch of stable in early August, so fitness clearly wasn’t the issue.

The small yard of Jake Thomas Coulson took the other handicap chase over 2m3f with a pillar to post run from Chipati under Fergus Gregory. There was plenty to like about the way this dour grey stuck his neck out to outrun Air Hair Lair and This Breac, just when those tracking the leader might have considered he’d shot his bolt.

Chapati and Fergus Gregory [grey horse] leads all the way to victory at Stratford. 23/8/2021 Pic Steve Davies

Our final winner was in the first division of the Juvenile Hurdle won by Caramelised. The less well known Sheena West, trainer of Air Hair Lair in the aforementioned handicap chase, enjoyed a successful trip to Stratford when Fred Bear outran a Skelton horse in Scots Gold. Rather like Caramelised, Fred Bear led from start to finish, and whilst finished leg-weary, which precipitated a mistake at the last, none of the others were able to get on terms and the field was strung out across Warwickshire at the line.

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