Racegoers enjoyed a fine sunny evening, especially if they had booked in advance at the special admission price of £1.88. The going was good to firm, good in places on the back straight.
A big field of two-year-olds lined up for the opener, over 5f. Whataguy (11/2) got up in the last few strides to deprive the front-running Country Rose by a head. Paul Nicholls doesn’t run many on the flat and this was his first ever juvenile winner. Daughter Megan did the steering.
The one mile race for three-year-olds went to Maypole (7/2), carrying the Cheveley Park colours. He led or disputed the lead from the outset. When Tom Marquand asked for more approaching the final furlong to hold off the challenge of Golden Iris, he wandered left and right but asserted to win by a length and a quarter. Richard Hannon’s colt deserved this after two close seconds, and gave the impression he was only doing enough.
Happy Escape’s record was 2-8 on the all-weather and tonight her first run on turf turned out to be a successful one. In this one mile handicap Timmy Murphy gradually brought her from midfield before driving her into a narrow advantage passing the furlong pole. Zlatan, who’s never far away in this sort of race, had been prominent most of the way and fought back to get within a neck. Neil Mulholland trained the 10/1 winner. Murphy then announced his retirement from the saddle after a career spanning 24 years, which included a Grand National triumph in 2008 on Comply Or Die.
Forcing tactics on Harry Beau (6/1) earned him two second places on his last two starts over 7f and he went one better tonight when dropped back to six. He showed good early speed and reacted well to Fran Berry’s request for more to make all the running. David Evans’s charge was breaking his duck at the 17th attempt. Oeil De Tigre was half a length back in second. Horses trained in Wales or by Welsh trainers filled five of the first six places.
The first race on the round course was a 1m2f fillies handicap. Jim Crowley settled Qaswarah (7/1) in second until asking her to go on over a quarter of a mile out. However, the pacesetting Show Of Force didn’t want to be passed, and resisted gamely until 75 yards out, when Qaswarah got the upper hand. She had half a length in hand at the line. Maid Up finished fast to be a close third and go into lots of notebooks. Ed Dunlop trained the winner for Sheikh Hamdan.
Almost three years after his last victory, the Tony Carroll-trained River Dart (4/1 fav) was fancied to put his best foot forward tonight. He duly won the 1m4f handicap with the considerable assistance of Silvestre de Sousa. He tracked the leading pair till hitting the front three out. Innoko then launched a challenge and they had a good tussle up to the line, drawing well clear of the rest, but the favourite hung on by a neck.
Richard Kingscote rode a treble at Wolverhampton yesterday and his good form continued when he piloted Warren Greatrex’s Bailarico (11/4) to win the two-miler that closed the card. He’d won an Irish point-to-point earlier this year. He made his run up the centre of the track, leading two and a half out. Though there was some tail-swishing when the whip was applied, he responded well to hands and heels and finished two lengths ahead of The Way You Dance, with the others a long way adrift.