Season off and running in record time
Marlborough trainers dominated the two steeplechases on Ludlow’s season – opening card today as Alan King and Emma Lavelle both bagged a winner.
King, still chuckling from the Group I success of Trueshaan at Longchamp on Saturday, took the Margaret Roberts Remembrance Handicap Chase under Alexander Thorne, making good use of his 5lb claim on the Max McNeill owned mare to win with a little in hand by 1l. The King stable is clearly in excellent form; from his past 6 Jumps runners, the versatile Barbury trainer has saddled 3 winners and a further 3 in the frame.
Emma Lavelle is a near neighbour to King, training less than 2 miles over the hill in Ogbourne Maizey in the yard vacated by retired handler Peter Makin. The move from Andover was ostensibly a brave one, requiring an uplift in numbers and success to justify such a property investment. But it’s paying off in spades. Runswick Bay, breaking his maiden novice chase tag in the H R Smith Novices Limited Chase, may not be of the same quality as Paisley Park or De Rasher Counter, but he’s learning to jump fences, even if today’s outing was something of a baptism of fire for jockey Tom Bellamy, after numerous mistakes. The time of 4m 47.10 was a new course record, indicating that this week’s rain is far from enough to encourage more chase entries for the November 4th fixture.
Fergal O’Brien continued his daily dance through the winners, with a 54th winner of the season that has him once again leading the Trainers’ Championship. By his own admission, these early winners are of a lower grade than big Saturday handicaps, but this is a well-trodden path by other trainers making their way to the big time. John Jenkins and Martin Pipe both recorded extraordinary totals in the early months of the season to draw attention to their talents, and it would appear an inevitability that the O’Brien record will soon include horses to compete at the highest level on a more consistent basis.
Meantime, Ludlow regulars were delighted to row in behind 100/30 French-bred Une de la Seniere, a ready 4 a/2l winner over the Philip Hobbs – trained, McManus – owned Gavrocheka in the Teresa’s Boutique Handicap Hurdle.
The afternoon opened with an eventful maiden hurdle in which Epic Pass blundered at the first and his rider lost an iron missing out the second before he could right himself. Among the remaining six runners, Mister Allegro was handy throughout, possibly just as well, since several of the runners were either unsighted or trod a less than straight path through the last 3 hurdles. Running straight and true allowed Mister Allegro to gain a 1 3/4l lead at the post to bring up a third winner of the new term for Anthony Honeyball and a seventh for jockey Rex Dingle.
Ground conditions resulted in just three setting out in the Des & Dot Evans Memorial Novices Hurdle, and a pedestrian pace made this the slowest race of the day by nearly half a minute on a day when most times were fast. Isabel Williams, riding for father Evan, eventually gave way to Canford Light’s enthusiasm to go faster and made a decent pace from a mile out, and always had the race in the bag despite the runner-up’s urgings up the straight, to justify his 1/10 favouritism.
Donald McCain has enjoyed a busy summer with over 30 Jumps winners already and a clutch of Flat winners too, and he and conditional Peter Kavanagh teamed up to continue the good work in the Mad Monk’s Calm Down & Let Go Conditional Riders Handicap Hurdle, breaking another course record in so doing. The seven year old mare Sea The Sea has been knocking on the door throughout her previous 6 runs this calendar year, and finally made good making all and winning unchallenged by 16l.
Another to make all was Jedd O’Keefe’s Martha Willow, put under rather more pressure than McCain’s winner 30 minutes earlier to win the concluding bumper by a neck from Milton Harris’ Fire Lake. Given the form of the second’s stable, don’t rule out this one winning her bumper pretty soon.