Chepstow’s final evening meeting of the season took place in bright conditions and the going was good to soft, soft in places.
The card began with a 1m4f handicap, which went to Ascot Day (6/1), a course and distance winner from Bernard Llewellyn’s yard at Fochriw, near Merthyr Tydfil. When Harmonise coasted into the lead half a mile out Joshua Bryan sent him in pursuit, and after a protracted tussle Ascot Day took a fractional yet decisive advantage in the final furlong. The second’s rider accepted the situation and the winner came in a length and a half ahead.
Llewellyn was just denied in the second race, his Norab finishing half a length behind the William Knight-trained Jacob Cats (12/1). The winner travelled smoothly into a share of the lead approaching the furlong pole, and when Callum Shepherd asked him to assert he battled on gamely. He had gone down by a short head to So Near So Farhh here last time and was better off at the weights tonight with that one. So Near finished third, so the form worked out correctly.
Love Destiny (7/2 jt fav) took the 7f contest for two-year-olds, staying on well to grab the lead in the last few strides and win by three quarters of a length under Dane O’Neill. He was lucky, for Space Ace seemed to have the race in the bag, only to lose concentration passing the exit from the paddock about 75 yards out. Not only was defeat snatched from the jaws of victory, but he also lost second place, a position filled by Junvieve. It was Mark Johnston’s 189th winner of the season.
The next was a 6f handicap with a big field. Conditions were right for Ron Harris’s Fantasy Justifier (11/2), who won a similar event here a year ago and was handicapped to repeat the feat. Kieran O’Neill was in no hurry on him to begin with, but he made steady progress on the outside and got the better of a battle with the fast-starting Mad Endeavour in the final furlong to win by a length and a half.
The small-field 6f handicap went to Gambon, another to benefit from a patient ride. Charles Bishop kept him on the rail, travelling strongly, and when push came to shove a furlong out he stormed into a clear lead. The front-running Alicia Darcy kept on well to keep second place, but was almost three lengths in arrears. Eve Johnson Houghton trained the winner.
Kate Leahy, rider of the runner-up in the preceding race, gained swift compensation with the victory of her old friend Major Valentine (13/2) in another 6f handicap. Five of her six career wins have been on John O’Shea’s consistent sprinter – all at generous odds of between 13/2 and 22/1. The Major made all the running and had the race sewn up two out, going on to score by three and a half lengths. It was his 13th win, off his highest ever mark, and his fourth at Chepstow. Smokey Lane was in second place throughout.
Ryan Tate rode the winner of the last race at Salisbury at 5.30 and made it to Chepstow in time to ride the winner of its finale at 8.15, a 5f dash. This was John Spearing’s A Sure Welcome (11/4), who was slow leaving the stalls and looked held in third place half a furlong out. Suddenly he found a great turn of foot and zoomed to the front, leaving Somewhere Secret half a length back in second.