Footie fever as O’Brien doubles up

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.

Stratford Clerk Of The Course Nessie Lambert supporting England with the Union Jack Facemask at Stratford. 11/7/2021 Pic Steve Davies

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.

Hang In There and Tom Bellamy jump the last to win the Jonathan Walker Memorial Handicap Hurdle at Stratford. 11/7/2021 Pic Steve Davies

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.

Romanor and Daniel Sansom [right] chase down Sir Tivo to win at Stratford. 11/7/2021 Pic Steve Davies

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.

We woz robbed: a night of footie analogies as McPherson is denied in weight incident

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.

Rhythm Is A Dancer impresses in his novice chase
Rhythm Is A Dancer and Harry Cobden [left] jup the last with The Bull McCabe and Ballymoy [about to fall] before winning at Stratford. 29/6/2021 Pic Steve Davies

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.

Scardura and Sam Twiston-Davies lead all the way at Stratford. 29/6/2021 Pic Steve Davies

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.

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