Godolphin’s famous blue silks were the ones that passed the post first in Friday’s feature race at York on Friday, the Listed Ganton Stakes, as Valiabt Prince under James Doyle breezed home for a fairly bloodless success.
A dual handicap winner at Meydan in the winter he failed to spark at Ascot back in April but after a short break he seems to be going the right away again and is one that can still improve.
He is now four wins all on left handed tracks and this four year old is still improving and could be capable over a bit further too, he may possible come back here for the G2 York Stakes over 1m2f at the end of July given how he handled the Knavesmire on his first visit here.
Gale Force Victory
Friday’s feature handicap was the Racing With Pride Fillies’ Stakes over 6f and this years renewal went a few miles up the A1 to the Darlington yard of Michael Dods as Gale Force Maya appreciated the drop back to handicap company after testing the water in Listed races in the early spring.
She is a tough as teak handicapper who should pick some more races up before season is out.
Johnston Gets The Cheque Book Out
York has two of the most unique races race in the 2yo calendar, in August at the Ebor meeting they have the 7f Convivial Maiden which is the most valuable maiden race in the calendar and this afternoon it was the SKF Rous Selling Stakes worth just over £10k to the winner.
2022s renewal saw Explicit saunter home to follow up his recent Musselburgh win a week ago and end up being bought back in for £44k, stepping up to 6f for the first time he is getting the hang of racing and definitely has more to offer, a step up from selling company is more than likely to be on the cards after this.
One trainer who got out the readies was Gemma Tutty who claimed the third placed Vondelpark for £15k after the race from Karl Burke’s.
In a wide open looking renewal of the Group 3 John O’Gaunt Stakes which resulted in four horses being covered by a picnic blanket it was the Charlie Hills trained Pogo who has gained plenty of air miles of late just got his snout on the line to fend off Laneqash to record his first win in over a year.
Bouncing out from stall five under Kieran Shoemark, Pogo rolled on at the front end and faced plenty of challengers in the last furlong including eventual runner up Laneqash and Kinross who won the race last year but could only finish third albeit by only a few centimetres.
Pogo might not be a world beater but at G3 and Listed level he is consistent, a trip to Royal Ascot might be in order but that would probably be more of a social runner than a serious one.
Sea Sees Them Off
William Haggas’ runners continue to be in top order at the moment and he had yet another winner here as Sea La Rosa picked up where she left last season by comfortably taking the G3 Pinnacle Stakes over 1m4f.
In fairness this probably wasn’t a strong race for the nine starters with just three of the runners winning their highest grade of race at listed level but Sea La Rosa was one of them who took a listed race on the all weather at Lingfield back in October last year.
She hit the front in the last furlong by which time the closers couldn’t get to her in time and could be making a return visit in July for the Lancashire Oaks over the same course and distance and off this running she could prove to be hard to beat depending on who turns up.
Raasel Slays Dragon
Visually the most impressive winner came in the 5f Listed Achilles Stakes as the Mick Appleby trained Raasel got the better of Dragon Symbol with a scintillating display of speed.
Making his first step into pattern company he certainly looked at home in it and came down the near side under James Doyle to make some fair horses look rather ordinary, he is an out and out 5f horses and has more still to offer.
Dragon Symbol ran far better than his recent York run but hasn’t still fully come to himself this season and while he isn’t one to write off just yet you would have to be cautious when parting with the hard earned on him just at the moment.
Raasel does appear to like Goodwood too with two wins at that course to his name, it’s possible Royal Ascot could be bypassed for a crack at the King George Stakes at Group 2 level.
First Contact Again
Last weekend at Haydock jockey Ben Curtis had to miss his remaining rides after dislocating his shoulder but he gained some much deserved compensation from that by landing the big handicap of the day over 1m4f on Contact for the David and Nicola Barron yard.
Following up from a nice Newmarket win last month this 4yo has began the 2022 season in fine form recording his second win of the season, he was upped 5lb after that to 90 and still could offer a bit more, connections are definitely tempted by a return here in July for the famous Old Newton Cup and being an entire colt no doubt they will be hoping to sneak some black type in before too long.
Market leader Mahrajaan came back in third only beaten a couple of lengths and will definitely come on for the run next time out.
A busy couple of months at Haydock come to an end, next up on the roadshow will be a visit over the border to Yorkshire and to the Knavesmire for a short review of a fair to middling card.
Today at time of writing the sport woke up to the sad news that Lester Piggott had sadly passed away at the age of 86, Lester rode his first and last career winners here at Haydock and today’s review is in memory of one of the finest jockeys of all time.
It’s definitely fair to say that at about 3.47pm yesterday The Queen was far more smiley than last Sunday when she had to put up with Alan Titchmarsh fawning over her in desperation for a knighthood in ITV’S tribute show to her after her star sprinter King’s Lynn just hung on to take the feature Group 2 Temple Stakes under David Probert which formed the third of a big race treble for the jockey.
For trainer Andrew Balding this was the second winner of the afternoon and one who is now almost certainly to be Royal Ascot bound for a crack at the King’s Stand Stakes.
In a strong looking renewal plenty had chances and King’s Lynn looked to have the race in the bag but Twighlight Calls began to hit top stride and was closing the gap but King’s Lynn managed to hang on as they went past the red and white lollipop.
Both the front pair should square off again at Ascot and the undulating nature should suit the runner up a bit more than the winner although no doubt any American raiders will have a say in it too.
Favourite Winter Power ran ok to begin with but flattened out in the last two furlongs but she will strip fitter for the run but it’s highly likely that the Nunthorpe will be her main target this season.
In the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes for 3yo over 6f saw El Caballo continue his massive climb up the ranks as he made it four from four this season to follow up his win in last month’s 3yo AW Championship race.
This race had plenty of potential improvers in it and the winner held off Flaming Rib who beat the Temple Stakes winner last time out at the Roodee so off that El Caballo could be the cock of the 3yo sprinters as the season progresses, he will probably take his chance in the Commonwealth Cup which will be as wide open as ever.
Flaming Rib will definitely get a nice race at some point as it now appears that sprinting is definitely his forte and he has plenty to offer in this division.
The afternoon’s two feature handicaps saw the continuing burgeoning career of the Clive Cox trained Whoputfiftyinyou landing the famous Silver Bowl, in a race full of plenty of unexposed 3yo horses the one they all had to beat was Mighty Ulysees who for many was the group horse in a handicap and it looked for all money that the bookies would be facing a hefty payout but Whoputfiftyinyou dug in down the outside and went by him towards the end to make it four from four.
He was stepping up in trip from having previously been campaigned at 6f and 7f,going off how he won this he should get a bit further, the next step would naturally be the ultra tricky Brittania at Royal Ascot although it would be no shock if he were to bypass it for something a little less difficult.
Mighty Ulysees’ odyssey won’t have been hampered by this result although he isn’t one to write off but he will need to bounce back as he does have a Royal Ascot entry in the St James’s Palace but that could prove to be a more tentative one.
In the Hell Nook Handicap over two miles, Valley Forge had to use every ounce of strength to land the spoils but did so in the style of an improving stayer.
Successful in last years Melrose at York he resumed the new season with a fair fifth over 1m6f at Newmarket and looked as though an extra couple of furlongs with suit and he looked to appreciate the new trip and if anything looked like even further with aid his cause, the staying division will be wide open when Stradivarius retires and Valley Forge would have as good a chance as any in picking the mantle up.
Next weekend we return to Haydock for the John O’Gaunt and the Pinnacle Stakes, Till then goodbye
The white rose was being firmly paraded around Haydock Park on Saturday on a stellar afternoon for the neighbours on the other side of the M62 as Ann Duffield and Gavin Sheehan teamed up to land the first big race of the new jumps season with N’Golo as the dashing grey formerly trained in Ireland by Willie Mullins bagged the Grade 3 Swinton Hurdle in supreme style.
In a fair renewal of this historic handicap the winner was always well to the fore and on the run in was always in command of victory, he has taken a bit of time to find his feet in British races and while he struggled at the top table in Ireland he should be able to do a bit more depending where he goes now as he also has a flat rating of 78 which could be exploited in middle distance races.
Severance ran an honest race back in second but just always seems to find one to good in his races, the wind surgery seems to have worked the oracle with him and could be one to keep onside next season.
Aldaary Blooms In Spring
On the flat the feature contest came straight after in the Listed Spring Trophy over seven furlongs which saw a fine seasonal reappearance by the William Haggas trained Aldaary who easily brushed aside a fair looking field with utter contempt under Jim Crowley.
He finished off his 2021 campaign at Ascot on Champions Day when he landed the Balmoral Handicap and now looks set for an even bigger jump up in company, he should be Royal Ascot bound but after the way he win here it would be no shock if a return trip for the John O’Gaunt Stakes in a fortnight would be on the cards.
Romeo On The Run
Sue Smith runners are always to be feared at Haydock even in spring as opposed to the depths of winter that regular visitors here are used to experiencing and today proved to be no exception as Romeo Brown jumped out to make all up in the longest race of the afternoon the three mile handicap hurdle.
In a very competitive race on paper this 8yo under his conditional rider Thimas Willmott who claimed 3lbs, made every post a winning one, he turned on the screw as they came into the home straight and simply could not be caught although Panic Attack from the Pipe yard stayed on itno second spot she simply could not reduce the defecit even on the long run in.
This was actually the first time Romeo Brown had finished a race here at Haydock, he ran twice here in December 2019 and fell both times and thankfully that memory is now a world away.
Brad Bags Sprint
Hugo Palmer continued his solid start from his new Cheshire base after being signed by Michael Owen to run Manor House Stables as Brad The Brief under David Egan took the 6f Conditions Stakes.
Already a previous course winner in 2020 when Haydock raced in lockdown he has been consistent enough and although he does struggle in higher grade races, he is at home in races like this and at Listed/G3 level.
Hard to know what future targets will be but possibilities could include visits to Ireland and France as the season progresses.
A fine day of mixed racing where the flat and jumping worlds come together for an afternoon of racing from 6f to 3m and other trips in between
This meeting is the only one left in the UK at the moment and while it’s a shame that the sport doesn’t have more compared to France and Ireland it is nice to experience the variety that they can offer.
The 6yo Boardman had to overcome a few traffic problems in running to land the feature Great Shevington Handicap under David Allan for Tim Ewsterby yesterday on an afternoon which heralded the return of flat racing to the north west.
Not ideally drawn in stall eight of the ten starters meant he was held up as they went round the turn before being angled out as they got to the flamme rouge from where he hit top stride to get up on the line to beat Alrehb his fellow market leader who was always up with the pace but got beat by the better horse on the day.
Going in off 90 means he’ll probably face a step up into pattern company and being a dual Haydock winner he could be back as many have done over the years here to have a crack at the Spring Trophy.
Doyle At The Double
Visually the most impressive performance of the afternoon came in the 3yo Novice race for fillies over a mile as Hollie Doyle bagged the first of her two winners on Nashwa from the Gosden yard.
Just the one start last October at Newmarket over 7f she was very well fancied in this race and drew away very comfortably to break her duck at the second time of asking, she has a nice look about her and holding an Oaks entry at Epsom and the French one at Chantilly means that the connections rate her highly indeed, she will easily get 10f going off this so it’ll be very interesting to see where she goes for her next run.
Her second winner of the afternoon came up in the Lathom Handicap over a mile as she partnered Excel Power home in a bold display of front running from the inside draw to the delight of the bookies as he landed the pot at 20-1.
He finished off last season winning on the sand at Chelmsford at the same price under the same jockey and should continue to pay his way once more as the season progresses, the horse and jockey combination continue to flourish as of his five wins Hollie has been in the saddle for four of them, it’s possible the handicapper might have his say after this though.
Comedy Has Last Laugh.
Lastly the toughest performance of the day came in the opening contest as Charlie Appleby continues his good run of things as New Comedy dug in under James Doyle to make it two wins from two starts this year.
Unraced as a two year old this already gelded son of Sea The Stars won on his course debut at Southwell back in January and had a real battle against Duty Bound who was one of two Gosden runners in the field in the last furlong but the Godolphin favourite just got up on the line in a real head bobber of a finish.
He shapes more like a stayer going off how he won this afternoon and has plenty of fight in him when taken on, like many who win a maiden or novice race it’s hard to know what his ceiling will be but you would imagine it could be a high rise building as opposed to a bungalow!
Glorious spring sunshine gathered over Haydock Park for the traditional Easter Saturday raceday which featured the six finals for the popular Challenger series which is aimed at mid tier jump racing to give those horses a chance to earn some decent money for the season for their trainers.
As ever here a good holiday crowd turned out for the first time since 2019 and as the sun begins to set on the 2021/22 jumps season they gave the north west jump season a fond farewell as it sailed off into the sunset after the last race.
Challenger Finals Winners 2021/22
Mares’ Hurdle Final, 2m3f.
Cubswin, 8yo Bay Mare, Neil King, Jack Quinlan,
Owners, Mr D Caldwell and Mr K Lawrence
Middle Distance Chase Final, 2m4f
Corran Cross, 7yo Bay Gelding, Richard Bandey, Harry Bannister
Owner, Miss A.M. Reed
Two Mile Hurdle Final, 1m7f 144yds
Zabeel Champion, 5yo Bay Gelding, Jonjo O’Neill, Jonjo O’Neill JR
Owner, Martin Tedham and Wasdell Properties Ltd
Staying Chase Final, 3m1f 125yds
Musical Slave, 9yo Bay Gelding, Philip Hobbs, Tom O’Brien
Owner, JP McManus
Staying Hurdle Final, 3m
An Tailleur, 6yo Grey Gelding, Jonjo O’Neill, Jonjo O’Neill JR
Owner, Mr P Hickey
Mares’ Chase Final, 2m5f 127yds
Midnightreferendum, 9yo Bay Mare, Alan King, Tom Cannon
Owner, Robert Abrey, Ian Thurtle and David Gibbon
Another jumps season all done with and although it’s been limited as regards courses attended due to the current situation hence only reviews from three as opposed to more in recent years it’s been good to be back with the tweed and hedge hoppers.
Now we turn our attention to the flat with a visit back to Haydock this upcoming Saturday and you can follow my racing and other various sporting adventures on twitter at @wattyracing and on Instagram at neil_d_watson
In what seemed a lifetime ago and with a world that has experienced something it never thought it would do, crowds returned to Aintree for the Grand National Festival, the defining sporting event in Merseyside and the race which draws people in like no other.
2022 is a huge year for sport in the north west with Manchester and Leigh hosting games in the Women’s Euros in July then come autumn we will see Manchester,Leigh,Wigan,Warrington,Bolton and St Helens all hosting games in the Rugby League World Cup but to kick start the glorious year of sport we turn to Aintree.
Epatante In Aintree Hurdle Glory
Nicky Henderson loves Aintree winners and his fabulous mare Epatante gave him a fourth success in the Grade One Aintree Hurdle as she cruised home under Aidan Coleman to bag her third win of the season.
Having dead heated for the Fighting Fifth and winning the Christmas Hurdle this season she came here with a point to prove possibly having been beaten by Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle but she took the step up in trip with ease and beat a reasonably decent field in the process.
This will most likely have been her final run of the season unless connections fancy a trip over to Punchestown but it’s likely she will go the same route of Newcastle and Kempton before heading to Cheltenham once again and although she saw this trip out it might be a case that the long distance hurdle races might come under consideration too.
After being successful in the first three races last year as a part owner, the footballing legend that is Sir Alex Ferguson was able to relive a bit of that with a crowd this time as Clan Des Obeaux repeated his Betway Bowl win from last year.
In what looked good quality race, Clan Des Obeaux came here having been kept fresh from his February defeat in the Denman Chase at Newbury, he jumped nicely as ever in the first time blinkers and was sent on by Harry Cobden from third last despite ploughing through it and despite getting a bit tired on the run in he got to the line just in time from the fast finishing Conflated.
Clan Des Obeaux has been lighly raced this season but held his form pretty well, Punchestown may be the next stop for him before his summer break and a hattrick of Bowl attempts will no doubt be the plan of action for this top chaser.
Of the beaten horses Protektorat probably felt the affects of a hard race in the Gold Cup, he is still a young horse and has plenty of big days ahead of him, expect to see him in the Charlie Hall or Many Clouds Chases in the early part of the season.
Back in December racegoers saw Bridget Andrews ride a big race winner at Aintree and this afternoon they saw sister Gina do the same as she steered Latenightpass to victory in the Foxhunters’ Chase over the big greens.
Runner up last year behind 66-1 winner Cousin Pascal who tried to make it a repeat win but faded towards the end, Latenightpass had a real fight on after the last fence with Cap Tiger under David Maxwell but Gina Andrews kept her mount up to his work as he repelled the runner up by a lenght or so.
Always an interesting and entertaining race to watch and this was no exception, Latenightpass is a hardy sort and had two wins in points prior to this and all being well he should be back to defend his crown next year
Best Of The Rest
Arguably the most controversial moment of the day came in the G1 Anniversary Hurdle for 4yos when Knight Salute and Pied Piper passed the post in unison and despite the judge using more magnifying glasses than Lovejoy and Indiana Jones combined the result was a dead heat.
However that was not the end of things as the stewards called an inquiry and after questioning jockeys Paddy Brennan and Davy Russell they decided that interference had taken place and thus awarded the race outright to the Milton Harris trained Knight Salute who had previously been sighted behind Pied Piper in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham, he is rated 75 on the flat too which could mean the odd foray into some middle distance handicaps before going back hurdling in the autumn
Finally the opening Manifesto Novice Chase looked a fairly weak renewal on paper and went the way of the Alex Hales trained Millers Bank who finally seems to be going the right way over fences, after his debut chasing win at Huntingdon in October he then posted two U’s before chasing home Pic D’orhy home in the Pendil at Kempton, he is probably worth keeping an eye on in 2m4f handicap chases next term.
Despite the weather being a pain to begin with it turned out to be a glorious afternoon of jump racing at the home of the Grand National
Thursday is always a day for the racing purist and this afternoon showed exactly why, for those affiliated with the red half of Manchester would have been bouncing seeing Sir Alex collect the prize when Clan Des Obeaux went in and fans went crazy as Epatante hosed up in the Aintree Hurdle while the noise in the winners enclosure from everyone connected with Latenightpass showed what was missing from last years behind closed doors meeting.
Aintree has a special place in the hearts not just of racing fans in general but for the people of Liverpool also, a countryside sport in a port city is a very unusual combination but in this part of Merseyside it works and has been sorely missed by the loyal racegoers over the past two years.
Next up is the final jump meeting of our season with Challenger Finals Day at Haydock, till then it’s goodbye.
A decent sized crowd took advantage of the reduced £5 entry fee for Fiver Friday to cheer on Espoir De Guye home as he recovered from a very shaky start to land the £15,609 first prize feature race, The Feldon Dunsmore Budbrooke Cup.
Ducking away at the start he recovered under the kind steerage of jockey Charlie Deutsch and apart from an error at the fourth fence he gathered himself together to runaway a seven lenght victor from Alnadam back in second place.
It’s highly possible he will bypass Cheltenham but could be aimed for something like the Topham Trophy at Aintree over the National fences and provided he doesn’t make the same mistakes again he could have a say in the matter.
Best Of The Rest
The Stuart Edmunds stable had a nice winner in the 2m3f EBF NH Novice Hurdle as Arizona Cardinal finally landed a touchdown under Sam Twiston-Davies, although probably not a strong race he held on nicely from runner up Hauraki Gulf to land the spoils by a neck.
Trainer Cynthia Woods who trains in Crowborough which is south of Royal Tunbridge Wells was very much unlike all the inhabitants who write to complain from being disgusted to the Daily Mail as she was over the moon as Glorious Lady got up under a power packed drive by Tabitha Worsley to bag the Mares’ Chase which was also a qualifier for the Challenger Mares’ Chase Final at Haydock on Easter Saturday, she will probably have a crack at the final but this win will hopefully help launch the Cynthia Woods stable who has only held a full licence since the start of the season.
Finally in the concluding mares’ bumper which looked pretty decent on paper saw Lutinebella finally break his duck at the fourth time asking under Paddy Brennan for Fergal O’Brien, she has acquitted herself well in both starts this season and now with the win under her belt could take in either another small bumper or have a crack at the Grade 2 Mares’ Bumper at Aintree but she should make into a nice hurdler next season
A short break from racing for a while now, Aintree will be the next port of call here although circumstances will depend on which days will be covered, Thursday will definitely be reviewed so stay tuned in April to see what occurs, till then enjoy Cheltenham and keep backing winners.
In a race which had eleven brave horses set out over the marathon trip of three and a half miles only three lasted out to the bitter end as The Galloping Bear for new trainer Ben Clarke and jockey Ben Jones followed on from last months Surrey National win at Lingfield as they broke the hearts of fans of Bristol De Mai who tried do defy topweight by staying on powerfully to land the Grade 3 Grand National Trial.
Bristol De Mai tried to do his customary thing of making all and turning for home he had The Galloping Bear and Time To Get Up as the only ones still in contention which the crowd who braved the elements were warming up very much from this but on the approach to the last fence the petrol gauge slowly began to empty and from behind The Galloping Bear under his light weight of 10-7 began to overpower him and went on to score decisively, he is reportedly heading to Uttoxeter next month for the Midlands Grand National and in this form he will be hard to stop.
After the race the stewards enquired into the performances of four of the horses who pulled up, given the conditions were absolutely brutal and the jockeys showed themselves to be doing the right thing even though prize money was available from first to sixth place this seemed absolutely pointless.
Wholestone In Rendlesham Glory
One of the rides of the day came from Sam Twiston-Davies as he stuck religiously to the inside rain from flagfall to the chequered one as he steered the 11yo veteran Wholestone to glory in the Rendlesham Hurdle.
Absent from the track since falling here in November 2020 he came back fairly fresh as a daisy and reeled in long time leader Top Ville Ben on the run in with the pair a donkey’s yawn of a gap back to Third Wind who was tbe only one to complete the course with the rest of the field pulled up, his trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has no plans for him at the moment although you wouldn’t be shocked if he had a go at the Liverpool Hurdle on Grand National Day.
Hillcrest Continues To Climb
Without a doubt the most visually impressive performance of the afternoon came late in the day as the Henry Daly trained Hillcrest showed no ill effects from his Cheltenham tumble three weeks ago as he beat some fair rivals to bag the Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle.
Sharing pace setting duties with recent Sandown winner Green Book he began upping the tempo around the home turn from which the race was in the bag and he came home eight lengths ahead of the Nicky Richards trained Crystal Glory.
Carrying the colours of the late Trevor Hemmings he is a very exciting prospect and has improved so much since we saw him land his first hurdle back at Aintree in November, wherever he goes as regards the spring festivals he will attract many when he makes his chasing debut next season.
Best Of The Rest.
Porticello as expected bagged the Victor Ludorum Hurdle for the juvenile hurdlers, he will have a much tougher assignment should he go for the Triumph but this win will have given him a nice confidence booster going into it.
Finally the North West had good reason to celebrate the final race of the afternoon in the Walrus Hunter Chase over 2m6f as last seasons Aintree Foxhunters victor Cousin Pascal for the Nantwich based Joe O’Shea yard under Mr James King.
Second at Hereford on his recent start under rules after a couple of races between the flags which included a win at Revesby Park back in November you can fully expect all roads (presumably the A49, M6 and the M62) will now lead to Aintree for the defence of his Foxhunters crown although unlike last year he won’t be going off at 66s again.
He got a nice reception coming back in from the die hards who always love to see a locally trained Haydock winner wether it be over jumps or on the flat.
Hopefully this upcoming Friday we shall be on our travels depending if the next named storm doesn’t get in the way as we shall be down in Shakespeare territory with a visit to Warwick races for the Budbrooke Cul raceday, fill
Top weight of 11st 10lb proved to be no problem whatsoever for Royale Pagaille as he dug in to land back to back Peter Marsh Chases under Charlie Deutsch for trainer Venetia Williams to land a third course win at Haydock on what was a stellar afternoon for the winter game.
In a race full of Haydock specialists they did go a fair clip as would be expected for a race of this nature but under a patient waiting ride in ground that eased to soft throughout the day he picked his rivals off before sharing the lead at the final ditch from where he battled on and fot the better over Sam Brown by half a length in a race that really got at the heart strings.
The husband of winning owner Susan Ricci, Rich Ricci was very jovial in the winners enclosure and shared his delight with everyone showing his appreciation which went down nicely with the racegoers who surrounded the place after the race was over.
A visit to the Cheltenham Gold Cup again is highly likely and while he does have a bit to find from last year’s run where he finished lame it is possible that in a wide open year he would have as good a chance as any.
Oscar Performance For Tommy
Trophy success in Newcastle has been severely limited in recent years but for trainer Ann Hamilton and her husband Ian they could well be offered a chance to have a trophy parade at St James’s Park as Tommy’s Oscar became best gelding in a leading role as he breezed home in the G2 Champion Hurdle Trial.
In thriving form this season he was making this four wins on the bounce coming clear from the rest of the field under Danny McMenamin who timed his ride perfectly as he landed a big Saturday wih for himself and trainer Ann Hamilton.
Taking this off 156 he is almost certain to head straight to Cheltenham for the Champion Hurdle and despite the attentions of super mare Honeysuckle the Hamilton’s have nothing to lose by having a go.
JonBon Keeps The Faith
Odds on favorite JonBon gave punters a bad name amongst the bookies as the 2/5f easily obliged in workmanlike fashion to land the G2 Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle.
Up against some decent sorts in what looked a tight race on paper he travelled and jumped pretty well although he did have to be shaken up by Aidan Coleman when getting to the business end to land the spoils for trainer Nicky Henderson who no doubt was probably more relieved than anything as he continues his learning over timber on what was a big day for the trainer as Shishkin’s race at Ascot was still two very long hours away.
He will head to the Supreme in what looks a hot race and the potential to be the best race of the whole Festival but he looks like he needs a bit further so it would be no surprise if he went up in trip either at Cheltenham or Aintree.
No Drama For Minella
It seems it isn’t a Haydock meeting without a Donald McCain winner and this afternoon proved just that as Minella Drama took the opening G2 Altcar Novices’ Chase in the style of an improving type.
Jumping well and kept right on the hare rail throughout under Brian Hughes he showed his appreciation for the step up in trip, last sighted when down the field in a big G1 Novice Chase at Sandown last month he foynd this company more to his liking and is making into a nice chaser.
He holds an entry in the 2m4f Novice Chase at Cheltenham but it would be no shock if he bypassed that in favour for a crack at the two big 2m4f Novice Chases at Ayr or Aintree instead, he will get three miles in time.
Sadly in the race Clondaw Castle took a fatal fall down the back straight, Condolences to her owners and all connections at Ruth Jefferson’s.