A few sunny intervals brightened an otherwise cloudy afternoon, when 96 horses competed for seven races. The going was good to soft on the chase course, soft on the hurdles track.
The first race was a 3m hurdle. Last month’s course and distance winner Solstice Star (7/2 fav), raised only three pounds by the handicapper, was allowed to make all the running. Richard Johnson took him along at a steady pace and enjoyed the uncontested lead. Quickening up in the straight, Juge Et Parti was the only one who could stay with the leader, but was never nearer than at the post, when two and a quarter lengths separated them. Martin Keighley was the successful trainer.
Johnson followed up quickly by winning the first division of the 2m4f maiden hurdle for Philip Hobbs. This was on board Deise Aba (13/2), a £66,000 purchase by Trevor Hemmings. He cantered into the lead at the third last but didn’t have things all his own way, for dual bumper winner Queenohearts challenged him all the way to the line. There was a length and a half between them then, and they were ten clear of the rest.
The second division came to an exciting conclusion with three horses jumping the final hurdle in unison. The grey Duke Of Kilcorral (9/2) got up in the last few strides to beat the long-time leader Nativegetaway a neck, with the 100/1 shot Shaman Du Berlais a head away. Noel Fehily had saved precious ground by sticking to the inside on the winner, who comes from the Neil Mulholland stable. In an abrupt change of luck for the Hobbs-Johnson team, their McNamaras Band was close behind this trio when slipping up as they approached the final flight.
The 3m novices chase went to Glen Forsa (4/1 fav), who was making his debut over the larger obstacles. Mick Channon’s six-year-old pulled his way to the front with a circuit to go and stayed there. He could be called the winner early in the home straight, even after his sole mistake at the penultimate fence. Idling after the last, he rallied for Jonathan Burke when Garrane and Barbrook Star closed the gap and had two lengths to spare at the line. It was a taking performance.
None of the trio of clear market leaders in the 2m novices hurdle could finish in the first three. One of them, Philip Hobbs’s Ebony Gale, was in the lead when falling at the second last. It’s unlikely that he would have beaten his stablemate Zanza (16/1), who was going well almost alongside at the time. Zanza streaked away, carrying Micheal Nolan to a 14 length victory over Vards and Dark Episode.
There was another dramatic departure at the end of the 2m4f chase. The Kings Writ led five out and had the race in the bag, only to get the last all wrong and come down. Flaming Charmer (17/2) had made most of the early running and he was now left in the lead. Harry Cobden kept him going to hold off the late thrust of Beallandendall by a length and three quarters. Colin Tizzard has been among the winners lately and this was another one for the Dorset yard.
The Evan Williams-trained Radical Archie (12/1), off the course for seven months since a Uttoxeter victory, picked up where he left off in the 2m4f handicap hurdle. He led into the straight, was passed three out by Rose Of Cimarron but stuck on bravely to regain the lead on the run-in. Adam Wedge drove him out to score by a length and a quarter. Mere Anarchy, not beaten far into third here two weeks ago, filled the same berth today.