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Track Talk With Executive Director Phil Bell - 24th August


24 August 2021

Congratulations to dual Coral Welsh Grand National winning jockey Tom O’Brien. On Sunday he rode his 1000th winner in Britain and Ireland when Head On was successful at Worcester. Tom won the Welsh Grand National on Dream Alliance in 2009 and Elegant Escape in 2018. 

He’s just become number one jockey for trainer Somerset Philip Hobbs following the retirement of Richard Johnson. He also rides for Vale of Glamorgan trainer Evan Williams and last year was aboard two of the yard’s big winners – Coole Cody in the Paddy Power Gold Cup and Silver Streak in a Listed hurdle at Kempton Park.  

Overall, Tom had a great weekend having won aboard Umndeni at Newton Abbot on Saturday, a horse is owned by Swansea based businessman Salvo Giannini.  

The David Probert bandwagon rolls on.  His 113th victory of 2021 came on Valley Forge in the Melrose Handicap at York on Saturday, a race worth £64,425 to the winner.  That marked a personal best for a year, achieved in less than eight months.  Having ridden 20 winners in July – his best ever monthly total – he’s beaten that by riding 22 so far in August. No wonder the Racing Post made him the feature of a long article on Sunday. 

Probert took Valley Forge to the front over a quarter of a mile out and kept him there, without having to ask for everything, to hang on from 21 rivals.  The Andrew Balding-trained three-year-old, who won a Ffos Las maiden last time out, was only having the fifth run of his career.  There should be more to come from him.  He is quoted at 12/1 for the Cesarewitch.   

At the other end of the scale, the Nikki Evans Monmouthshire yard had been without a winner since May 2019 until last Thursday’s Wolverhampton meeting.  Her six-year-old gelding Pedro De Styles hadn’t shown much in Ireland before joining her Penbiddle Stables last autumn.  Until Thursday evening he was a 21-race maiden, but in his most recent four starts he was beaten 2, 4, 8 and 4 lengths, so in three of them he was far from disgraced.  Recently the horse has benefited from treatment by a human and equine sports massage therapist.  Improvement at Wolverhampton was hoped for, judging by the market support for him (from 16/1 to 10/1).  Ridden with more restraint than usual in the first half of the race, he came with a great late run to win by a length. 

In a blow for form students, Southwell has run its last race on its Fibresand track, which is going to be replaced by Tapeta.  Some horses couldn’t act on the old surface, so showing winning form there was much more important than at the other all-weather racecourses.  Now all of them are either Tapeta or Polytrack and any difference between those surfaces is minimal.     

Chepstow’s meeting on Bank Holiday Monday 30th August is a family day with all the fun of the fair for children as well as seven races. Racing starts at 2.15pm. Gates open at 12 noon. Family attractions include a dance zone, sizzler ride, dodgems, monster trucks, bungee trampolines, go karts, face painters and DJ. We’ll also have an equicizer from the British Racing School. 

This Friday it’s Ladies Day at Ffos Las. The gates open at 11.20am with the first race off at 1.20pm. There is also a £500 Style Award prize for the Best Dressed Lady. After the last race there is a DJ set with Leigh from The Wave breakfast show.  

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