A day for novices and maidens is always of interest
The bizarre February weather has been playing havoc with trainers’ plans, but 51 horses participated in Ludlow’s penultimate fixture before everyone descends upon Cheltenham in a little more than a fortnight to enjoy the good ground.
The bedrock of the sport is amidst the amateur division, where lads and girls learn how to ride and train in Point-to-Points before graduating to the mainstream, both in Ireland and Britain. Ludlow is proud to retain its strong roots with the amateur division through our calendar of hunter chases and races like the HRH Prince of Wales Handicap Chase, feature of yesterday’s card, and restricted to amateur riders.
Gina Andrews is amateur only in name, being the most proficient lady rider between the flags, and she enjoyed a textbook ride on the Milton Harris – trained Seigneur des As, jumping boldly and winning by 2 1/2l from Head To the Stars with his head in his chest. Although not an early adopter of a winning streak, this being his 14th attempt before breaking his duck, the five year old looks capable of winning again, and Harris told the Racing Post the French-bred may well turn out again in short order before the handicapper punishes him for this run.
The largest field of the day faced the starter for the Suzuki ATV Maiden Hurdle over the minimum distance, where Alistair Ralph’s Welsh Charger showed good speed despite some haphazard jumping to win by 5l in a 15 runner field. Third placed Rocco Royale from Jackdaws Castle was running in like a train at the end and will certainly be winning before long. Shropshire-based trainers like Ralph are thin on the ground, but can always be relied upon to produce a good horse, and this was the 16th winner of the term for the Bridgnorth-based Ralph and a 46th for rider Jonathan Burke.
Ralph saddled a runner inn the longer version of the same titled race, over 3m, later in the afternoon, but if he was hoping for a similar performance, disappointment was to come, as Prince de Juilley came off a 16l third to pillar to post winner Great Snow, ridden by Danny Mcmenamin for Neil Mulholland. By contrast to the 15 runners in the 2 miler, this race only produced 5 to face the starter, of which just 3 finished. Mulholland is headed for a good end to the season, with over ┬ú500,000 in prize money in the kitty and a near half-century of winners chalked up already.
Another enjoying a promising season is Donald McCain, whose Patient Dream justified 7/4 favouritism to win the Michael Lumsden Memorial Handicap Hurdle over 2m. The finish was an altogether closer affair than the aforementioned races, and Patient dream was perhaps lucky to hold on, the second’s rider, James Davies, having dropped his stick. Just a neck separated the two at the line, with 13l to the third.
Winning on the flat, over hurdles and fences is a talent shared by a surprisingly small cadre of horses, and Effernock Fizz was the latest to be elected in the opening Farm & Garden Machinery EBF Mares Novice Chase qualifier. It was a rare Irish runner at Ludlow from Cian Michael Collins, and the distance travelled was an easy clue for punters who made the mare a short-priced 2/11 favourite. She never alarmed her supporters in the select 3 runner field, hacking up by 4 3/4l.
In the Novices Handicap Chase under the same title later in the afternoon, Alexandra Dunn produced Estate Italiana, under Jamie Brace, to win comfortably by 4l. More to come here I should say.
The last produced a 10 runner field which on paper should have produced a competitive finish for a 0-120 handicap hurdle. The result was rather different as the William and Angela Rucker- owned Quoi de Neuf kept a close handle on the leaders, took it up 3 out, and won comfortably by 10l.
We’re back again on March 2nd.