A sunny day with plenty of competitive racing proved to be a winning combination for those in attendance at the 2024 Family Day at Bangor-On-Dee. Two of the main highlights came at 2:15pm and 2:50pm for a pair of good-quality Class 4 handicap chases, on a day in which ground conditions started off as Soft (Good to Soft in places), before changing to Soft (Heavy in places) after Race 4.


Race 1 – Weatherbys nhstallions.co.uk Novices’ Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 3, 4yo+, 2m 7f)

Bidding to become Champion Jump Jockey for the first time, Sean Bowen again reduced the deficit behind leading rider Harry Cobden after a power-packed finish aboard Haiti Couleurs (2/1) in Race 1 brought up his 150th winner of the campaign, bringing home the spoils for Welsh trainer Rebecca Curtis. Happy to let market rival and recent course winner Grand Albert (6/5F) make the running out in front, Bowen kept Haiti Couleurs in second place for the duration of the near 3m contest, the pair steadily breaking away from the remainder of the field before turning into the straight for the final time. Under stern pressure on the approach to the second-last Haiti Couleurs briefly looked in trouble down the home straight, still with a couple of lengths to make up on Grand Albert. However, staying on strongly after a lovely leap over the last, Haiti Couleurs gradually wore down the long-time leader to go on and score by a length at the line. Halving also recently scooped the Grade 1 JRL Group Liverpool Hurdle aboard Strong Leader at Aintree, Sean Bowen continues to be in flying form!


Race 2 – Mayor Of Wrexham Novices’ Handicap Chase (Class 5, 5yo+, 3m)

Backed-in off the boards into favouritism, market leader Dusautior (9/4F) was made to pull out all the stops under Toby Wynne in the second race of the day, going on to record his first win under rules by bravely seeing off the valiant Caeruleum (4/1) by a neck at the finish and secure first prize for local trainers Oliver Greenall & Josh Guerriero. Always prominent, Dusautior jumped well in the main under Toby Wynne, often in a share of the lead with the likes of Tara Cove (14/1) before managing to pull clear of the field with Le Grand Vert (17/2) upon jumping the third-last fence. Rounding the turn into the straight and ridden along for pressure, the leading pair were soon joined either side by Caeruleum and Nine Nine Nine (3/1) over two-out, the quartet clear of the remainder on the run down to the last. Staying on well and looking sure to win, Caeruleum led over the final fence but was soon foiled by a plucky Dusautior in the final 100 yards, the market leader rallying strongly up the far rail to steal a narrow victory under a determined ride. Hitting more than 50 winners for the second season in a row, the Greenall-Guerriero team are a force to be reckoned with!


Race 3 – Dragonbet Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap Chase (Class 4, 5yo+, 2m 1 ½f)

Wasting no time in getting back on the board, Toby Wynne secured a quickfire double for the Greenall-Guerriero stable in Race 3, guiding home Lipa K (11/5) to a ½ length victory on his chasing debut in a decent contest for the grade. Adopting different tactics to his earlier winner, Toby Wynne was content to keep Lipa K towards the tail-end of the field for most of the race, sitting no more than five lengths off early leader and previous course winner Grain d’Oudaries (7/4F) throughout. The field still tightly bunched as they concertinaed around the home turn for the final time, no less than six horses were still in with a fighting chance on the charge down to the final two obstacles, Grain d’Oudaries grimly holding on to a slender lead as Lipa K scythed through the pack to challenge. Stealing the advantage over two-out, Lipa K soon had the long-time leader well and truly off the bridle as the final fence loomed, and with another spring heeled leap, Lipa K readily secured a tidy victory for connections ahead of a staying-on One Fine Man (14/1). Donning the same colours as former Grade 1-winning hurdler Barizan, Lipa K looks another good recruit for owner Peter Conway!


Race 4 – Wynnstay Handicap Chase (Class 4, 5yo+, 2m 4 ½f)

Poaching his way round under a confident Nick Scholfield ride, Cerendipity (6/1) produced the most impressive performance of the day when scooting clear by 14 lengths to take the spoils in Race 4 for trainer Sue Smith and Mrs Aarke Clarke. Placed on his previous two starts at the track, market leader Ballycamus (7/2F) led the way through the opening two miles of the contest, marginally ahead of No Tackle (6/1) and Whodini (4/1), with Cerendipity always a length or two behind the leading trio in mid-division. With the five remaining runners never able to land a blow, the leading quartet kicked clear after the third-last fence, Ballycamus now joined for the lead by No Tackle as Whodini began to flag under pressure. Stalking the leading pair on the approach to two-out, Cerendipity travelled ominously well for Nick Scholfield, the jockey almost motionless in the saddle as his opposition riders got to work aboard their mounts. Already in the ascendancy when No Tackle came to grief at the final fence, Cerendipity sailed over the last with aplomb, rapidly coming clear up the home straight to score in empathic style, with Ballycamus a mile back in second. Always a good sight in the winner’s enclosure, the colours of Mrs Aarke Clarke were most famously carried to victory by the sadly ill-fated triple-Grade 2 scorer and 2021 Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Midnight Shadow!


Race 5 – Camden Stout Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m ½f)

Fresh from a successful handicap hurdle debut at Ludlow on his last start, Balhambar (5/6F) continued the good work in Race 5 when going on to record a smart 3 ¼ length victory under Paul O’Brien for budding trainer Harry Derham. With the lead held by Best Turned-Out winner Torneo (4/1) in the early stages, Balhambar settled nicely in midfield alongside recent Newbury scorer Bucephalus (9/2) as the field made their way down the far side of the track. Briefly shaken up as Bucephalus cruised up to challenge for the lead over three-out, Balhambar travelled strongly around the home turn, circling his rivals into a threatening position with just two flights of hurdles left to negotiate. A length behind Bucephalus over two-out, Balhambar was soon in full flight under Paul O’Brien on the run down to the last, showing an impressive turn of foot to kick clear in the final furlong, quickly putting the race to bed in a matter of strides after a nimble leap over the last. With another victory in the bag, Harry Derham has now trained over 40 winners in just his second season!


Race 6 – weatherbysshop.co.uk Handicap Hurdle (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m 3 ½f)

Another day, another Donald McCain victory at Bangor-On-Dee, this time in the shape of progressive hurdler Galunggung (15/2), the 8-year-old impressive at the finish to secure the win under reigning Champion Jockey Brian Hughes. Sitting a couple of lengths off early leader and stablemate Malpas (20/1), Galunggung steadied into a nice rhythm under Hughes through the first couple of miles, keeping company with the likes of Thankyourluckystar (12/1) and Yealand (9/2) as the tempo increased with under half a mile let to go. The majority of the field now coming under various degrees of pressure after jumping the third-last, Malpas was soon a sitting duck around the home turn, challenged on his outside by both Thankyourluckystar and Galunggung before two-out, the pair responding well for their riders’ urgings. Upon jumping the flight, it was Galunggung who saw it out best though, hopping over the final two obstacles before staying on stoutly in the final furlong to record his second victory in a row. Familiar with the Bangor-On-Dee winner’s enclosure, owners Nigel Dunnington & David Shaw also scored here with fellow McCain inmate Lady Tremaine in 2021!


Race 7 – Nightingale House Hospice “Junior” National Hunt Flat Race (GBB Race) (Class 4, 4yo, 2m ½f)

Despite a stuttering campaign of late due to unforeseen illnesses in his yard, Nicky Henderson at last had something to smile about when Doctor Kildare (6/4F) rounded off the afternoon with a taking victory under Sam Twiston-Davies in Race 7, the 4-year-old coming home 1-length to the good at the finish. Remaining in a prominent position through the opening fractions, Doctor Kildare was kept towards the inside rail by Twiston-Davies, a couple of lengths behind early leaders Romeo Foxtrot (28/1) and Bongo Man (28/1), with Mystical Moon (17/2) a further length back under double-seeking Brian Hughes. The complexion of the race only truly began to take shape upon passing the 3-furlong pole, a whole host of horses in with a chance in what looked sure to develop into a sprint finish as Romeo Foxtrot began to feel the pinch. Nosing into a slender advantage two furlongs from home, Doctor Kildare quickly found himself in a perfect position on the run to line, and despite a late rally from Mystical Moon, the leader readily saw out the final furlong to claim his first victory. A fruitful combination when teaming up, owner Walters Plant Hire Ltd and rider Sam Twiston-Davies also won the Grade 2 Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton this season with Lump Sum!

Race report by Adam Perkins