Over 5,000 racegoers descended on Bangor-On-Dee for Wrexham Lager Family Fun Day, on an afternoon filled with sunshine, stylish winners, and plenty of family-friendly entertainment. The ground conditions remained Good until the sunny weather, which reached a peak of 21°C, dried the ground out to Good To Firm in places after the sixth race of the afternoon.
Race 1 – Wrexham Lager Welsh Liquid Gold Trophy ‘National Hunt’ Maiden Hurdle (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m ½f)
Favourite-backers got off to a flyer in the first race of the day as the Donald McCain-trained Kerosine Light won by an impressive 9 lengths from fellow stablemate Copper Fox back in second place. Eager to get to the lead early, Kerosine Light (the 8/13 Favourite) took no prisoners and set a strong gallop at the head of affairs under Brian Hughes, ahead of eventual third-place finisher Kracquer, and the awkward, bold-jumping Mr Biggs. As many of those in-behind started to feel the pressure, creeping closer from rear division was Copper Fox, having his first start under National Hunt rules. Ridden by Peter Kavanagh, Copper Fox made late headway towards the third-last flight of hurdles, only to be left behind by Kerosine Light who kicked clear over the last to quicken away in style and record his first success under rules. After a superb 2021-22 jumps season, Hughes ended the year as Champion Jockey (his second title) with 204 winners, and Donald McCain finished the season with 155 winners (a personal best) and over £1 million in prize money; an outstanding achievement for both parties!
Race 2 – Wrexham Lager Export Challenge Handicap Chase (Class 4, 5yo+, 3m)
More joy for local trainers and jolly backers soon followed as the 5/4 Favourite Go On Chez ran out a stylish winner of the second race by an ever-growing 7 ½ lengths under the reliable steering of Craig Nichol, for the joint-trainer partnership of Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero. Paseo, trained by top operator Venetia Williams, led for much of the contest under Harry Bannister, ahead of Good Man Vinnie and Dawn Raider, with Go On Chez bringing up the rear. Having jumped awkwardly for the majority of the race, Nichol slowly coaxed the SP Favourite into contention rounding the final turn with just three left to jump. As Good Man Vinnie and Dawn Raider began to crack, the complexion of the race soon turned on its head as Go On Chez swept to the front to lead at the second-last fence, and soon scooted clear up the home straight to victory, ahead of Paseo back in second place. This victory marked the fourth win in a row over fences for Go On Chez, who already looks a stable star for the newly formed training partnership of Oliver Greenall & Josh Guerriero, based locally at Stockton Hall in Malpas, Cheshire. We wish Oliver and Josh the best of luck in their new venture!
Race 3 – Captains Bootlegger 1974 Pilsner Sprint Handicap Hurdle (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m ½f)
The in-form Sean Quinlan sprung a minor shock in the third race as his mount Hurricane Ali blew the opposition to a 4 ¾ length victory in a very competitive handicap hurdle for the grade, at odds of 9/1. Throughout much of the race, Orchard Grove led the field of 10 runners under Richard Patrick, with Hurricane Ali also racing prominently, alongside Parisencore under Danny McMenamin. In mid-division, Flinteur Sacre, brother to superstar chaser Sprinter Sacre, raced keenly under the reigns of Jonjo O’Neill Jr, with the recent Grade 3-placed filly Addosh racing in rear, together with the 3/1 Favourite Charlie’s Glance, who eventually pulled-up due to the sharp nature of the track. As the field came to the third flight from home, Parisencore took the lead from the bustled along Orchard Grove, with Hurricane Ali travelling strongly in-behind. Within a couple of strides of jumping the second-last, Sean Quinlan seized the opportunity for victory and sent Hurricane Ali to the front, quickly lengthening away Parisencore and Addosh, who simply could not reach the new leader. Fresh off the back of a personal best tally of 78 winners in the 2021-22 season, including winning the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster on Windsor Avenue, Sean Quinlan looks set for another stellar season!
Race 4 – F Jones Initiative Award Handicap Chase (Class 4, 5yo+, 2m 4 ½f)
The market principles came to the fore in this 5-runner handicap chase, with the most-fancied of them prevailing by just half a length; the Gary Hanmer-trained 8-year-old Costly Diamond, the 5/6 Favourite. Making all from drop of the starters’ flag, Costly Diamond went straight to the head of affairs under 7lb claimer William Shanahan, closely followed by the joint 2nd Favourites Armattiekan and Yccs Portocervo, with For Jim and Getaway Luv in touch behind these. There was little change to the running order throughout the race, but as the tempo increased before the second-last (catching For Jim and Getaway Luv by surprise), Costly Diamond was soon challenged by the rallying Armattiekan under Brian Hughes. Not to be denied though, Costly Diamond stuck his neck out gamely and stayed-on with purpose in the final furlong of the straight to hold off the persistent challenge of Armattiekan, with the weaking Yccs Portocervo a further 11 lengths behind in third. Another trainer fresh from a personal best winner’s total in 2021-22, this provided a first Bangor winner of the season for local trainer Gary Hanmer (based in Tattenhall), who managed a solid five winners at Bangor-On-Dee last year. Congratulations Gary and good luck for the 2022-23 season!
Race 5 – Wrexham Lager Blue Mini Keg Cup Novices’ Handicap Chase (Class 4, 5yo+, 3m)
The fifth race of the day saw the second-biggest winning margin of the meeting when Daranova brought up a quick double for Gary Hanmer by obliterating the field of 5 runners by a massive 18 lengths at odds of 9/4, under promising claimer Kevin Brogan. Disputing the lead for much of the race, Fly Smart and Steal A March took the field along at a steady gallop, followed by Red Royalist, Daranova, and the 7/4 Favourite Pennyforapound in rear. Jumping awkwardly on more than one occasion, Steal A March (owned by Her Majesty, The Queen) needed to be rousted along after the third-last by Jonjo O’Neill Jr to keep up the pace with new leader Daranova, who quickly distanced himself from the field. Feeling the pinch for most of the contest, Pennyforapound was very laboured in an eventual fourth place finish, but this was not the case for Daranova who scurried away up the home straight under Kevin Brogan, leaving the toiling second place finisher Steal A March to hold-off Red Royalist by 4 ¾ lengths back in third; Fly Smart pulled-up after making a respiratory noise. Brogan, who rode 47 winners in just his second full season as a jockey in 2021-22, also won the valuable bet365 Handicap Chase (Class 2) at Sandown last season, to date his biggest career success.
Race 6 – Racing Welfare Mental Health Awareness Week Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (Class 5, 4yo+, 2m 3 ½f)
Final flight drama in the sixth race provided Brian Hughes and Donald McCain with a double on the day when Into The Sunset was left clear at the last to win by 21 lengths at odds of 7/2, ahead of the 11/4 Favourite Outback Frontiers back in a rather fortunate second place finish. Prominent from the outset, Into The Sunset mostly raced in-behind the early leader Grand Knight, closely followed by Hey Joe and Tre A Peni in mid-division, with Outback Frontiers racing in amongst the runners in rear. Two flights from home, Brian Hughes made his move on Into The Sunset who soon kicked a few lengths clear of Hey Joe and the keeping-on Dellboy Trotter, with Tre A Peni weakening coming towards the final hurdle. Upon jumping it, with Into The Sunset over a length clear, Hey Joe was asked for a big leap in second place by Jonjo O’Neill Jr but crumpled on landing and fell to the turf, bringing down Dellboy Trotter in the process and leaving Outback Frontiers and Tre A Peni to fill the places; fortunately, both stricken horses and jockeys were quick to rise and sustained no serious injuries. A relatively new recruit to the McCain yard, victory indeed belonged to Into The Sunset, who on his final start in Ireland for trainer J A Berry finished in fifth place behind the very talented Willie Mullins bumper horse Redemption Day; a recent second place finisher to superstar Facile Vega in the Punchestown Champion Irish National Hunt Flat Race (Grade 1). Not a bad form line!
Race 7 – Goldford Stud Mares’ Open National Hunt Flat Race (Div I) (Class 5, 4-6yo, 2m ½f)
A field of 8 mares and fillies went to post in the seventh race, with the ground conditions now Good To Firm in places after an afternoon of sunshine. This didn’t brighten Jonjo O’Neill Jr’s afternoon though, as his mount Touchy Feely (the 6/4 Favourite) could only finish second to the game Magical Maggie (9/2 Second Favourite), trained by Alastair Ralph. Travelling strongly throughout, Magical Maggie was not to be denied the lead under 10lb claimer Jay Tidball, a tactic they were unable to employ when running in the Grade 2 Mares Bumper at Aintree’s Grand National Festival last time out. Not far away in second place for most of the way, Touchy Feely led the remainder of the pack, followed by Gamester’s Girl and Treefinch, amongst others. As the field swung into the home straight, Jay Tidball made the race-winning manoeuvre aboard Magical Maggie by pushing the mare over 3 lengths clear at the 2f pole, eventually running out 1 ½ length winners, with the second-place finisher Touchy Feely hanging in behind, ahead of the staying-on Treefinch in third place. A familiar name to fans of Bangor-On-Dee, Alastair Ralph looks to have a smart mare on his hands, and maybe one who could replicate fellow stablemate Damut I’m Out, who has already won 3 races at Bangor!
Race 8 – Goldford Stud Mares’ Open National Hunt Flat Race (Div II) (Class 5, 4-6yo, 2m ½f)
A case of seconditis was beginning to break out in the Nicky Henderson Bangor squad as his Lady Durbanville finished a well beaten 5 lengths second to the Irish raider Rocco Bay (11/8 Favourite) in the final race of the afternoon. Leading from the very beginning, Jonathan Burke had to keep a tight rein aboard the keen-going Rocco Bay, with the chasing pack headed by Happy Index and Missed Vacation, ahead of Lady D’Arbanville and Gentle Life towards the rear. On his only ride of the day, Paddy Brennan attempted to make headway 3f from home aboard Gentle Life, only to be short of room on the rail behind the market principals and begin to run green under 2f from the finish. This was a trait also followed by Lady D’Arbanville who whilst trying to challenge Rocco Bay at the 2f pole, ran green in behind the SP Favourite and ultimately could never quite reel in the runaway leader who stayed on strongly in the run up to the winning post. Trained in Ireland by Peter Fahey, Rocco Bay provided Jonathan Burke with yet another winner on British soil, having won both the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle aboard Not So Sleepy and the Grade 2 Dawn Run Mares Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival aboard Love Envoi during the 2021-22 season. Peter Fahey also had a season to remember in 2021-22, having trained Royal Kahala to win a Grade 2 and a Grade 3, as well as Suprise Package to win the Grade 3 Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle; congratulations Peter!
Race report by Adam Perkins