A cold midweek afternoon was the order of the day as racing fans in particular National Hunt racing enthusiasts go through the mixture of the post Cheltenham blues and the build up to the Grand National at Aintree in around two and a half weeks, Their is the start of the turf flat at Doncaster but that often is a damp squib as it never really gets going till the Craven meeting at Newmarket and don’t even bother to ask them about the Arabian sports day that occurs at Meydaan racecourse in Dubai.
Seven races were lined up for today with good prize money but fields were lacking in numbers but size is not everything in racing and the crowd today were treated to a nice afternoons sport.
Race One was a 2m4f Novices Handicap Chase with just four runners but it was in the early stages when the short priced favourite Zaru who normally prefers to bowl along made a slow jump at the third fence and began to get overtaken which made him sulk and he dropped right back,approaching fence five he was not interested but Brian Hughes gave him a boot into it to which Zaru promptly crumpled on landing and handed the initiative to Eyre Apparent who was leading with him early doors until the fall then all AP McCoy had to do was steer him around which he did and kept him up to his work to land the spoils for Scottish trainer Lucinda Russell, A reasonable and likeable sort he will probably end up being aimed at a race at the Perth Festival which would be his level.
The Second Race of the day and again just four lined up for a Class 2 Handicap Hurdle over 2m4f with £8668 to the winner and the betting was split between recent course winner Seymour Eric and Thunderstorm who were both unbeaten this season winning four and five races respectively but none of the two featured as Crowning Jewel was giving father and son Keith and James Reveley a nice winner after taking up the running after the last flight and seeing off Rock Relief by 2.5 lengths to give the North a 1-2,Thunderstorm was held up throughout and struggled to pick up but may bounce back and Seymour Eric is a lot better over three miles,Take nothing away from the winner though he is a real toughie and full of heart.
Third Race was the Haydock Park Annual Badgeholders Chase over 3m and again just the four turned up for this 0-115 event and a nice winner for Chris Grant here with the 8yo mare Overyou putting up a dour staying performance to see off Sandynow under a canny ride by conditional Diarmuid O’Regan who looks a useful rider with his ten pound claim and I can see a good few other trainers taking advantage of that during the upcoming year, These were the only two to finish as On Broadway unseated four fences from home and Knight Woodsman had the early bath after being detached a long way back. The winner is a hard working mare and may end up having a crack at either the Highland or Durham Nationals next month.
Eight lined up for the Fourth Race a Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle over 2m and Red Inca from the Brian Ellison yard who have won a fair few races here over the last few seasons fought off a good challenge from Softsong to get the better of him by 1.75 lengths with Kudu Country who made most of the running battling on for third, This race was a qualifier for the Jockey Club Grassroots Jumps Series and while the top three might not be back for the final on Easter Saturday I think Ultimate another Brian Ellison horse who finished fifth may be back as the final over 2m4f will suit him a lot better.
The Fifth Race on the card was a 2m4f Handicap Chase and a Class 2 one which would not look out of place on a Saturday card here and it was a recapturing of winning ways for McMurrough who won two races in December but put in two bad ones straight after with the first time blinkers found his way into the spot that matters which is number one,Quincy de Pictons came out of the pack to challenge but needs dropping a few more pounds before regaining the winning thread.
The penultimate event was the Whizz Kids Fixed Brush Novices Hurdle over 2m4f, Whizz Kids is a charity which helps to provide mobility equipment for disabled children and in the racecard Double Paralympic Gold Medalist Hannah Cockroft who flew home in the T34 100 and 200 meters at London 2012 Paralympics endorses this in the advert saying how it gave her the start so this is a charity with real heart and they have a website at http://www.whizz-kidz.org.uk/
Onto the race itself and recent Chepstow winner Annacotty made it two on the bounce in what was a good looking race on paper but Brave Spartacus set a strong pace but began to fade at the top of the home straight and Annacotty who was handy took the lead after the last and defeated 200-1 rank outsider Nowdoro by 8 lengths, Their was a few disappointments in the race most notably Moss Cloud from the Donald McCain yard whose horses are going through a lean spell at the minute but will learn a lot from this run and even though he finished tenth of the eleven is not one to write off yet.
So the final event of the day was a Bumper over 2m and a field of Seven faced the starter which stood still about 15-30 seconds after the tapes got released and it was Richard Johnson who took the initiative on Royal Regatta and made all the running on this 5yo whose only other race was when being pulled up in a Point to Point in Ireland around a year ago but will be interesting watch when being put over hurdles next season, Back in second and 12 lengths in second was debutant Operatic Heights who pulled hard but will learn from this experience with back in third Goohar who was up in trip and still has plenty of ability.
So a nice afternoon at Haydocks penultimate jumps meeting of the season with the final one being on Easter Saturday with the finals of the Jockey Clubs Grassroots Jumps Series and the Tim Molony Chase.
Horse Racing is not just all about the big festivals and super Saturdays but the quiet and enjoyable midweek meetings which draw a totally different crowd and today was a day for just enjoying the sights and sounds of National Hunt racing and with the hustle and bustle of Aintree just around the corner this was a pleasant way to pass the calm before the storm.