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Track Talk - 18/01/22


18 January 2022

We are delighted that all customers will be allowed to return to Chepstow for our fixtures from February onwards following last Friday’s Covid update from the Welsh Government. The Government has issued a new roadmap to get back to alert level zero providing Omicron cases continue to decline. 

It means the first meeting where all customers can return will be on Friday 4th February. 

At this stage rules regarding social distancing and tables of six inside will also be removed. Covid passes or a negative lateral flow test in the previous 24 hours before the fixture will still be required.

Nicky Henderson grabbed the headlines for saddling four winners at Kempton at the weekend and the resurgent James Bowen (photographed) rode two of them.  He is now on the 50 mark for the season, well ahead of his totals in the last two seasons and is closing in on his second best total of 58, with a chance of reaching the 72 he accumulated in 2018/19.

His first winner at Kempton was the classy Mister Fisher, who was on one of his going days, given his ideal conditions of good going and two and a half miles.  He ran out a convincing winner of the four-runner Silviniaco Conti Chase.  The Ryanair at Cheltenham beckons, followed by a trip to Aintree.  The horse is owned by our leading sponsors, James and Jean Potter.

Later Bowen piloted his stablemate Caribean Boy to victory in the three mile chase, deputising for his regular pilot, the injured Daryl Jacob. He could be back at Kempton for a more valuable race next month.  

James’s brother Sean scored earlier on the card on the hurdler Ree Okka for Harry Fry.  His easy success prompted connections to aim for a race at Haydock next month and a Grade 1 at Aintree in April.

David Probert’s 12th winner of the new year came in Lingfield’s finale on Saturday and number 13 followed at Southwell on Sunday, riding Ducal Crown for Andrew Balding.  Probert is the leader in the All-Weather Jockeys Championship, his 43 winners giving him a lead of 11 over Hollie Doyle.

Last week the death was reported of “Taffy” Thomas, Wales’s leading lightweight jockey in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.  

Thomas was born in Caernarvon in 1945.  He didn’t have a racing background, but because of his size his father wrote to trainers in Newmarket seeking an apprenticeship.  He started there in 1961 and went on to ride 878 winners, the final one in 1990.  His full name was Myrddin Lloyd Thomas, but English tongues could not cope with that first word and it was inevitable he would be nicknamed “Taffy”.  In racecards he was always M L Thomas. 

The minimum weight in most of that era was seven stone seven pounds (minus the allowance that apprentices could claim).  Thomas could make that easily and he was soon in demand for the lowly-weighed runners in big handicaps.  He won the Lincoln, Chester Cup, Northumberland Plate, Stewards Cup, Cambridgeshire and Cesarewitch.  He rode no Classic winners, but came close in 1969 when finishing second in the 2,000 Guineas on Tower Walk.  His best year was 1977, when he partnered 98 winners.  He was principally associated with Ryan Jarvis, whose grey sprinter Absalom was perhaps the best horse he rode.

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