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.
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.
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.