It was proper winter jump racing at Chepstow today, not only wet and blowy, but also dark. The going was good to soft, but unofficially it was being called “sticky”.
Punters got off to a bad start when one of three 50/1 outsiders, Church Hall, won the first race, a 3m chase. His trainer Emma-Jane Bishop explained that the eleven-year-old had his problems and was difficult to get 100%. Jamie Bargary was niggling him along from some way out and four out he seemed held in fourth place, but he stayed on dourly. In the last hundred yards he dashed past Royal Tara, who’d appeared to have the race in safe keeping, to win by three quarters of a length.
Since finishing third in a bumper here in the autumn Rebecca Curtis’s Lisnagar Oscar (15/8 fav) has run some good races without winning. His turn came today in the 2m4f novice hurdle. Sean Bowen took him into the lead in the long run from the second last, but he faced a strong challenge after the final flight from Dickie Diver. That J P McManus horse was flying at the finish and only failed to get up by a head.
There was no doubt about the winner of the third race, a 3m maiden hurdle, from a long way out. The Philip Hobbs-trained Samburu Shujaa (7/2) made much of the running under Richard Johnson, and once Ivilnoble’s challenge faded after the penultimate flight the leader was left in increasingly splendid isolation. Liosduin Bhearna came out on top in a tight finish for second place, 16 lengths in arrears. The winner will go handicapping next and chasing next season, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him back here in the autumn.
Quite a few promising types lined up for the 3m novice chase. Now McGinty (4/1), back up in trip, ran his best race over fences, leading all the way and jumping well, albeit slightly to his right. De Rasher Counter kept in contention after joint favourite Chef Des Obeaux capsized at the fourth last before being asked a serious question, but McGinty pressed on and won by six lengths. The other market leader, Steely Addition, weakened halfway up the straight and was well beaten in fourth. Tom O’Brien rode the winner for Stuart Edmunds, who already has the Welsh National in mind for him.
The 2m4f mares-only hurdle was a triumph for Jonjo O’Neill father and son, for their Annie Mc (5/2 fav) won it by 18 lengths. She was held up off a strong pace, and though she was well behind on the turn into the home straight the jockey was untroubled. She powered into the lead at the second last and was in command thereafter. Burn Baby Byrne was the runner-up.
Goodgirlteresa (2/1 fav) bolted up at Ffos Las earlier this week and trainer Kayley Woollacott turned her out again to win the 2m4f chase carrying 12 stone 3, most of which was Micheal Nolan. It wasn’t as easy this time, though. Last early, she made steady progress through the field until two out, when she’d reached third place. Nolan then had to ask for more, and not until the final 75 yards did the mare overhaul the leader, Overawed, to score by three quarters of a length.