Haydock Park, Saturday 23rd April 2022, Flat Season Opener

Boardman Cycles To Glory

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.

Nashwa

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.

Excel Power

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!

Haydock Park, Saturday 16th April 2022, Challenger Finals Day

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

Aintree Races, Thursday 7th April 2022, Grand National Festival Opening Day

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.

https://youtu.be/cM5FycsFV-s

Clan Does It Again.

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.

https://youtu.be/rcZ-OIzbqsc

Pass Scores In Hunters

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.