Happily, the rain stayed away for the second day of the Jump Season Opener, a meeting where a big notebook was needed to record all the promising performances. It wasn’t easy for punters, as all seven favourites were beaten. The going was soft.
Neil King and Bryony Frost combined to win here yesterday and they were back in the winners enclosure after today’s juvenile hurdle with Nordano (5/2). He won his debut over the sticks ten days ago and put that experience to good use, making all the running, jumping well and willingly finding more at the business end. Catch The Cuban could not catch this fellow, coming in three lengths in arrears.
Speed Company (7/1) won the 2m handicap hurdle for Ian Williams and Tom O’Brien, who rode him with great confidence. Held up until two out, the horse made smooth progress on the long run to the final flight, pinged it and galloped on to a comfortable four and a half length victory. The favourite, Quoi De Neuf, stayed on well in second place.
Ballyoptic (9/2) won the Native River Chase by making all the running, quite a feat under top weight over three miles on this course in soft going. He was joined three out by Lil Rockefeller, but a sketchy jump put an end to that one’s challenge. Ballyoptic, a former Scottish National runner-up, has stamina to burn and he bounded away to a nine-length success under Sam Twiston-Davies. Father Nigel trains the horse and another tilt at the Welsh and Aintree Nationals must be on the cards.
Only three went to post for the 2m4f novice chase sponsored by Low Cost Vans and run in memory of the former racecourse groundsman Robert Mottram. It was a triumph for those who follow the system of the outsider of three. Posh Trish made most of the running, keen and jumping exuberantly, but had nothing more to give when Reserve Tank jumped into the lead three out. Although Jarveys Plate (11/2) made a few small mistakes on the way round and was off the bridle from time to time, he responded to Paddy Brennan’s urgings and ran on well from the second last, taking over at the final fence and finishing four and a half lengths on top of his opponents. Fergal O’Brien trained the winner.
16 runners set off at a good pace for the Silver Trophy in search of a share of the £50,000 prize money put up by Cotswold Stone Supplies. No sooner did the favourite Imperial Aura take the lead approaching the second last than Flash The Steel (16/1) loomed up, going strongly. The favourite flattened that flight and as Harry Skelton drove Flash ahead. A mistake at the last didn’t affect his momentum too much and he kept on well to hold off Champagne Court by two lengths with the favourite a similar distance back in third. Dan Skelton’s charge appreciated the step up in trip to 2m4f.
The Bay Birch (20/1) won the 2m4f chase easily. Second for most of the way, she went ahead four out and was soon clear and in command. Asked for a big one at the last, she put down, but got over it adequately and had plenty of energy left to hold off Caid Du Lin by almost three lengths. Sean Bowen steered her to her eighth career win, all since joining Herefordshire trainer Matt Sheppard almost two years ago. Prior to joining his stable, her record was 0-19.
Several young horses with great potential appeared in the bumper that ended the meeting. They didn’t go a great pace early on, and were still well grouped when Make Me A Believer (8/1) went ahead half a mile out. He kept on pulling our more while four others harried him for the lead. The outsider Kilbrook drew level, but couldn’t go past, and Everglow pinched second. Two necks separated the leading trio. The winner was owned by Caroline Tisdall and trained by David Pipe, a combination successful here yesterday, and it was ridden by David Noonan.