Easter Saturday and the inaugural running of the finals of the 2015-16 Challenger Series for horses rated under 140.
An ideal time of the season to fill the void between Cheltenham and Aintree,this day gives a chance for stables lesser lights a chance to shine and pick up some nice prize money.
Weather wise it was windy and very overcast which resulted in a real downpour after the fifth race,traditional Bank Holiday weekend weather!
1.25 ApolloBet Weekly Golf Refunds Challenger Mares’ Hurdle Series Final,Class 2,2m3f,10 flights,4yo+
A stroll in the park for the David Pipe trained Lady Of Longstone who made all under Michael Heard (5) and took this nice prize by eigh lengths,she appreciated the return to a nicer surface and no doubt the trainer will be hoping to pick some black type up before long
Midnight Jazz was the runner up,she stayed on well into second but could never bridge the gap,she is consistent but weighted up to her best,Secret Door stayed on back in third and could be suited by further
2.00 Challenger Middle Distance Chase Series Final,Class 2,2m4f,15 fences,5yo+
A competitive race on paper with plenty inform types.
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has had decent success at Haydock this year with The New One and Bristol De Mai and now Ballybolley continued that fine run here under Daryl Jacob as he put in an exquisite round of jumping,always going well in the front end he never put a hoof wrong and was travelling smoothly from flag fall,he finished eight lengths ahead of top weight Five In A Row who was hard ridden but could do nothing in response to the winner.
A former winner of the Aintree bumper the winner came here after a costly error cost him a possible win in last Saturday’s Silver Cup at Kempton,it’s touted he may pop up to Ayr for the big novice chase their,he should get three miles in time and has more to offer now.
Five In A Row found this race much easier than Cheltenham,Dartford Warbler back in third ran a sound race too.
2.35 ApolloBet Cash Back If 2nd Challenger Stayers Hurdle Series Final,Class 2,2m7f,12 flights
Bottom weight Petethepear came out a fortunate winner here as top weight Emerging Force looked to have the £23475 prize for first place in the bag for safe keeping but a tumble at the last flight led to Nico De Boinville being thrown out the side door.
The pace was very generous from the start here with the field well stretched out on the final circuit, Petethepear led after four out and tried to wind up the gallop but Emerging Force took over and kept the lead albeit only by a length or two,coming to the last he began to put the race to bed but he met it on the wrong stride and crashed through giving Nico no chance and despite trying to defy gravity he was only going one direction and that was down, Petethepear regained the lead and from then it was never in doubt.
Petethepear finally broke his duck over hurdles,the step up in trip looks to suit him,wether he can follow up is another thing, Fingerontheswitch kept on into second,Billy Dutton and Caledonia were third and fourth.
In all fairness Emerging Force would have taken this,he is one to watch in staying novice chases next term.
3.10 Challenger Staying Chase Series Final,Class 2,3m,18 fences,5yo+
A very competitive chase run over the same course and distance of the Lancashire Chase.
As is the norm now at Haydock it paid to be up with the pace here and the lightly raced No Duffer who was making only his fourth start of the season and his 22nd career run at the age of nine ran out a very ready winner, tracking early leader Jac The Legend throughout he grabbed the lead with a mile to go and got plenty under pressure and found extra when needed for Paddy Brennan who had to get him to work up the straight
He finished 3.75 lengths ahead of the running on Gonaslton Cloud who was outpaced early but he was staying on very well,a winner of three under rules this term he has gone up 32lbs in the process,a step up to further will be better for him, Jac The Legedn dead heated with him for second,he seemed to like the more positive style of running and Baku Bay in fourth ran an honest race but has still yet to score over fences.
No Duffer looked to appreciate this surface,he could head to Cheltenham next month for a nice race in which he was third last year
3.45 Challenger Two Mile Hurdle Series Final,Class 2,2m,8 flights,4yo+
A race which was marred by two falls at the first two hurdles,firstly Jonny Delta fell at the first which resulted in Diarmuid O’Regan being taken to Aintree hospital then at the second flight Serenity Now fell which resulted in Aidan Coleman being stood down for the rest of the day,both horses came back safe,this meant the first hurdle in the straight was bypassed.
Despite the irony of the two mile final actually being run over 1m7f 144yds the drop back in trip and return to a kinder surface looked to suit Thunder Sheik under last weeks RSA winning jockey Ryan Hatch,he made plenty ground up on the flat as they bypassed the third last and had to given a few reminders after two out to get past Floresco,both led over the last and Thunder Sheik began to get on top in the last half furlong and had enough to take the prize from the running on Kings Bayonet and Apterix in second and third.
Thunder Sheik certainly benefitted from the reapplication of cheekpieces,he’s down to run at Newbury on Friday although races like the Amateur and Conditionals race at Aintree and the Swinton back here in May could also be targets.
4.20 Tim Molony Handicap Chase,Class 3,3m4f,22 fences,5yo+ (0-130)
A real mixed bag of marathon types here despite six of the eight runners all pulled up on their last runs.
Universal Solider who last sighted pulling up here in January’s Peter Marsh put up a much polished performance under Sean Bowen as he looked much happier going up in trip and down in grade,making most he bounded on well and the win never looked in doubt as he came home twenty lengths ahead of the 5yo Cyclop who in turn was eighteen ahead of Alto Des Mottes.
Universal Solider loves these long trips,11yo he was only having his 19th career race,he could be a type for the Highland National at Perth but he’s still lower than his current hurdles mark, Cyclop has plenty good days ahead of him as a stayer and can improve a lot next season.
4.50 ApolloBet Bet Through Your Mobile Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race,Class 5,2m,4-6yo
Some fair types to this decent enough looking bumper in which the main Easter Eggs began to hatch at the business end.
Alan King looks to have a nice sort to go hurdling with next season as Elgin didn’t lose his marbles and improved from his first run at Southwell to battle on in the churned up ground to stay on and hold off the more experienced Desert Retreat back in second, Hot favourite River Wylde was a few lengths behind in third,he was keen early but looks a nice recruit,Arctic Destination came fourth and also looks nice.
The first four all look good,Elgin may head to Aintree and it’s possible Alan King might be tempted to run him on the flat if need be, Desert Retreat has been placed in three Chepstow bumpers and looks a stayer, River Wylde should find a bumper win somewhere soon.
Cyclop,5yo runner up in the Tim Molony,looks to have a good future
Quietly,5yo came down the field in the bumper but will show more in time when he has jumps to negotiate
A very good day for the horses at the lower end of the scale then,this series has proved to be very popular and looks set for a healthy future over the years.
Next up racing wise we head to Aintree for the first two days of the Crabbies Grand National meeting