Please Note: Next Race meeting is Thursday 21st March 2024

A day for our young riders to shine in the gloom

The cold spell relented in time for 56 horses to face the starter in the seven race card on soft ground this Wednesday, a day that showcased some of the sport’s aspiring riders.

The day opened with a handicap hurdle for conditionals, sponsored by longstanding firm G C Rickards. The spoils were landed by 5 year old mare Kimberley Eve, breaking her duck at the fifteenth attempt for trainer Simon Earle. Rider Conor Ring is among the more experienced conditionals riding presently, just 2 winners off losing his claim altogether. It was a well executed race, the mare in rear until 6 out, then taking closer order to lead 3 out and score by 11 lengths from the Henry Daly – trained Regal Renaissance.

Claiming riders filled the first three places in the next too, in itself a Claiming Hurdle, in the name of Marsh Commercial. This time around it was Daire Davis, attached to Fergal O’Brien’s Gloucestershire yard, that prevailed on Uncle Arthur after a persistent finish in which he ground out a victory over Iddergem under Lewis Stones. Davis was returning from a 21 day suspension incurred here at Ludlow for careless riding, but his recent record for O’Brien is faultless: 3 winners, 3 runner-ups and a third place from 11 rides for the Ravenswell Farm handler this term.

The first two drew well clear of the third, and the winner was claimed by James Owens for £5,000, a handy purchase as more races should come his way in this modest class.

The third of three winners for our young riders came in the day’s most valuable race, a £20,000 Mares Handicap Hurdle, which attracted just 5 runners, and produced a bloodless victory for the Alistair Ralph – trained Magical Maggie, under claimer Jay Tidball. The six year old mare has a very decent record, winning 6 of her 11 starts, including here last April. Tidball, by contrast, is still in the early stages of his apprenticeship, this being his 22nd career winner, but last season was a breakthrough season for him, with 15 winners.

Continuing the theme of claiming riders, the closing bumper produced a tenth career winner for amateur A J O’Neill, youngest son of legendary trainer Jonjo. The Jackdaws Castle outfit is a proper family business, headed by Jonjo and wife Jacqui, AJ as assistant and elder brother Jonjo Jnr as stable rider. On this occasion, 4 year old Ted’s Gift made it third time lucky on his third racecourse appearance after placed efforts at Worcester in the Spring.

The youngsters didn’t have things all their own way however. Team Skelton landed the day’s feature staying chase, the Corrie Cup over 3m with Hidden Heroics needing all of Harry Skelton’s expertise to win by 3/4l, when 3 out, any one of four might have landed the spoils. The Skelton team are getting into top gear, albeit that Harry’s chances of landing another riders’ championship look slim.

Henry Daly can always be relied upon to send runners to his local track, and, narrowly touched off in the second, went home with a winner in the T Preece Timber Merchants Novices Handicap Chase, over 2m4f. Miltiades, in the ownership of the Eternal optimists, evidently cognizant of the travails of Jump horse ownership, landed a first career win at the 13th attempt under stable rider Richard Patrick, justifying 3/1 favouritism.

Landing the odds at the same price in a similar chase over half a mile shorter distance, Adam Wedge and Evan Williams teamed up to win the mad men at Prostate Awareness Handicap with Doctor T J Eckleburg, who doubled his chase tally following a similar contest at Worcester in September.

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