Day one of the second most prestigious National Hunt meeting in the North West,The Betfair Chase Festival, and it was a cold,damp and slightly misty towards the end as the gloom descended upon this part of Lancashire.
This meeting and in particular the race is celebrating it’s ten year anniversary and is now firmly in the calendar as one of the must see races of the jumping season.
That is tomorrow where as today the emphasis was on the future with a six race card of which three races were aimed at novice horses.
As like last year the Chases are being run on the inner flat course and the hurdles both traditional and fixed on the inside of them.
12.50 The Brown Shipley Wealth Well Managed Handicap Hurdle,Class 3,3m,12 flights,4yo+ (0-130)
The largest field of the day with fourteen runners facing the starter and the pace was steady from flag fall.
A real driving finish which just saw 5yo Closing Ceremony get the better of the favourite 6yo Milan Bound in a photo.
The Emma Lavelle trained winner was always at the front of the pack and was joined by the runner up at the second last flight, from that it was a real fight between the two which saw the winner just get the verdict by a head.
Richie McLernon in my view probably didn’t give Milan Bound that good a ride as could have been expected so hopefully the handicapper won’t overreact.
As for the winner he benefitted going back up to 3m after a poor show in the Silver Trophy at Chepstow,Going in here off 123 I’d imagine one of the Pertemps qualifying races would be the ideal step.
1.20 The Oak Loans And Mortgage Graduation Chase,Class 2,2m110yds,13 fences,4yo+
An intriguing race on paper with only four talented but equally tricky horses in the line up.
Willie Mullins sent one over on a scouting mission from Ireland in Turban, Not the ideal named horse considering what has been going on a few miles up the road in Wigan this week!
In the end it was a bloodless victory for the Colin Tizzard trained Third Intention who has tried every trip over jumps and would probably give Sole Power a run for his money as he sleuced up under Daryl Jacob and gave runner up Mwaleshi a 17 length thrashing, Valco De Touzaine never went with them and maybe a step up to 2m4f is ideal and Turban was held up under a Ruby Walsh but never found anything when asked for an effort.
Third Intention is as solid as the come,Ok he struggles to win but he never runs a bad race,Nobody knows what his best trip is,He could be an ideal Grand National horse as he travels well and jumps well.
1.55 The Feel The Rush At Betfair Novices’ Hurdle,Listed,2m,9 flights,4yo+
Registered as the Newton Novices’ Hurdle this was an ok renewal with an eventful ending to it.
Outsider Kiama Bay made most and looked for all money that it was in the bag with a ten length lead coming to the last hurdle,however he was very tired and couldn’t pick his legs up which resulted in him crashing through it and unseating Jason Maguire,Both got up fine.
As a result this left fellow 25-1 outsider Thorpe who was staying on past beaten horses in the front following Kiama Bay’s capsize at the last and was driven right out under Peter Buchanan and trainer Lucinda Russell a nice prize to take back over the border.
Oscarteea got his second win after falling down the field and stayed on for second,going up in trip will suit him, The Brock Again kept on for third,he needs a maiden somewhere to boost his confidence.
Thorpe was having only his fourth start over hurdles,his other three were all at Musselburgh,He has ran credible races in defeat with good company.
2.30 The Betfair Home Of Price Rush Novices’ Chase,Class 2,2m6f,17 fences,4yo+
Two out of two from the Paul Nicholls trained Virak took advantage of Grand Vision on whom he was closing in on at the time before he took a tumble at the fourth last fence to easily pick up the prize, He was 19 lengths ahead of recent Aintree winner Golden Hoof.
Monkey Kingdom was third,he made a hash of the eighth fence which looked to dent his confidence,Handicaps should suit him now, Back in fourth and last was Ugly Bug who picked up £1025 with help from Grand Vision’s fall.
Virak though did what he needed to do,This trip looked ideal and he’s going the right way.
3.05 The Wingate Signs Supports Superjosh Charity “Fixed Brush” ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle,Class 3,2m4f,10 flights,4-7yo
Only four but a dominant performance by the Simon West trained Maximiser under 5lb conditional Joe Colliver, he travelled and jumped well and had the race in the bag from the third last hurdle, Vago Collonges the 8/13f tracked the winner but couldn’t pick his hooves up when needed.
Maximiser has a good stamp about him,In his first and only Irish bumper he was 8/22 behind two horses called Faugheen and Josses Hill,then he won his point before getting bought and moved to Leyburn,he will be some chaser and this win added to his hurdling debut win at Carlisle shows he has plenty of ability, As for his next race I would not be shocked to see him come back here for another FBH race or possibly a step up In grade to something like the River Don.
3.40 The Racing Welfare Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race,Class 4,2m.4-6yo
Only three in a race which was nothing more than a schooling event, All 4yo and Midnight Shot took this with relative ease as he eased from last to first down the straight and was on the bridle with two furlongs to go, he was eased down to hold long time leader Dean’s Walk by two lengths.
Ex French horse Abidjan now under the care of Paul Nicholls struggled to get going and giving away 7lb he was vulnerable.
All three will probably now embark on their respective hurdling careers and should hold their own in the right company.
A fair afternoon of jumping then, As usual this day always has small fields but as the action on course showed,you don’t need to have large fields for competitive racing.
The standout horse looked to be Virak, a typical purchase by Anthony Bromley, this 5yo has a good future ahead of him over fences.
Tomorrow sees a seven race card with the added bonus of a new Conditions hurdle which has brought The New One to Haydock in a race which will be run on the outer flat track so they will be right close up to the stands and Racegoers.
The Betfair Chase looks another high quality renewal,Nine go to post in what looks like the perfect pre Christmas gift for any fan of the turf.
Until tomorrow goodbye.