Please Note: Next Race meeting is Wednesday 24th April 2024

Longsdon at the double in the gloaming

Cotswold trainer Charlie Longsdon stole the honours at yesterday’s evening meeting with a 77-1 double late in the card to bring his new season tally to 3 winners from just 7 runners.

Alghazaal on only his second run over fences, showed a clean pair of heels under Kielan Woods to the rest of the field, asserting at the third last and instantly putting distance between him and his rivals. A pull-up at Stratford a little over two weeks ago had not drawn the attention of backers, but the style of his 8l win here drew rather more admirers.

The Longsdon team was on the mark half an hour later too with Miss Applejack in the first division of the bumper, which also produced the evening’s closest finish. Bradley Roberts had sent Miss Applejack on 3 out, and she managed to hold on by a rapidly disappearing head from Time In The Sun, from Henry Daly’s yard. The second is sure to be winning soon, given the turn of foot in the closing stages.

The summer season has been a mainstay of Longsdon’s success these past few years, where they yard has passed ┬ú500k in prize money each time. Last season, the yard’s win and place ratio was 56%, from 26 individual winners. Whilst a majority of his team are focused on the winter months, the Oxfordshire yard can always be relied upon for 3 or 4 winners each month between now and September.

Another large yard that keeps a summer team going is Jonjo O’Neill. Jackdaws Castle is a large property to keep empty, but as Jonjo remarked to me a week ago at the Cotswold Vale Farmers point-to-point, a winner of three races last summer barely covered 2 months training fees. In short, whilst our summer races provide entertainment and complete the fixture list obligations, they are no great path to riches.

Nevertheless, Jonjo doubled his tally for the season when son and assistant trainer A J rode Gwennie May Boy to a 2 1/2l victory in the opening Lorna Brooke Hurdle for amateur riders, leading from pillar to post.

The evening’s feature contest was the G C Rickards Handicap Hurdle, in which the Evan Williams – trained Lipa K capitalized on the lack of a penalty for winning at Warwick on March 30 to win again, coming from off the pace to land the prize by 1 1/4l under Conor Ring.

Soft ground has enabled plenty of yards that would be roughing off horses for their holidays to keep going. Summer runners from Alcester’s Skelton HQ have been few and far between these past two summers, but Jet Plane is one to relish these conditions, making all to win the J M Construction Handicap Chase over 3m under Bridget Andrews, 4 1/2l to the good over Copperhead from Joe Tizzard’s Dorset yard. Tizzard is the subject of the latest sports documentary, created by yard sponsor Coral, which has followed the trainer and his team over the season. it will prove to be fascinating viewing.

Less than a fortnight ago Brian Hughes was crowned Champion jockey a third time, despite a conspicuous absence from the major meetings like Cheltenham. Would that the rest of us had his energy; his work rate is impressive: nearly 700 rides each season. Three rides here resulted in a single winner, Ooh Betty, who justified favourite’s odds of 6/4 to land the spoils in the SAS Utilities Mares Maiden Hurdle for Dorset trainer Ben Clarke.

Clarke is just one of a phalanx of small trainers somehow making a living from the sport’s everyday meetings. 22 winners in the past 5 seasons mean that days like these are to be treasured. Like hens’ teeth, they are few and far between.

Winners have been even more sparing for trainer Julian Smith, based in Tirley, Gloucestershire. 5 winners from less than 100 runners in the past 5 seasons do not a rich man make. Fine By Her produced a fine turn of foot to win the White Hall Flagstones Handicap Hurdle by 1 1/2l under Harry Bannister.

A more frequent visitor to the winner’s enclosure is Fergal O’Brien, who carried on where last season left off when Hard As Nails┬á won the second division of the bumper by 2 1/2l under Jack Hogan.

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