A fresh and moderately sunny day provided the perfect setting for the DragonBet Premier Hurdle Day at Bangor-On-Dee in March 2024. A competitive six-race card was headlined by the valuable DragonBet Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap Hurdle (Class 2), on a day in which there were doubles and trebles aplenty for jockeys and trainers. Ground conditions remained Soft (Heavy in places).


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

Having placed at this level earlier in the season in Chepstow’s Silver Trophy, Uncle Bert (5/2F) finally had his big Class 2 pay day when scooting clear in Race 1 to score by 12 lengths, pushed out under promising conditional James Turner for the Nigel Twiston-Davies yard. Racing in midfield throughout the opening contest, Uncle Bert sat alongside rank outsider Willaston (28/1) towards the inside rail for the most part, the pair a couple of lengths off early leader and previous course winner Jungle Jack (9/2). With many of his rivals coming off the bridle around the home turn, Uncle Bert looked to be travelling best towards the final two obstacles, brought away from the rail to challenge the leaders before two-out. Negotiating both flights safely enough, Uncle Bert soon sauntered clear up the run-in, recording his third victory of the season in emphatic style, with Willaston coming home a well-beaten second place, ahead of Pickanumber (7/2) in third. Now with 10 winners on the board for the season, James Turner is currently operating at a very favourable 15% strike rate this year!


Race 2 – Broxton Gates Handicap Hurdle (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m ½f)

Another market leader to come to the fore, The Famous Five (Evs F) proved to be a tough nut to crack in the second race of the day, the 6-year-old gelding ridden out to score by 2 ¼ lengths under Charlie Deutsch for the Venetia Williams stable. Always towards the head of affairs, The Famous Five shared the lead with the locally trained Professor Klump (17/2) through the first mile of the contest, the pair a couple of lengths clear of Irish raider Mullins Cross (9/1) in third place as the progressive El Jefe (9/1) brought up the rear. Travelling smoothly upon entering the straight for the final time, The Famous Five soon found himself in a commanding lead under Charlie Deutsch, jumping the second-last flight of hurdles a couple of lengths to the good over a struggling bunch-up in behind. Despite an inspired late challenge by El Jefe threatening to scupper the chances of the SP favourite off the back of the final obstacle, The Famous Five grittily pulled out more under a strong drive to secure victory. A familiar sight in the winner’s enclosure, Deutsch also carried the colours of winning owner Mr P Davies to victory aboard Djelo in the Grade 2 Howden Noel Novices’ Chase at Ascot last year!


Race 3 – Camden Stout Handicap Chase (Class 3, 5yo+, 3m)

A third winning favourite and a second winner in a row for trainer Venetia Williams, Montgomery (8/11F) recorded his second victory over course & distance in the space of a month in Race 3, the market leader eventually pushed clear to score by 3 ¼ lengths under Charlie Deutsch. Holding a lead of a couple of lengths through the initial two miles, Montgomery was content to lead the way under Deutsch in the main, followed closest of all by the class-dropping Red Rookie (18/1) in second place, with Ballycamus (100/30), Bells Of Peterboro (11/2), and Dragon Rock (16/1) completing the quintet in behind them. Under pressure upon jumping the third-last fence, Montgomery soon looked to be treading water, strongly ridden around the home turn as Ballycamus sneaked up the inside rail to make his challenge. However, despite being headed over two-out, Montgomery battled on gamely through the final couple of furlongs, rejoining the leader over the final fence before pressing home the advantage 100 yards from the line to record a hard-fought victory. Another shrewd purchase for connections, Montgomery has now recorded Gwent Holdings Limited’s fifth winner of the season!


Race 4 – Dragonbet Born From The Betting Ring Handicap Chase (Class 4, 5yo+, 2m 1 ½f)

The field reduced to five after the late withdrawal of Grain D’Oudaries, the fourth race of the day also provided the easiest winner of the day when Hunter Legend (13/8 JF) dotted up by 15 lengths to make it four in a row for favourite backers, and three in a row for Messrs Deutsch and Williams. Another to head into the lead from flag fall, Hunter Legend set a modest tempo throughout Race 4, always in the ascendency as fellow market leader One Last Glance (13/8 JF) led the chasing trio in behind, the field completed by Mini Yeats (100/30) and Tribesmans Glory (11/1). Jumping smartly from fence to fence, Hunter Legend never looked in much trouble upon reaching the home turn. However, sticking on gamely for pressure and edging into a narrow lead over two-out, Tribesmans Glory soon looked the likely winner on the run down to the last, holding Hunter Legend slenderly with one left to jump. Nevertheless, despite briefly looking in trouble, Hunter Legend pulled out more under pressure, gathered up by Deutsch in the final furlong and sprinting clear in decisive fashion to secure the win. Now with 53 winners for the season, Venetia Williams is flying at present!


Race 5 – Beck’s Maiden Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 3, 4yo+, 2m 3 ½f)

Making it a remarkable fifth winning market leader in a row, Grand Albert (5/6F) provided Donald McCain and Brian Hughes with yet another winner at their local track in the penultimate contest of the afternoon, the six-year-old chestnut holding old adversary Guard The Moon (Evs) at bay by 3 lengths at the line. Straight into the lead, Grand Albert held sway out in front through the opening two miles of Race 5, setting the pace a couple of lengths to the good over Guard The Moon in second place, with the unfancied trio of Jo Arengeot Bey AA (40/1), Dragonball Prince (50/1), and Kenny’s Park (80/1) completing the quintet in rear division. Gradually getting his rivals off the bridle one-by-one, Grand Albert soon looked to be in a world of his own, still holding an advantage of a couple of lengths over the hard-driven Guard The Moon as the second-last came into view. Hopping over two-out nicely, Grand Albert merely had to be coaxed along under Hughes in the final couple of furlongs, negotiating the last in tidy style before being nudged out to secure a very stylish victory. Champion local trainer for a reason, McCain has now recorded 13 winners at Bangor this season!


Race 6 – Broxton Gates Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (Class 5, 4yo+, 2m 7f)

Rounding off the afternoon’s proceedings with a second victory of the day, Brian Hughes simply had to steer Jalisco Star (11/1) over the line in the sixth and final race, the six-year-old mare holding her own to score by 3 ¾ lengths and break her maiden for trainer Laura Horsfall. Racing along the inside rail in mid-division through the initial couple of miles, Jalisco Star sat alongside market leader Iron D’Ex (9/4F) for the most part, the pair racing in behind Tara Cove (13/2) and Rostello (18/1) as the field made their way towards the final two obstacles. Moving up between horses as the majority of runners began to feel the pinch, Jalisco Star travelled eye-catchingly well behind new leader Rostello around the home turn, gradually reducing the deficit as the pair approached the second-last. Both under pressure upon negotiating the obstacle, it was Jalisco Star who came away from it the better, easily moving into the lead as Rostello began to cry enough. A couple of reminders and a solid jump later, Jalisco Star soon came clear in tidy style to secure a taking victory for connections. Matching her tally of three winners in 2022-23, Laura Horsfall looks sure to exceed that number this season!


Race report by Adam Perkins