The first meeting of 2013 at my local course and a very good card of National Hunt racing to enjoy as many horses have their preparations for the upcoming Cheltenham and Aintree festivals in the months ahead.
Race Two was the Grade Two Rendlesham Hurdle over 3m and this was an all the way victory for Across the Bay from Donald McCains yard and huge win for jockey Henry Brooke to hold off the very good Trustan Times by 1.25 lengths, a winner of two chases at Kelso and Carlisle this season he was going over the smaller obstacles since finishing 7th when carrying top weight in the Welsh National last month, This run will have brought his confidence back but it’s doubtful he will go for the World Hurdle at Cheltenham but he will no doubt be aimed at something, Trustan Times ran a grand race in defeat but could well go for the Liverpool Hurdle which may suit him given the way he travels plus with no Big Buck’s it is possible that race could be for the taking.
Race Three was the feature race of the day, The Grand National Trial over the stamina sapping 3m4f , a field of fourteen long distance specialist faced the starter with two previous winners in the contest also this seasons Welsh,Sussex and London National winners plus the Classic Chase winner from Warwick back in January, it was a good quality field and it went the way of the vastly improved Well Refreshed from Gary Moore’s yard in Lower Beeding,Held up in the early stages he made plenty of ground up down the back straight and turning for home began to extend his lead before a making a real hash of the last fence but this didn’t affect him to much as he went on to record a 10 length victory of previous Warwick scorer Rigadin de Beauchene who tried to follow up a recent Classic Chase win but lost no honour in coming second behind a real quality winner.
In third was the Welsh National winner Monbeg Dude who did stay on but his Gold Cup entry could well be a waste of time and yet again he follows in a long line of Welsh National winners who struggle in their next race as that Chepstow marathon always takes a lot out of them and leaves a mark for the rest of the season, All credit to the winner though as he won his first chase at Fontwell off a rating of 100 and now wins this off 129 so expect the handicapper to give him a real clobbering, not entered in the National it could well be a trip to Fairyhouse or Ayr unless they pop into Uttoxeter next month.
It was The Prestige Novices Hurdle next for Race Four over 3m, just the five runners and a classy performance from the Alan King trained Two Rockers, unbeaten in a Point and two novice events at Towcester this season he traveled well and was still on the bridle at the last flight before being asked to pick up which he duly did to record a 5l win over Ardklilly Witness with Shotgun Paddy back in third being the only ones who finished the race, The winner is a nice likeable type who could end up going Chasing next term and will be one to watch if he does, in the short term connections may go and take their chance in the Albert Bartlett at the Festival and he would have as good a chance as any due to it always being a wide open contest.
The fifth contest was a competitive Novices Handicap Chase over 2m4f and recent Wetherby victor Cloudy Too followed up here with another good performance from this improving 7yo from Sue Smiths yard, travelling and jumping well he defeated favourite Ohio Gold by 8 lengths to give Wayne Hutchinson a double on the card, His jumping has improved in his last two races and he remains on the upgrade so be worth noting where he gets aimed at and if they keep him at this trip or have a go over further later on, Ohio Gold ran well enough but probably needs to be dropped a few pounds before he wins again.
Race Six was another Pertemps Qualifier but oddly this was only a nine runner event as most of the time these races have double figure fields and it was a fourth straight win for Seymour Eric who kept stable mate Mauricetheathlete company for the first circuit before taking over and dotting home by 4.5 lengths from Knock a Hand who ran a personal best for the season with Bouggler back in third who was never able to challenge, Again as with the feature race all eyes will be what the handicapper does to this winner who began the season winning at the now sadly closed Hereford off a rating of 85 and today won on 121, hopefully he should get in the final and very much deserves to as he could be the Hunt Ball of the 2012/13 season.
The final race of the day was the Walrus Hunters Chase or as every Hunter Chase that is run between now and Cheltenham called a Foxhunters Trial. This was again over 3m and named the Walrus due to when this meeting used to be a two day event the first day all had races named with Lewis Carroll connections, anyway back to the race and it was the favourite Cottage Oak who duly obliged seeing off Current Exchange by 13 lengths with former Becher Chase winner Vic Venturi an honourable third, The winner is prominent in the betting for the Cheltenham Foxhunters and if he wins that and goes on to land the Aintree one he will win his owners an extra £25,000 or £10,000 should he land just one of them.
A very enjoyable afternoon of racing was had by all, along with good company which always makes the day even nicer.
Last season this meeting threw up a good few Festival winners including the Grand National winner, doubt any of today’s winners may do the same but then again stranger things to happen in this wonderful sport of ours.