A crowd more than 6,000 strong descended upon Bangor-On-Dee for the 2023 edition of the Wrexham Lager Wrexham Family Day, on an afternoon where the sun rapidly altered ground conditions from Good, to Good (Good to Firm in places). The feature race of the day came at 3:20pm in the Wrexham Lager F Jones Initiative Award Handicap Chase (Class 4), a race dominated by very familiar connections.
Race 1 – Wrexham Lager Bootlegger Maiden Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m ½f)
Messrs Hughes and McCain were swiftly on the board on Family Day, the pair scoring with hot 2-7F Waspy, who ran out an impressive winner of the first race. Quickly into a healthy lead, Waspy set the early pace under Brian Hughes, travelling strongly ahead of Faded Fantasy (10/3) for much of the contest, both rivals well clear of the remainder of the field. Making their way over the third flight from home, Waspy and Faded Fantasy soon extended even further away from the chasing pack with just the final two flights to negotiate, On Cloud Nine (25/1) the only challenger making any sort of ground from the rear. Travelling ominously well as Faded Fantasy began to feel the pinch, Waspy kicked on over the second-last, smoothly building up a very healthy lead on the run to the last. Hopping over neatly enough, Waspy ran on nicely when in the clear and eventually recorded an eased down 3 ¾ length victory from Faded Fantasy in second, and On Cloud Nine in third. Owned by The Good Stock Syndicate, the winning owners have had their fair share of recent success, recently taking the Goffs UK Nickel Coin Mares NHF Race (Grade 2) at Aintree with rising star Dysart Enos!
Race 2 – Buck Pub Handicap Chase (Class 4, 5yo+, 3m)
Showing a dramatic upturn in form, the second race of the day went the way of Captain Tommy (6/1) under Robbie Dunne, the nine-year-old bringing home the prize for trainer Ian Williams in tidy style. Leading the way for much of the race, Oceans Red (9/2) travelled powerfully for Henry Brooke at the head of affairs, holding a clear advantage over Robin Des Fox (13/2) in second, the pair clear of Coo Star Sivola (13/2) in the early stages. Coming down the back stretch after a heavy tumble from Heart Of A Lion (11/4F) reduced the field, the contest looked wide open with just three left to jump. Travelling nicely for Ben Jones, Robin Des Fox took advantage of a bad jump from Oceans Red to take a slender lead after the third last, the pair all the while stalked by Captain Tommy in third place, with no other threats looking likely from those in behind. As Robin Des Fox came under stern pressure from his rider, Captain Tommy loomed large over the second-last, quickly taking control under Robbie Dunne with the new leader looking certain to claim the spoils. Negotiating the last with the minimum of fuss, Captain Tommy extended away up the straight in taking style, going on to score by 13 lengths ahead of Robin Des Fox in second, with Coo Star Sivola a further 12 lengths behind in third. After a couple of fairly recent near misses at Bangor-On-Dee, having finished second twice in late 2020, Captain Tommy finally got his day in the sun at a track he clearly enjoys!
Race 3 – Remembering Kitty Warburton Handicap Hurdle (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m ½f)
Not content to stay away from the winners’ enclosure, Hughes and McCain struck again in Race 3 when recent course winner Hidalgo De L’Isle (5/2) scored nicely by 1 ¾ lengths, holding off El Borracho (15/8F) in a gripping finish. Prominent from the outset, Hidalgo De L’Isle raced in a share of second place alongside Cooper Beach (7/1) for the most part, the pair situated behind clear leader and annual money-spinner El Borracho (15/8F) as the runners negotiated the first ¾ of a mile. The field well bunched after the third-last, El Borracho held a narrow lead as the field swung into the home straight, stalked on his outside by a pushed along Hidalgo De L’Isle as Copper Beach came under a strong ride. Timing his run to perfection under Brian Hughes, Hidalgo De L’Isle took the initiative over two out, quickening into a clear lead on the run down to the final flight. Although a spirited rally from El Borracho threatened to relinquish the new leaders’ chances over the last, Hidalgo De L’Isle had too much in the tank and ultimately saw off the challengers in comfortable fashion; El Borracho held on for second, 8 ½ lengths clear of Copper Beach in third. One to keep an eye on throughout the summer jumps scene, Hidalgo De L’Isle is now two from two at Bangor-On-Dee!
Race 4 – Wrexham Lager F Jones Initiative Award Handicap Chase (Class 4, 5yo+, 2m 4 ½f)
Seemingly unstoppable on Family Day, Hughes and McCain brought up a quickfire treble in Race 4 courtesy of a smart performance from Heartbreak Kid (5/1) who went on to score by a cosy 6 lengths at the line. Another McCain inmate to race prominently, Heartbreak Kid sat in second place for much of the first circuit of the contest, racing behind clear leader The Paddy Pie (25/1) but ahead of the remaining trio Gabriel’s Getaway (6/5F), Norley (3/1), and Gouet Des Bruyeres (9/2). The quintet all seemingly in with some sort of shout as they made their way towards the second-last fence, it was Gabriel’s Getaway who rose marginally in front upon negotiating it, The Paddy Pie now struggling to maintain the early gallop and gradually losing touch with the remainder. However, no sooner had Gabriel’s Getaway taken the lead than he had been joined for it, challenged on his outer by Heartbreak Kid and Gouet Des Bruyeres, the former now building up a head of steam under Brian Hughes. Quickly asserting into the lead having soared over the final obstacle, Heartbreak Kid extending away in emphatic style in the closing stages, Gouet Des Bruyeres unable to live with the leader’s turn of foot and eventually finishing 6 lengths in arrears, with Norley coming home in third. On the winners’ podium for both Heartbreak Kid and Hidalgo De L’Isle, winning owner Tim Leslie’s familiar colours were also carried to victory at Bangor-On-Dee by former jumps star Peddlers Cross!
Race 5 – Wrexham Lager Export Novices’ Handicap Chase (GBB Race) (Class 4, 5yo+, 3m)
A dramatic four-runner race in which only two completed the course, Landen Calling (10/3) came home in front under a cool ride from Paddy Brennan, taking the spoils for trainer Fergal O’Brien by over 7 lengths. A field tightly packed from the outset, Supervisor (3/1) set the pace at the head of the quartet under Ned Fox in the early stages, followed on his outer by Landen Calling and Paddy Brennan, with Inishbiggle (5/1) and The Wrekin (5/4F) bringing up the rear. With The Wrekin not on a going day and Supervisor eventually weakening away on the run down to the third last, it was left to Inishbiggle to pose any kind of threat to Landen Calling around the home turn, the pair kicking well clear after jumping three-out. Although seemingly with the race in the bag due to how well he was travelling, the task was made considerably easier for Landen Calling after Inishbiggle took a crushing fall at the second-last, bringing down The Wrekin in the process and leaving Supervisor in a clear second place. Easily in command, Landen Calling had the luxury of slowing up before the last, and soon popped over nicely before readily kicking clear in the final furlong, with Supervisor 7 ½ lengths down at the line. Another winner on the CV of Fergal O’Brien, the Cotswold trainer scooped two Grade 2’s last season, including the Unibet Persian War Novices Hurdle with Accidental Rebel!
Race 6 – Wrexham Lager Pilsner Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (Class 5, 4yo+, 2m 3 ½f)
A race depleted by non-runners, Race 6 was eventually won rather stylishly by Balnarald (9/2) under Jamie Hamilton, the 7-year-old breaking his duck over hurdles by 3 ¾ lengths for trainer Alison Hamilton. Always towards the head of affairs, Balranald either sat in first or second throughout the first circuit, followed closely by King Arise (7/2) and Armattiekan (13/2) in a well bunched field. With the well punted Luna Dora (11/4F) struggling to live with the increased tempo after the third-last, Balranald kicked on with Armattiekan rounding the home turn, the pair sneaking a couple of lengths clear of Hashehadhisoatsyet (3/1) with just the two flights to negotiate. Grinding away in a slender lead, Balranald jumped the second-last with aplomb, the 7-year-old hurdles maiden responding well to pressure as Armattiekan plugged on in hot pursuit. Not for passing, Balranald pricked his ears on the run down to the last and after hopping over well, kicked further clear up the run-in to score in tidy style, with a bunch finish for the minor money going the way of Armattiekan in second place and Hashehadhisoatsyet in third. With victory aboard Into Overdrive in the 2022 Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase (Class 1) also in the bag, Jamie Hamilton won’t forget the 2022-23 season in a hurry!
Race 7 – Bangor-On-Dee Mares’ Open National Hunt Flat Race (GBB Race) (Class 5, 4-5yo, 2m ½f)
Showing a marked improvement from a tenth-place finish at Wincanton in February, Tique (15/2) ran out a nice winner of the final race, keeping on by 2 lengths under Daniel Samson for trainer Seamus Mullins. Well covered in midfield throughout the contest, Tique was flanked either side by Presently (5/2) and Queen Of Hindsight (11/1) in the early stages, the lead dominated by market leader Sunday Soldier (6/4F). As the majority came under pressure before the turn into the straight, little change had been made to the running order until Tique made notable headway on the outside of runners to challenge for second place 3f from home, Sunday Soldier still holding sway up top. However, travelling well enough with the final two furlongs in sight, Tique gradually nudged his way into a narrow lead under Daniel Samson, edging past Sunday Soldier who couldn’t maintain the early pace. Stretching away with the minimum of fuss, Tique kept on impressively in the closing stages, eventually seeing off the staying-on Emma Hamilton (18/1) by 2 lengths, with early pacesetter Sunday Soldier back in third place. No strangers to joining forces, Mullins and Samson also combined in 2017 when taking the Grade 2 Scottish Champion Hurdle with Chesterfield!
Race report by Adam Perkins