It was ideal weather for Bank Holiday Monday Family Raceday, sunny and very warm. The going was good, good to firm in places. The huge crowd enjoyed a variety of races for ponies and dinosaurs before the thoroughbred action on the track.
The first was a good little 6f handicap. Major Valentine (11/4 jt fav), second and first in this race before, won it again. He was soon in the lead with his familiar pilot Kate Leahy. A Sure Welcome gained inexorably in the final furlong, but the Major hung on by a short head, completing a hat-trick and scoring for the 14th time in the process. John O’Shea trains him 20 miles away in Gloucestershire.
Until today, Chepstow was the only flat course where Richard Fahey was yet to train a winner. He completed the set when Diamond Shower (11/10 fav) won the 6f seller for apprentices. Hellovaqueen set a good pace on the stand rail but could not repel the favourite, who drew right away in the final furlong to win by three and a half lengths under Sean Kirrane. After some spirited bidding at the auction, Diamond Shower was sold for £7,000 to John Flint.
A few of Archie Watson’s odds-on two-year-olds have been turned over at Chepstow this year and Space Ace was a culprit for the second time. She would almost certainly have won here last time but for jinking when noticing the paddock exit well inside the final furlong. Sent off at 2/5 for today’s 7f race, she made most of the running, but by the furlong pole she was unable to hold off Gert Lush (11/4). This Roger Teal filly, in receipt of seven pounds, improved on her previous two outings to win by three quarters of a length, continuing the fine form of her trainer and her jockey Rossa Ryan.
Some promising types lined up for the 7f novices stakes for two-year-olds. The Clive Cox-trained grey Stoweman (13/8 fav), second in both his races to date, took a narrow lead from the outset. He increased his advantage in the penultimate furlong and Hector Crouch was able to steer him to a fairly comfortable length and three quarters victory. Bodyline, who veered about a bit, occupied second place throughout.
John Spearing’s mare Captain Sedgwick (3/1 fav) recorded her second course and distance win in the 7f handicap. Ridden by Jane Elliott, she gained a slight advantage two and a half furlongs out and held on to it grimly. Against the stand rail, Miss Icon almost drew level, and on the outside Jupiter was never far away, but the Captain asserted in the final 150 yards to win by a neck.
Sir Mark Prescott made one of his rare visits to the course today, having sponsored the day’s principal event, the Sir Gordon Richards Trophy, a two mile race commemorating the 26-times champion jockey who at a two-day meeting here in 1933 rode eleven consecutive winners. Only three competed in today’s race, all of them recently successful. Sir Mark trained the favourite, Distant Chimes, who was chasing a five-timer, but the spoils went to the outsider of the trio. Charlie D (4/1), trained by Tom Dascombe, was much better off with the favourite compared with their previous encounter. He set a fair gallop and led all the way to furnish Jane Elliott with a double. Distant Chimes drew alongside two out but couldn’t go on. Graceful Lady, who had dropped back into third, rallied against the far rail and closed to within a neck. The favourite finished only a length behind, so everyone had a run for their money.
Finally, a tricky 1m4f handicap. Kasuku, a filly trained by Ralph Beckett, was blinkered for the first time and tipped by the Racing Post. Despite these positives she drifted in the betting out to 12/1, only to win convincingly. Rob Hornby drove her into the lead halfway along the back straight. With three furlongs to go, she was still ahead and others were being scrubbed along. She lengthened her lead in the penultimate furlong and was in full command well before Celtic Classic plugged on to finish second, a length and a quarter away.