Just three meetings in the calendar are mixed and this is the second one of the year as the flat and jumping codes unite to give racing fans a real mix of flat,hurdle and steeplechasing at its best, Seven races on today’s Haydock card with four flat,two hurdles and one chase for the punters to get stuck into.
Technically this was the first big race of the new jumps season and today’s card included horses that have won at Royal Ascot on the flat and at the Aintree and Punchestown festivals over the sticks.
Another bonus for me was a chance photo opportunity with trainer Emma Lavelle who was probably surprised when I asked her for a photo with her but happily obliged when I told her she was in esteemed company of other ladies I have been photographed with.
First race was the Long Distance Hurdle over 3m with a huge field of Twenty runners and twelve flights to be negotiated, Last month at Aintree a horse called Battle Group won twice in three days and he continued his new found form for Kevin Bishop with another victory here getting the better of Jetson on the run in, always well to the fore he remains in good heart but their are not to many options for him now unless connections decide to pop over to France or give Galway a go for the Plate. Jetson ran an honest race and was leading going over the last but found Battle Group to good but he has plenty of ability, Cross Kennon was back in third and he runs well in Haydock staying hurdles at big prices and I would keep an eye on him if he runs in the Fixed Brush Hurdle in November.
Race Two was the first flat event and was a 1m2f Handicap for 4yo+ 71-85 with only six runners that went to Hanseatic from the John Gosden stable, after the stalls opened he got to the front and made all to hold off Muharrer by 3 lengths, The winner is only 4 and this was his third career start but he has fair ability and will improve the more he races, Not sure where he will end up but he is worth keeping an eye on.
Third race of the day was a 6f Conditions event and for a field of six the judge had to get the magnifying glass out as four of them hit the line with old warrior Regal Parade getting the verdict after just getting his head on the lollipop to fend off Royal Rock by a nose, both the first and second are 9yo with the other four being 4yo and they were firmly put in their place by the old guard, In his pomp the winner won the Group One Sprint Cup here and won a fair handicap at York in October but he has struggled in his first few starts for Milton Bradley however he likes Haydock and this is about his level nowadays.
The fourth was the feature jumps race the Swinton Hurdle over 2m with 8 flights, this race may not attract Champion Hurdle winners which is a shame as I’d love to see Hurricane Fly give weight away but sadly that will never happen.
It was Wales who took this years renewal with the Evan Williams trained Barizan getting the prize,always prominent from flag fall and despite having a keen interest in knocking the top bar out of the hurdles he took up the running from the long time leader Ruler of All after jumping the third last and carried on to hold Mr Mole from the Paul Nicholls yard by 0.5 lengths at the finish with Local Hero back in third, This was a fair renewal but a few of these are probably in need of a summers break but Barizan will probably stay over hurdles next season whereas Mr Mole will know doubt be sent over fences next season and will make into a useful chaser when he comes back.
Race Five was back on the level with the feature flat race the Listed Spring Trophy over 7f for 4yo+ which was Newmarket bound for the Roger Varian trained Eton Forever on his seasonal reappearance, held up off the pace set my Red Jazz he travelled to the front and led in the last furlong to hold off the challenge from Gregorian by a head in an exciting finish, Listed is about the winners level but he could he aimed at Group Two or Three races in the summer while Gregorian will be interesting to see when he goes back up to 1m and this race will have done him the power of good over what was his seasonal start.
It was the last race for the jump jockeys for Race Six with a 2m4f Intermediate Handicap Chase and 15 fences which had a field of 15 runners face the starter and went to the Nick Gifford trained Fairy Rath who followed up his recent Ascot victory with a good jumping display to hang on from Conquisto who was 0.75 lengths back in second with Tony Star who was staying on back in third and pace setter Poole Master back in fourth, This was a competitive race and full of good sorts for next season in the good 2m4f Chases, the only sad point was Ulysee Collonges who broke down turning for home and sadly had to be euthanised and Heez A Cracker pulled up lame but walked back safely.
Last race was a 1m Handicap for 3yo 76-95 which had some useful types in it even though it was only a field of seven, The victor in this was Hay Dude trained by Elaine Burke in Middleham he held on by a nose from Ak Mukhdam who was quite keen early on and could be better if equipped with blinkers but looks more likely to improve, again this was the third flat race which needed the judge to call the photo which was very unusual given the small fields for the flat races today.
So a good mix of racing today, the next mixed meeting is in August at Ffos Las but the biggest mixed meeting is in the summer at Galway with the seven day festival which is run the same week as Glorious Goodwood.
I’ve always said we should have more of these mixed race days as it gives the fans and owners,trainers and jockeys of both codes a chance to come under one roof for the afternoon to showcase the best that we have to offer.
Next up for me in the coming weeks will be Haydock again in a fortnight for the Silver Bowl and Temple Stakes then in June a real mixed bag with jumping from Hexham,Flat racing at Haydock and an afternoon at the Rowing World Cup in Eton Dorney.