20 March 2019
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The going dried out to good to soft for this first day of a two-day fixture.
Late Shipment (6/1) came back to form for trainer Nikki Evans, taking the 3m hurdle. The handicapper had given him some respite after two years without a win. Although he was off the bridle a long way out, he responded to his rider Richard Patrick’s encouragement and reached the front after jumping the penultimate fence. He was a good four lengths ahead of Steel Express at the final flight and retained that advantage all the way to the line.
Big Time Frank, who had finished second in his last six races, was clear favourite for the 3m2f chase but could only manage fifth place behind Onurbike (20/1). He hit the front going to four out and galloped on steadily, jumping soundly for Lee Edwards, to repel Kilcrea Bridge by four lengths. John O’Neill (not Jonjo) trains the winner, who was breaking his duck at the age of eleven.
Khage (4/5 fav) faced an easier task in the 2m novice hurdle than in his last race, and duly made all the running for a comfortable victory. Daryl Jacob rode him for Harry Whittington. Antunes finished eight lengths back in second, with the rest of the field well strung out.
The Philip Hobbs-trained McNamaras Band (11/4) had shown ability in his last two outings, both of which were at Chepstow, and everything clicked today with a 10 length success over Mercy Mercy Me. He led three flights out, and drew right away after the final obstacle to suggest that one day he will get further than the 2m4f of this maiden hurdle. It was Richard Johnson’s 181st winner of the season.
A Hobbs double looked likely when his Keep Moving led halfway up the straight in the 2m4f chase, but Robbie Dunne was biding his time on the heavily-backed Inaminna (9/4 fav) and he brought his mount to challenge the leader at the final fence. Though Keep Moving jumped it best, Inaminna ran on strongly to go on to a three length win for the Neil Mulholland stable.
The getting-out stakes, a 2m4f hurdle, was won by the 7/2 favourite Liosduin Bhearna. He was a narrow, but game winner at Ayr a month ago for Fergal O’Brien and Paddy Brennan. Today the same combination had few worries, as the horse led a mile out and steadily increased his lead from the second last, where his closest rival capsized. Tegerek was a nine-length second.
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