Please Note: Next Race meeting is Wednesday 9th October

Changing of the guard at Ludlow’s season finale

Another season drew to a close on Sunday as Ludlow closed its doors to racing spectators until October, but not before another 53 runners had tried their hand, among which at least 47 returned home elated.

If the closure of the season accentuates a changing f the guard, this has never been more apparent than in the training ranks, where more and more father-son partnerships are appearing, precipitated by the ongoing demands of a horse training business and the passing of the baton.

One such baton most recently in handover is that of the much-loved Jonjo O’Neill, who now shares the licence with younger son AJ. One assumes it’s only a matter of time before older brother Jonjo exchanges the saddle for two feet on the ground, but in the meantime, it’s business as usual at Jackdaws Castle. There’s no immediate indication that Jonjo Snr is looking for the pipe and slippers.

The stable finished the season just outside the top ten with over £964,000 in prize money, and their form is still running richly, with a brace of winners bringing the new season tally to 7 in the fortnight since the restart.

French-bred 5 year old Jaxxone broke his duck at the sixth time of asking in the first division of the Sinclair Discovery Handicap Hurdle over 2m5f, whilst earlier in the day, Trapista had continued leading owner J P McManus’s fine Spring in the 2m4f Mortimer Vets Handicap Chase. The tightly bunched field exchanged the lead several times among the five runners, but turning in, you could have thrown a blanket over the field.

Two out, favourite Trapista would have been the least favoured of the four still in contention, with Regal Renaissance looking to regain winning ways and improve on her third here back in February. After the last, and still 2 1/2l down, Jonjo Jnr conjured a terrific run to find a narrow gap between Voice of Calm and Regal Renaissance to land the spoils by a neck in the shadow of the post.

Trainer of runner-up Regal Renaissance takes great pride in sending out winners at his local track, and whilst denied here, didn’t have to wait too long to make amends. Emma Hamilton may not be as famous as her C19th namesake, but she’ll have plenty of beaus pursuing her after a first career success in the concluding novices’ handicap hurdle by 4l under David Bass.

The day had begun with a match race after the withdrawal of Playful Saint on a vet’s certificate from the opening novices handicap chase. Joint favourites Matterhorn and Gower Prince set off at a keen pace, exacerbated by a free-running Gower Prince in blinkers. Five out, Matterhorn picked off the leader, and ran on to the line for a first chase victory. The winning distance could readily have been less; after the last Sam Twiston-Davies wasn’t hard on the runner-up; there will be other days for him surely.

McCain and Hughes are always a team to respect, and the Cheshire trainer joined O’Neill Racing on the scoresheet with his own double, the second winner ridden by Charlie Maggs. Hughes was aboard Bellbird, a graduate from Nicholas Clement in France, who opened his hurdling account with a ready 2 1/2l win going away from Chevington in the 2m novice hurdle.

Charlie Maggs was on board handicap hurdler Collingham for the gelding’s fifth jumps victory in the Welsh Guards Association Handicap over the minimum trip. There’d been little to encourage punters to support the German-bred gelding, last a visitor to the Winner’s enclosure in February ’23. That said, virtually all previous runs were in softer ground.

Another team continuing their excellent 23/24 season is Emma Lavelle and Tom Bellamy. Bellamy rode a confident waiting race on Bethpage in the second division of the handicap hurdle, sitting in behind until after the third last when he unleashed a perfect run between horses to win by 1 3/4l from Mactavish.

Spectators enjoying the warm Spring sunshine will have to find racing entertainment elsewhere until October 9th when we reconvene.


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