With the addition of two Pony Club races to the already bumper eight-race card, racegoers were in for a treat at Bangor-On-Dee’s annual Family Fun Evening. The feature race of the evening arrived at 5:00pm in the Rachel Jones Memorial Handicap Chase (Class 3) in which three previous course winners went head-to-head. Ground conditions remained Good throughout a mostly sunny day.
The Dragon (TV and Film) Studios Racecourse Series Pony Races:
Race 1 – 7f for 138cm and under
Race 2 – 1m 2f for 148cm and under
Family Fun Evening got off to a very exciting start with two Pony Club races taking place prior to the first scheduled horse race. Race 1 was won by 14-year-old Myla Coppins aboard Maesteg Ruth, and the second race was won by 15-year-old Mason Paetel aboard It’s Fatherted. Many congratulations to both jockeys on their victories. We look forward to seeing their riding careers progress!
Race 1 – Family Fun Evening Novices’ Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m 3 ½f)
McCain and Hughes were once again very quickly back in business upon their return to Bangor-On-Dee, taking the first race of the day in emphatic style with last-time-out course winner The Big Jetaway (4/9F), the 7-year-old successfully reverting to hurdles to notch his third win in a row. Adopting his usual running style out in front, The Big Jetaway travelled strongly at the head of affairs as the runners made their way through the first circuit, followed closest of all by an in-form The Galahad Kid (9/4) under Paddy Brennan, this leading pair racing clear of Izzy’s Grey (125/1) in third as No Anxiety (11/1) repeatedly jumped right-handed and began to struggle off the back of a 597-day absence. Rounding the final bend having negotiated the third-last, The Big Jetaway looked set to fight out the finish with The Galahad Kid, both runners jumping the penultimate flight almost in unison. However, kicking on strongly under more stern pressure from Hughes, The Big Jetaway found extra approaching the last and despite hitting the top bar, the 7-year-old had enough left in the tank to draw 17 lengths clear at the line with The Galahad Kid finishing an eased down second. Having brought in over £1.33 million in prize money during a successful 2022-23 season, Donald McCain is on track for another sterling year having already trained 25 winners so far this season!
Race 2 – Rachel Jones Memorial Handicap Chase (Class 3, 4yo+, 2m 1 ½f)
Admirably versatile over fences, hurdles, and even on the flat, the ever consistent El Borracho (100/30) powered home to record his fifteenth victory under rules in the second race of the evening, with Toby Wynne doing the steering for the local Oliver Greenall & Josh Guerriero stable. Another front-running specialist, El Borracho sailed into a dominant early lead under Toby Wynne through the opening mile of the contest, tracked for a long while by previous course winners Sir Tivo (5/2) and Geromino (6/1), the field completed by Al Zaraqaan (13/8F) who was seeking a five-timer, and 12-year-old veteran of the bunch Mercian Prince (18/1) who eventually pulled-up. Going along smoothly and in complete command at the third-last, El Borracho kicked on again as he led the field into the home straight, Sir Tivo now struggling to bridge the gap as Geromino edged into second place with just the two fences left to jump. Despite surrendering a couple of lengths as he steadied into the second-last, El Borracho was fairly spring-heeled over the final two fences and ultimately never looked like getting caught, running out a ready winner of the contest by 4 ¾ lengths, with Geromino coming home in second place ahead of Sir Tivo in third. Now with 35 career winners under his belt, Toby Wynne is now just 5 winners away from reducing his 5lb claim to 3lbs!
Race 3 – IML Marine Management Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (Class 5, 4yo+, 2m 7f)
Readily backing up his smooth success at Cartmel in June, Irish raider Slate Lane (1/3F) ran out a cosy winner of Race 3 under Donagh Meyler, coming home 2 ½ lengths to the good for Grand National winning trainer Emmet Mullins. Always prominent behind early leader Champ Royal (11/2), Slate Lane raced in second place through the first circuit of the contest, followed in his slipstream by Horizon D’Or (17/2), with Dynali (25/1) racing in fourth place along the inside rail. Going easily and with his jockey appearing to have a double handful, Slate Lane pressed on having negotiated three-out, leading the field towards the final two flights ahead of Horizon D’Or who began to make his challenge down the outside in the wake of Champ Royal weakening into third place. Jumping the second-last as one, there looked to be little to separate Slate Lane and Horizon D’Or on the run down to the final flight. However, standing off the obstacle and jumping boldly to the other side, Slate Lane found more under Donagh Meyler in the closing stages and readily put himself more than 2 lengths in front crossing the line, gamely holding off Horizon D’Or who in turn finished 29 lengths clear of Champ Royal in third place. A successful partnership in Ireland in recent years, Mullins and Meyler also teamed up for Grade 1 success last season with Feronily at the Punchestown Festival!
Race 4 – Stella Artois Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase (GBB Race) (Class 3, 4yo+, 3m)
Well found in the market, Pull Again Green (100/30JF) landed a nice touch for favourite backers in the fourth race of the evening, eventually scampering home by 8 lengths under Liam Harrison to claim the spoils for top trainer Fergal O’Brien. Racing mainly towards the rear of midfield through the first mile and a half, Pull Again Green travelled comfortably under Liam Harrison as the field were taken along in the early stages by Farouk De Cheneau (9/2) and previous course winner Any News (100/30JF). As Jesuitique (5/1) gained a couple of positions on the run towards the third-last obstacle, Farouk De Cheneau quickly faded out of contention and subsequently pulled-up lame before two-out, leaving Any News to pick up the pieces and lead the remaining runners into the home straight. Catching the eye out wide on the approach to two-out, Pull Again Green appeared to be moving sweetly and soon readily swept into an uncontested lead having jumped the second-last in tidy style. Extending further clear with every stride, Pull Again Green never looked in much danger down the home straight and having hopped over the last with no immediate challengers, managed to pull 8 lengths clear of Jesuitique at the line as Any News weakened into third. Another reliable partnership, Harrison also rode O’Brien’s Punctuation to win at this year’s Grand National Festival!
Race 5 – Becks Handicap Hurdle (Div I) (Class 4, 3yo+, 2m ½f)
Making amends for an unfortunate unseat at Worcester last-time-out, Choirmaster (5/1) responded well for pressure in the closing stages to hold off Max Of Stars (2/1F) by ¾ of a length in a gripping finish to the fifth race, bringing up the double for Brian Hughes and Donald McCain. Always prominent on the heels of the leaders, Choirmaster scraped the paint up the inside rail for much of the race, the field taken along by the hat-trick seeking Max Of Stars, with Eagle’s Realm (10/1) also to the fore throughout. As Max Of Stars led the field towards three-out, the majority of runners came under the pump from their respective riders, with the leader still travelling comfortably ahead of a nudged along Choirmaster on the turn into the straight. In command jumping two-out, Max Of Stars soon looked to be in trouble on the run down to the last, the eyes now drawn to Choirmaster who gained ground with every stride under pressure from Brian Hughes. Crossing over the final flight, Hughes pushed the button aboard Choirmaster, edging his mount into a narrow lead with 100 yards to go and going on to hold off the long-time leader Max Of Stars by just under a length at the line, the pair finishing over 9 lengths clear of Allbetsoff (4/1) in third place. Much like McCain, Hughes had a personal best season in 2022-23 in terms of prize money, scoring over £1.93 million!
Race 6 – Becks Handicap Hurdle (Div II) (Class 4, 3yo+, 2m ½f)
In no mood to relinquish his unbeaten record at the track, Simply Red (4/1) once again powered down the Bangor-On-Dee home straight to seal his fourth course victory during Race 6, steered home by Charlie Maggs and providing Donald McCain with his third winner of the day. Content to let runaway leader Gifted Angel (2/1F) maintain his extensive lead through the opening mile of the contest, Charlie Maggs kept Simply Red in a prominent position towards the head of the chasing pack in company with the likes of Minella Plus (17/2) and Getaway Tom (100/30). As Gifted Angel gradually came back to the field down the far side on the run towards three-out, Simply Red sat behind a wall of horses now challenging for the lead and looked to have his work cut out with so many now in with a chance. However, quickly switched to the outside of runners, Simply Red rapidly swept around the leading group to make his challenge on the approach to the second-last, soon taking a narrow lead as many began to weaken out of contention. With Getaway Tom the only challenger within touching distance, Simply Red pressed on determinedly in the final furlong and despite hitting the final flight hard, kept on well in the closing stages to maintain his unbeaten track record; stablemate Minella Plus came home a well-beaten third. Always supportive of upcoming conditional jockeys, McCain also provided Maggs with his first ever winner in 2022 with See The Sea!
Race 7 – September Meeting Tribute To Queen Mares’ Handicap Hurdle (Div I) (Class 5, 4yo+, 2m 3 ½f)
Showcasing a fair amount of ability when in the care of Lucy Wadham, Flat White (13/8F) finally broke his maiden tag over hurdles in the seventh race of the day, ridden out by Harry Skelton to secure a 2 ¾ length victory on his mount’s first start for trainer Dan Skelton. Settling towards the rear of midfield through the first circuit, Flat White travelled comfortably in amongst horses such as Sinurita (12/1) and Quiet Thunder (8/1), with the field being led by recent front-running course winner On Cloud Nine (100/30), bidding to give Donald McCain a fourth winner of the evening. Moving with zest into a more prominent position on the run down towards the third-last, Flat White soon found herself challenging for the places on the turn into the home straight, On Cloud Nine now firmly off the bridle as Sinurita made her challenge on the outside. As On Cloud Nine rapidly faded out of the picture having been swallowed up by the chasing pack, Sinurita took the initiative upon jumping two-out, holding sway by a length to the closing Flat White. Still travelling sweet enough and apparently full of running, Flat White was sent for home at the furlong marker and readily extended into what would ultimately become an unassailable lead, hopping over the last nicely to bring home the spoils. A team always to be feared at any racetrack around the UK, the Skelton brothers successfully joined forces no less than 16 times in 2022-23 in races at Listed class or better!
Race 8 – September Meeting Tribute To Queen Mares’ Handicap Hurdle (Div II) (Class 5, 4yo+, 2m 3 ½f)
Delivered perfectly by Mr Ben Sutton in the home straight, the final race on the card was claimed by the very much in form six-year-old Police Academy (6/4F), registering his second win in a row and providing Fergal O’Brien with a double on the day. Midfield throughout the final race, Police Academy stuck to the inside rail for the most part under Ben Sutton, content to sit a couple of lengths off the leading battalion which included Never No Trouble (9/2), Pollypockett (9/2), and Symbolic Spirit (16/1) amongst others. Ridden along upon jumping the fourth-last flight of hurdles, Police Academy looked to be in all sorts of trouble with three left to jump, ridden along vigorously to keep tabs on the leading pack as Never No Trouble led the field towards the home straight. However, responding well for pressure as others gave way under the increase in tempo, Police Academy swiftly made strong headway around the outside of runners, quickly finding herself in a share of the lead at the second-last. Despite steadying into the final flight and offering a second chance to Never No Trouble and Pollypockett, Police Academy soon found her second wind after a couple of reminders, and readily stretched away by 2 lengths to win stylishly; Pollypockett came home in second place ahead of Never No Trouble. A fruitful 24 hours for connections, Ben Sutton and Fergal O’Brien also successfully joined forces a day later with Tribal Glory at Worcester!
Race report by Adam Perkins