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

Irish show their hand as Curling doubles up

Ludlow has rarely been a venue patronised by the Irish, but such is their dominance of the racing scene presently, and such is the challenge of trainers in Ireland avoiding balloting in their own over-subscribed races, that they are increasingly spreading their wings to the UK mainland even for mid week racing fixtures. We’re well used to seeing Messrs Mullins, Elliott, Cromwell and de Bromhead plundering Saturday prizes, less so Monday-Friday.

A first visit to Ludlow by Tipperary – based Sam Curling then produced a productive result, with a double that handsomely paid for the 300 mile journey and 7 1/2hour trip. Le Boulevardier, winner of a Point-to-Point at Stradbally in April ’22, improved an otherwise undistinguished career record in the 3m Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle with a 4 1/2l win over Matt Sheppard’s Newtonian. Curling followed up in the concluding mares bumper when 4 year old Metkayina broke her maiden by 2 1/4l, both winners ridden by Phillip Enright.

Sam is a product of the Irish Point-to-Point scene. A former rider, he has successfully developed Skehanagh Farm into a pre-eminent pre-training, training & breaking yard, producing pointers for sale and youngsters ready to graduate to top honours, like Summerville Boy and, most recently, Marine Nationale. He achieved a first earlier this year when Angels Dawn won the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase at the Festival.

Bested by Curling in the handicap hurdle, Matt Sheppard tasted success of his own earlier in the card when 5 year old Little Pi just got up on the line to win the shorter Flowfit Handicap Hurdle over 2m. The Sheppard team is in fine form presently, with 9 winners to date, and headed for a personal best. Rarely blessed with big money owners, Matt, wife Nicky and son Stan, make a close-knit team to be respected in country racing.

Richard Johnson is no stranger to the winner’s enclosure, having ridden hundreds of winners around Ludlow in a long and distinguished career. But owning horses is something of a novelty, and it got off to an excellent start in the opening maiden, when his first syndicate horse Imperial Saint embarked on a new career under Rules following a win at Toomebridge in May. Ridden by Micheal Nolan, and trained by old gaffer Philip Hobbs and partner Johnson White, Imperial Saint ran a bit green, but could do no worse than win.

Henry Daly is normally to be relied upon for a winner at his local track, but he had to give way in the feature race to Wroughton trainer Robbie Llewellyn, whose Feel The Pinchput in a competent performance to win the feature Flowfit handicap Chase by 6l from the Daly runner Lime Drop. Llewellyn is a product of the British point-to-point scene, having ridden pony races and a few point-to-points before working with Tim Vaughan and David Brace in South Wales. Toby Wynne was in the plate.

Another bellwether for Ludlow is the father-son pairing of Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies. never ones to trumpet their performance from the rooftops, the Naunton stable lets its results do the talking, and Safe Destination’s 1 1/4l win in the novices’ handicap chase was their 40th winner of the season, maintaining a 5th place in the Trainers’ Championship.

Another trainer well used to being prominent in the end-of-season listings is David Pipe. The Pipe yard has a long history of producing top flight winners and beating the handicap in big races. Expect to see them rise up the rankings with Saturday races coming thick and fast now. Meantime, the everyday winners continue to flow, as Only Fools 1/2l victory in the mares handicap chase proved. the partnership with Jack Tudor is also developing well, Tudor, like Llewellyn, being a product of the thriving South Wales racing scene.

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