Gripping finishes a just reward for valuable Christmas card
Ludlow led the return to racing after the big freeze, and the ambitious ┬ú100,000 card was rewarded with the largest fields in many months as 79 runners faced the starter in the seven races. And there was much for long time race sponsor Tanners Wine Merchants to toast as many of our leading stables showed their well being in preparation for a busy Christmas racing season.
Ross-on-Wye handler Venetia Williams was one such, eagerly anticipating three well fancied runners in two major races over Christmas. L’Homme Press├® is favourite for the King George at Kempton, part of a two-pronged assault on the mid season Grade I that also includes Royal Pagaille, whilst Quick Wave is well fancied for the Coral Welsh Grand National the following day.
However, as any trainer will tell you, you take one winner at a time in this precarious profession, and the Sean Quinlan-ridden Desque de L’Isle did it the hard way in the feature Tanners Handicap Chase, leading from 3 out, and holding off the fast-finishing Bun Doran by a nose at the line. Another 5 yards and connections of Bun Doran would have been raising a glass instead. Readers of this column will recall Desque de L’Isle won a similar handicap here a month ago in a miserable 3 runner field, but this was a much harder-fought finish.
Bun Doran has been a loyal servant to Tom George’s yard, whose UK season has been somewhat muted by his high standards. George’s focus to date has been in France where his record is much improved, to the benefit of his owners’ bank balances. There should be a race in Bun Doran this season on that performance.
However, he had no reason to go back home dissatisfied, as 30 minutes earlier, 7 year old Jobesgreen Lad under Jonathan Burke made short work of the 2m 4f chase, only needing to be pushed out to win by 3 1/4l from the outpaced Judex Lefou to notch up the Slad trainer’s 9th winner of the term.
Snow and frost are any trainer’s worst enemy, on a par with owners who don’t pay their bills. But beyond the normal frustration at the cancellation of racing, snow in particular makes the management of a team of corned-up thoroughbreds especially taxing. Skating around on ice and snow on a frisky youngster is enough to take years off one’s life, so the enthusiasm with which Kim Bailey’s team shovelled snow off their all-weather surface at Foxcote, near Andoversford, last week may have had an element of self-preservation around it. All that work meant no horse went without exercise throughout, and the work paid off with a gutsy success from Bobhopeornohope in the first chase of the day, over 3m.
Between the third and second last, any one of four could have won this, but as Bobhopeornohope asserted under David Bass, pushed by the Sam Twiston-Davies – ridden Guy, it was a grey, Volcano, under Ben Jones, who challenged most vigorously, only losing a neck at the line. Another great finish to have spectators clutching for the heart attack pills.
Henry Daly has enjoyed a winner at each of Ludlow’s fixtures this autumn excepting the first, when he fielded no runners, and he kept up that record when amateur Alice Stephens clocked her fourth winner of the term in the opening Alpha Aggregates Handicap Hurdle for lady amateur riders with Regal Renaissance, who held on to win by 1/2l from Venetia Williams’ Burrows Lad. Regal Renaissance hadn’t shown much in 3 previous runs, so an enquiry was unsurprising. However, the combination of receiving weight and a lady rider might be considerations, and as an aside, this was a creative piece of race-framing, given the volume of lady amateurs, with a well-populated field.
Three novice races punctuated the rest of the card, of which perhaps the most notable was the closing Tanners Wines EBF Hurdle qualifier, in which 5 year old Pembroke made it two from 3 this season for Dan and Harry Skelton. He looks more than capable of progressing.
Tom O’Brien teamed up with boss Philip Hobbs to win the 9 runner Fillies Juvenile Hurdle with comfortable winner Georgi Girl, whilst the Seven Barrows winner machine turned out its 43rd winner of the season to date when Touchy Feely won another Mares races for novice hurdlers under Nico de Boinville.