Gold lays down the law in the Foxhunter

Stratford’s largest crowd since March 2020, capped at 2,000, enjoyed an incident-packed evening of top flight hunter chases last night in which it felt at times as if the stewards had been tasked with ongoing training. Whereas on most days’ racing, their task is one of monitoring, there was much to keep them busy.

The highlight of the evening however, was the continued ascent toward the top rank by Law of Gold, trained by Norfolk farmer David Kemp, and ridden by Dale Peters in the evening’s feature event, the Pertemps Network Stratford Foxhunter Chase. This 2019 winner of the point-to-point.co.uk Champion Novice Hunters Chase took the scalp of Bob and Co and Monbeg Chit Chat when taking up the running at the last in the back straight, and always had the race in hand from then on. The winner clearly appreciates Stratford and was able to dominate in a way that he could not in the bigger field and higher class opposition in the Cheltenham Foxhunter.

Law Of Gold jumps the last to win at Stratford. 28/5/2021 Pic Steve Davies

However, a new challenger could well appear in the form of Ulster-trained Vaucelet, who put the sword to Britain’s two top novices in Premier Magic and Fumet d’Oudairies in the point-to-point.co.uk Champion Novice Chase, also known as the John Corbett Cup. The Tom Ellis – trained Fumet d’Oudairies was sent off a warm favourite at 6/4, but Vaucelet took the lead going into the final turn. Jack Andrews on Fumet d’Oudairies got a better jump from his mount at the last allowing him to join level again, but the winner stayed on well to win by 2 3/4l.

Winning trainer David Christie, based in Fermanagh, wasn’t hanging about to celebrate. With runners at Pointing fixtures in Ireland today, he set off briskly to catch the night boat from Stranraer before the evening was finished. Tell that to anyone who thinks training racehorses is a feather-bedded profession! A mere 6 hour drive lay ahead.

Vaucelet and Mr B Harvey lead over the last to win at Stratford. 28/5/2021 Pic Steve Davies

There will be other days for the two English challengers however. The three leaders were a distance ahead of Captain McGinley in fourth, himself no slouch, having won an Intermediate Hunters chase at Cheltenham last month.

The opening event of the evening gave the stewards their first homework on a busy night in the Stewards’ Room. In the shortest race of the evening over the minimum trip, a tight finish was fought out by Sam Waley-Cohen on long time leader Capitaine and Chloe Emsley on Creative Inertia. Under forceful pressure from the experienced Waley-Cohen, Capitaine pulled out enough in the final 100 yards to win by a length. However, the rider weighed in 1 1/2lb light and after an objection by the Clerk of Scales, was disqualified.

Skinners Pet Foods have supported the Ladies Open Series for five years, and there’s a clear correlation between their audience and the Pointing set. It was a disappointment therefore to see just four declared to run in this £10,000 race, but a lack of opposition won’t trouble Tom Ellis, enjoying his 151st winner under Rules and between the flags with Deans Road, who landed this with ease, under Gina Andrews.

The West Country was in good voice after Keltus prevailed in the White Swan Hotel Handicap. Spectators could have been forgiven for thinking Little Mix were playing after racing for all the shrieking that met the return of the successful Jeremy Scott- trained winner. Just a neck separated the winner from second placed Zamparelli in the most exciting finish of the night. Any one of five horses could have won at the last, where Clondau Westie skewed and lost his rider, allowing Lucy Turner to gain an advantage. Charlie O’Shea gave Keltus some forceful driving to get back up close to the line, to allow Devon blood pressure to subside.

Leading owner Tim Underwood took all his horses out of training this year, citing that running with all the Covid protocols was simply no fun. So it was sporting of him to underwrite the Print Concern Restricted Series, whose final made up the penultimate race of this magical evening for the Point-to-Point community. Have no doubt of his appetite to be back at the head of affairs though when matters return to normal.

Meantime, the race itself produced another scintillating finish, in which Bradley Gibbs, who’d come to Stratford with a set of plum rides, might reasonably have thought his moment had finally come as he led into the last on David Brace’s Gats And Co. Rivals Tekap and The Bonny Boy though took him on on either side, and ran on the stronger in the final 150 yards. In their last meeting at Kingston Blount 3 weeks ago, The Bonny Boy went down by a neck to Tekap. This time the situation was reversed, again a neck separating the two.

Some bumping near the line in a hard-fought finish brought the bing-bong into play to allow the stewards to examine the race for interference, but they judged any scrimmaging not to have affected the result. One-all between these two game rivals. Anyone following this game would certainly want to see Round Three.

The evening was concluded by the third of the season’s Point-to-Point bumpers, following similar events at Aintree and Exeter. Punters used to backing the favourites in bumpers duly followed Tom Ellis’ Latenightfumble, but anyone who’d been at Chaddesley for the Worcestershire in mid-April will have recognized the steady development of winner Fountains Chief, for Theresa Clark and this 6 1/2l win wouldn’t have been a great surprise to her or rider Darren Andrews.

Four horses to become big stars come the winter

National Hunt fans are already looking ahead to the 2021/22 campaign with a great deal of interest. We saw a lot of talented novices shine on the track last season, and a few of these started their careers at Stratford.

Hopefully, some of these future stars will appear at Stratford in what will be a good test for them whether they are a hurdler or chaser. Here are four horses in particular which are worth looking out for.

Shishkin

Nicky Henderson’s chaser Shishkin won all five of his races over fences last season. The 2020 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner looked even better as a chaser. He was the clear favourite for the Arkle last March and as you can see from the latest horse racing results, he made no mistake in the novice championship over the shortest trip.

The 2m chase division is one of the most exciting categories to look forward to next season. Shishkin is going to have an excellent chance in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham against the more experienced horses.

It would be great to see Shishkin take a spin around the fences at Stratford, but frankly, we don’t stage the sort of races for which he’d be entered. A racecourse gallop wouldn’t be out of the question and as he travels so strongly and clears his obstacles with speed, this is a spectacle in itself. Henderson is sure to have lots of options with the horse in the early stages of the 2021/22 campaign, but it’s more likely we’ll be the venue for another emerging novice.

Allmankind

Lodge Hill trainer Dan Skelton knows all about success at Stratford. Nobody has had more winners here than Skelton over the past five years. He is sure to have lots of entries at his local course this season.

Regulars to Stratford will be hoping one of those is Allmankind who is one of the stars of his stable. The five-year-old was victorious in the Grade One Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown. He also scored in two Grade Two races. And although he didn’t grace Stratford during his novice season, Dan Skelton has a good record for introducing novice chasers around Stratford which tests their balance and dexterity.

Unfortunately for his connections, Allmankind was no match for Shishkin in the Arkle. That was his only defeat in five starts over fences. With the experience now on his side, the 2m chaser is a horse who could claim some big races next season.

Bob Olinger

One of the standout performances at the Festival last season came from Bob Olinger, an Irish horse trained by Henry De Bromhead. The novice hurdler prevailed in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle in impressive style.

Next season is going to be a big year for the horse as he will be linked with all the leading hurdle races. De Bromhead will need to decide whether his horse steps down in distance for the Champion Hurdle, goes up in trip for the Stayers’ Hurdle, or embarks on a novice chase campaign.

It’s unlikely we will see Bob Olinger in the UK before The Festival. There are lots of options in Ireland for him before he makes the trip to Prestbury Park. It will be great to see if he has improved further when he makes his seasonal reappearance around October. However, with crowds back racing again, Stratford’s fixture on the Monday of Festival week is likely to play host to Irish voices getting in tune, and hopefully a horse or two to accompany them.

Premier Magic

Finding winners is all about recognizing best in class ahead of everyone else. And whilst the previous three horses all operate in the very top flight of the sport, Stratford’s USP has always been its relationship with the grass roots of the sport. Our Hunters’ evening this Friday supports that case, with the most valuable card of Hunter chases anywhere in the UK.

Premier Magic will go off favourite for the Point-to-Point.co.uk John Corbett Cup, the novice championship for emerging talent between the flags. The eight year old is winner of all four of his starts this Spring, including Open races at Didmarton and Chaddesley, the latter in the prestigious Lady Dudley Cup, as well as a Hunters chase at Leicester. Trained and ridden by Welshman Bradley Gibbs in Hertfordshire, he is a darling not just to his owner and trainer, but to a growing following of Pointing enthusiasts.

Mark him out for the top of his class when it comes to the Cheltenham Foxhunter next March.

Keep an eye on all the action at Stratford over the summer and autumn meetings as the next star to follow the above four horses could be unveiled.

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