Having overcome the recent stormy weather, racing finally returned to Bangor-On-Dee for the Early December Meeting; a first meeting at the track since early October. The feature race of the day came at 12:36pm in the Xenon Handicap Hurdle (Class 3), a day that would feature five hurdle races and one bumper. Ground conditions remained Soft (Heavy in places) throughout the day.


Race 1 – Xenon Handicap Hurdle (Class 3, 4yo+, 2m 3 ½f)

Despite four non-runners leaving just the two to go to post, odds-on favourite Ballygeary (4/7F) didn’t have it all his own way in the opening race of the day, coming home a hard-driven 1 ¾ length winner ahead of the long-absent Skycutter (11/8) in second place. Soon establishing a clearcut lead, Ballygeary set a sedate pace out in front under Peter Kavanagh, with Fergus Gillard never more than a couple of lengths behind aboard Skycutter. Increasing the tempo on the run down to the second-last, Ballygeary maintained the lead over the penultimate obstacle, with Skycutter now scrubbed along as the pair made their way towards the final flight of hurdles. Fluffing his lines over the last, Ballygeary briefly looked to be a sitting duck with a furlong to go, Skycutter gradually reducing the deficit under pressure. However, ridden out to make sure, Ballygeary eventually came clear in the final 100 yards to score in workmanlike fashion for local trainer Donald McCain. A first winner of the season for owners Craig & Laura Buckingham, the pair also had success at Listed level with Medyaf!


Race 2 – Richard Pennell Memorial Handicap Hurdle (Class 4, 3yo+, 2m ½f)

Rolling back the years in tremendous style, Chti Balko (13/2) careered away up the home straight in the second race to score by 18 lengths under the hands-and-heels of Abbie McCain, providing her father Donald with a quickfire double on the afternoon. Another to make all, Chti Balko took the field along at the head of affairs from the outset, racing ahead of course specialist Feel The Pinch (11/8F) for the most part as Heritier (6/1) and Transatlantic (33/1) bided their time towards the rear of the seven-runner field. Negotiating the third-last obstacle safely, McCain nudged along Chti Balko around the home turn, kicking a length clear of Feel The Pinch as the runners gradually became more strung-out on the stamina-sapping ground, with Heritier and Transatlantic fighting over a distant third place as the second-last flight of hurdles loomed. Popping over the penultimate flight and now very much in the ascendency, Chti Balko quickened away smartly in the final furlong of the contest, sailing over the last couple of obstacles in great style to record his first success since 2020; Heritier stayed on well to steal second place from Transatlantic on the line. A grand old horse, Chti Balko has finished in the first four on no less than 26 of his 40 starts under rules for Donald McCain!


Race 3 – Thank You John Burgess Maiden Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m 3 ½f)

Improving for a recent second-place finish behind the well-touted Kintail at Warwick, Clondaw Royale (11/2) cleared away in taking style to take the spoils in Race 3, providing jockey James Smith with his second winner of the season for the very much in form Jonjo O’Neill stable. Always prominent in the leading vanguard, Clondaw Royale travelled comfortably on the bridle through the opening circuit despite some sketchy jumping, the field led by market leader Kilbarry Hill (11/10F) and Idefix De Ciergues (5/1) as the runners made their way down the far side. With the majority under pressure having negotiated the third-last, the leading trio broke clear of the remainder around the turn into the straight, Kilbarry Hill nudged along towards the second-last to maintain the lead. Stalking in behind the leaders, James Smith brought Clondaw Royale out wide after jumping two-out, mounting a strong challenge on the run down to the last, with Kilbarry Hill looking to be treading water. Bungling his way over the final obstacle and edging into a narrow lead, Clondaw Royale readily kept on for pressure in the closing stages, stretching 4 ¾ lengths clear at the line to see off Kilbarry Hill in second place, and Idefix De Ciergues in third. A jockey who started his career over in Ireland, James Smith looks to have a bright future under the wise tutelage of Jonjo O’Neill!


Race 4 – Paul & Janet Mizen Wedding Anniversary Novices’ Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 3, 4yo+, 2m ½f)

Not disgraced in the Grade 2 Sharp Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham last time out, Act Of Authority (1/6F) strolled to an easy success in Race 4, readily justifying market support to bring up his second course victory of the season for Sean Bowen and Olly Murphy. Readily establishing a lead of over 10 lengths over the first couple of obstacles, Act Of Authority was in a world of his own through the first circuit, sauntering even further clear down the far side of the track before being given a breather and allowing Panhandle Slim (9/2) to get within a couple of lengths towards three-out. The pair well clear of Catch Him Derry (50/1) in third place, it briefly looked to be a two-horse race around the home turn. However, stepping it up a notch out in front, Act Of Authority quickly asserted over the second-last, cruising along on the bridle as Sean Bowen had a cheeky glance in behind. Flying over the final obstacle in great style, Act Of Authority was never truly in any danger of losing the race and eventually cantered home to a 7-length success ahead of Panhandle Slim in second and Catch Him Derry in third. Building up quite a partnership, Bowen and Murphy also claimed the Colin Parker Memorial (Listed) at Carlisle recently with smart chaser Thunder Rock!


Race 5 – Yorton’s ‘Postponed’ Conditional Jockeys’ Training Series Mares’ Handicap Hurdle (Racing Excellence Initiative) (Class 5, 4yo+, 2m 7f)

Benefitting for a return to hurdles, the Ryan Potter-trained Shesupincourt (3/1) hosed home by 8 lengths in the penultimate race of the afternoon, providing jockey James Turner with his fifth winner of the season. Keen to race prominently, Shesupincourt soon found herself in the lead under James Turner, holding a narrow advantage through the opening couple of miles ahead of Committee Of One (14/1), with Pipers Cross (15/8F) and Well Paid Soldier (9/1) in their slipstream up the inside rail. Increasing the tempo as the field began to thin out, Shesupincourt maintained a lead of a couple of lengths over the third-last flight of hurdles, her nearest pursuers now firmly shunted along to try and make their challenges around the home turn. With Well Paid Soldier and Committee Of One struggling to live with the heightened pace, Shesupincourt extended her advantage to over five lengths between two-out and the last, and having negotiated both well enough, readily came clear in the closing stages to see off a leg-weary Pipers Cross in second place. Recently winning his first Grade 2 with Jetoile in the Old Roan Chase, this could be a season to remember for Ryan Potter!


Race 6 – Excel Signs Open National Hunt Flat Race (GBB Race) (Class 5, 4-5yo, 2m ½f)

Having won his fifth race of the season aboard Clondaw Royale in Race 3, James Turner repeated the feat in the final race of the day when steering home Guard The Moon (100/30) to a comfortable 10-length success for the Nigel Twiston-Davies yard. Settling in third place, Guard The Moon raced up the inside rail for much of the contest, the lead held by Isholo Du Vivien (9/4) in the main, with Joyeux Mans (8/1) and Gallonray (5/4F) completing the quartet of runners. Pushed along after the four-furlong marker, Guard The Moon looked to be in trouble around the home turn, himself and Gallonray both ridden along having become outpaced as Isholo Du Vivien kicked for home passing the three pole. However, rapidly fading out of contention under firmer pressure, Isholo Du Vivien soon surrendered the advantage approaching two-out, with both Joyeux Mans and Guard The Moon now staying on well for their riders’ urgings. Responding well down the centre of the track, Guard The Moon quickly found himself in a commanding lead passing the furlong pole, eventually kicking on smartly to record an impressive first victory, with Joyeux Mans back in second. The familiar silks of owners James & Jean Potter now back in the Bangor winner’s enclosure, their smart mare Vienna Court also finished third at Bangor before taking a Grade 3 at Cheltenham in 2022!

Race report by Adam Perkins