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Doubles apiece for cricketing buddies Bailey & Hobbs

Given their recent runs of form, one might reasonably have expected Venetia Williams and Henry Daly to figure at their local fixture, but in the event, the wizard of King’s Caple was conspicuous by her absence, and the Daly horses knocked on the door without quite finding the Winner’s position.¬†Instead, honours were largely shared among 3 Gloucestershire stables barely 10 miles apart from each other.

The mood in Kim Bailey’s yard this morning was chirpy, with the boss away on holiday in Sri Lanka until Monday. Many of the staff, including my former secretary at Cheltenham Racecourse, Maddie Webster, Kim’s long-suffering racing secretary, think he should stay away longer, such has been the string of winners this past 10 days. A televised winner of the Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot on Saturday, and a hurdle winner at Taunton on Tuesday were merely an aperitif for a double at Ludlow, all within 45 minutes.

Mr Grey Sky, in the ownership of Peter Andrews, made nearly all the running in the Michael Lumsden Memorial Handicap Hurdle, outpointing Jonjo O’Neill’s A Distant Place. It hadn’t looked a likely result at the first when the winner was anything but fluent in what looked a keen pace.

The next race on the card was the grandly titled Prince of Wales Handicap Steeplechase, although no-one can actually remember when our future king last attended Ludlow. Under the well-chosen guidance of Gina Andrews, Bobhopeornohope justified 4/1 favouritism over Henry Daly’s Jimmy The Digger by 6l, to the obvious delight of owner John Periss. This amateurs chase filled well, as indeed have Ludlow’s two hunter chases to date, in contrast to many others where the horse population has been stretched thin.

January or February are normally months when best buddies Bailey and Nigel Twiston-Davies and/or Philip Hobbs head for the slopes to ski. Ski-ing has been off the agenda since Covid, but this triumvirate were all successful at Ludlow, and their stables are in fine form too. The Twiston-Davies father-son partnership were the first off the blocks in the opening Mike & Belinda Birthday Maiden Hurdle with Lord of Cheshire, who denied Hobbs a treble by just 1 1/4l.

It didn’t take long however for the Minehead maestro to get on the scoresheet: 30 minutes in fact as Little River Bay picked up the EBF Mares Novice Chase qualifier next up, whilst Hobbs and his jockey Tom O’Brien had to wait till the concluding Bitterley Races 2nd April Maiden Hurdle for the second leg of their double. Pulling Stumps, an apposite cricketing analogy for the cricket enthuiast that is Hobbs, was a comfortable winner.

Jonjo O’Neill is another trainer in good form at present, and you can be sure he will have a handicap good thing tucked away for Cheltenham in 3 weeks. However, there are 361 other days of the year to train winners, and with five in contention at the last, Jonjo can’t have been counting his chickens. Of the five, Glencassley fell, and Judicial Law and Groom d’Oudairies for Christian Williams, slugged it out over the final 150 yards. Half a length separated them at the post, with Judicial Law just getting back up to prevail in the day’s tightest finish.

If that was a disappointment to Williams, then he was readily able to brush it off in the next when Jack Tudor conjured several lengths of extra acceleration from Duneomeno in the Farm & Garden Machinery Novices Handicap Chase over the minimum trip to see off Letsbeavenue by 2l.

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