A huge crowd came to sun-kissed Chepstow for its Grand National day meeting, with an after-race concert starring Bad Manners. The going was heavy, soft in places. The fourth fence in the back straight and the third last hurdle in the home straight were omitted.
The first race was a 2m4f novice hurdle. Drewmain Legend (20/1) chased the favourite Hellovagood from three out and though not far behind her pursuit seemed hopeless, as he was hanging while the leader was running straight and going better. Andrew Tinkler’s persistence on the challenger paid off as they collared Hellovagood with 50 yards to go and won by three quarters of a length. It was Berkshire trainer Ali Stronge’s first winner at Chepstow.
On paper the five runners in the 2m4f chase were closely matched and they raced in a bunch until the home straight. Matt Sheppard’s Modeligo (5/2 fav), ridden by his son Stan, outjumped Gustav three out and stayed on strongly to hold off the hat-trick seeking Beallandendall by five lengths.
In the 2m novice hurdle a mulish display by the odds on favourite Shivermetimbers left the way clear for the penalised course and distance winner Billingsley (5/4) to follow up. Lee Edwards took him to the front at the third last and wasn’t hard pressed to score by almost four lengths from Seniergues. The winner is trained near Ludlow by Alastair Ralph.
We watched February’s course winner Thomas Patrick make all the running to win the 3.40 at Aintree, ridden by Chepstow’s racing ambassador Richard Johnson. The Welsh National could be a target for this soft ground-loving stayer next winter. Tom Lacey, his trainer, is in red hot form and he took our 3m novice chase with Kimberlite Candy (11/4 fav), who made nearly all the running. Cucklington was upsides from the fourth last to the second last, but a mistake there spoilt his chance and the leader ran on well to win by ten lengths.
Ali Stronge and Andrew Tinkler completed a double in the 2m handicap hurdle with Ardmayle (5/1). Hollywood All Star had gone five clear entering the straight but could not go with the winner when he breezed past three furlongs out. Ardmayle relishes heavy ground and he powered on to a six length victory.
After we saw Tiger Roll hang on to win the Grand National – “a rat of a little thing” according to his owner Michael O’Leary of Ryanair fame – we had a very different conclusion to our sixth race, a 3m chase. The Debra Hamer-trained Looks Like Power (13/2) could be called the winner a long way out, travelling well under Stan Sheppard. He coasted into the lead three and finished 17 lengths ahead of Zanstra to achieve his second course and distance success with ridiculous ease. He will need to run again soon to avoid being clobbered by the handicapper.
There were plenty in contention in the bumper coming up the straight, but when Fergus Gregory asked Garretstown (5/1) for an effort a furlong and a half out he quickly bounded clear. Olly Murphy’s debutant ran out a convincing eight length winner. Nikap flew home to finish second, giving his young rider Tom Buckley some recompense for having an uncomfortable ride, having lost his irons early in the race.