07 January 2019
With rain in short supply across much of the country, big fields were the order of the day on the good to soft (soft in places) ground.
The first race was a mares-only hurdle over 2m. Love Lane won for the second time in a row for conditional jockey Jason Dixon, who was having his first ride at Chepstow. Taking up a midfield position, he hugged the rail on the 4/1 joint-favourite and made serene progress to lead approaching the second last. Empreinte Reconce tried to challenge before the final flight, but Love Lane scooted away to win by five lengths. Henry Oliver was the successful trainer.
The old firm of Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson took the 2m maiden hurdle with Melchior King (5/1). He took a narrow lead halfway along the back straight, outjumped a couple of challengers two out, and had the race won on the run-in despite wandering a little. Unusually for a Hobbs horse, he wore a sheepskin noseband, which was understandable considering his high head carriage. Saint De Vassy, the two-length runner-up, may appreciate further in time.
Venetia Williams has her string in good nick and the 3m novice chase went to her maiden Top And Drop (4/1), ridden by Charlie Deutsch. The mare mystified connections last time out, when having to be pulled up, but this time there were no worries, for she was always prominent and nosed ahead coming into the straight. She retained that narrow lead all the way to the line, despite four opponents swarming round her, and giving the impression she was just doing enough. Three-quarters of a length away, Definitely Vinnie finished with a flourish to deprive Sandhurst Lad of second place.
Next came a 2m4f novice hurdle, which was won by trainer Jeremy Scott and jockey Matt Griffiths. Dashel Drasher was made the 5/6 favourite as a result of being placed behind some above-average novices and set off in the lead. He increased his advantage on the far turn and was never threatened afterwards, coming home for an easy six-length victory over Tarada, who carried the familiar Trevor Hemmings colours. The Becher Chase winner Walk In The Mill was having his first run over hurdles at the age of nine, and he finished a creditable third over a trip much too short for him.
The 2m chase produced the finish of the day, with two market leaders drawing well clear of their rivals from three out. Air De Rock was going slightly the better of the pair and had a small lead, but Doc Carver (2/1) kept plugging away and hit the front with half a furlong left. Then it was Air De Rock’s turn to rally, and he closed up to join Doc Carver on the liner. The Doc gained the verdict by a short head, ridden by Jeremiah McGrath, which completed a double for Henry Oliver.
Finally, a 2m4f hurdle, in which the Trevor Hemmings silks led throughout. Cloudy Glen (10/11 fav) was different class to his opponents and enjoyed an increasingly healthy lead coming up the home straight. His jockey Hugh Nugent eased him right down at the end so that he won by only two and a half lengths from Carrigmoorna Matt, but really he was good value for ten. This was Venetia Williams’s second winner of the afternoon.