As the jumps season drew to a close and the return of the flat season became imminent, thousands of racegoers descended upon Bangor-On-Dee for the Spring Saturday Meeting in April 2023. The going changed to Good all over after Race 4, having been Good to Soft in places initially.
Race 1 – Beck’s Novices’ Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m 7f)
A strong, late burst of speed was enough for No But I Will (11/5F) to seal the deal in the first race of the afternoon, pushed clear by 1 ¾ lengths by Toby Wynne to score for shrewd training duo Oliver Greenall & Josh Guerriero. Kept relatively close to the pace for the most part, No But I Will came under a ride after negotiating the third-last flight, still within a couple of lengths of the leaders Pougne Aminta and Storminhome. After rounding the turn into the straight with the leaders now also under strong pressure to hold their position, Toby Wynne delivered No But I Will on the outer to take a marginal lead at the second-last. Briefly looking likely to be surpassed by a staying-on Sporting Mike over the final flight, No But I Will soon quickened away well in the final 100 yards to win a shade cosily and break his maiden under rules. An operation with a healthy 18% strike rate this season, Greenall & Guerriero recently also broke a maiden of their own by claiming their first Cheltenham Festival victory with Iroko in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey’s Handicap Hurdle!
Race 2 – Weatherbys nhstallions.co.uk Handicap Chase (Class 4, 5yo+, 2m 1 ½f)
A dramatic conclusion to the second race saw the Evan Williams trained Sabbathical stay on best of all to steal the race away from long-time leader Madiba Passion by 1 ¾ lengths, the 8-year-old gelding returning at 16/1 under Adam Wedge. Midfield from the outset, Sabbathical sat at least 10 lengths behind runaway leader Madiba Passion for much of the contest, keeping company with 3/1F Gandhi Maker and recent course winner Feel The Pinch. With the field now getting more and more strung out in the home straight, Sabbathical jumped two-out in a share of second place as Madiba Passion stormed on down to the last, seemingly with the race at his mercy. However, after blundering his way through the final fence, Madiba Passion soon surrendered the lead to Sabbathical, with Adam Wedge grabbing the near-side rail and pushing his mount clear in the closing stages to take full advantage; Est Illic came home in third after Feel The Pinch unseated Mitch Bastyan over the last. An ever-successful trainer-jockey combination, Williams and Wedge also claimed victory in the 1965 Chase (Grade 2) at Ascot in November with recently retired Coole Cody!
Race 3 – Kate Hinkins 40th Birthday Celebration Handicap Hurdle (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m 3 ½f)
A determined ride from Craig Nichol was the highlight in Race 3 when the well-backed Vandemere (4/1F) held on by a neck at the line to record victory for trainer John Quinn. Another to race in mid-division on the way to victory, Vandemere kept to the inside rail throughout the third race under Craig Nichol, the pair racing alongside Irish raider Tullyhogue Fort and the locally trained Taragrace as the runners made their way down the far side towards the home turn. As long-time leader Zafar faded on the run towards two-out, Vandemere quickly made his move to manoeuvre his way into a prominent position behind new leaders Hardy Boy and Jipekaa Machin, the trio all under strong pressure with one flight to jump. Readily quickening on the run down to the last, Vandemere soon stole a length on the field, and despite a spirited challenge from the staying-on Taragrace down his outside, Vandemere saw out the race in determined fashion to hold on by a neck in the shadows of the post. Better known for his exploits on the flat, John Quinn had a remarkable season in 2021-22 when his star sprinter Highfield Princess scooped three Group 1s, including the Nunthorpe Stakes!
Race 4 – Alfa Aggregate Products Novices’ Handicap Chase (Class 5, 5yo+, 3m)
Showing the benefit of a switch to fences and the application of a tongue-tie, Doctor Foley (5/2F) jumped well throughout the fourth race of the day, eventually quickening away to an impressive 3-length success under Rex Dingle for trainer Anthony Honeyball. Always prominent behind early leader Conna Sue, Doctor Foley waited to take up the running as the field made their way down the far side towards the final three fences, the six-year-old gelding travelling well under Rex Dingle. Having safely negotiated the third-last, Doctor Foley was quickly joined on the outside by previous course winner On The Platform with two to jump, the pair looking set to fight out the finish as they kicked away from Ballinoulart before the last obstacle. Hopping over well and seemingly with the race at his mercy, Doctor Foley extended away in tidy style off the back of the final fence, asserting nicely in the closing stages ahead of On The Platform who had no more to offer in second place. In a career-best season for the young jockey, Rex Dingle claimed his biggest winner to date in the 2023 running of the Midlands Grand National aboard previous Bangor-On-Dee winner Major Dundee!
Race 5 – Carr & Associates Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m ½f)
Adopting new front-running tactics on his second run back from wind surgery, Governor Green (10/3 2F) strutted his stuff in Race 5, going on to score stylishly by 4 ½ lengths under Jay Tidball for the Alastair Ralph stable. With the field reduced to nine after the second flight when 9/4F Nothingtochance unshipped Tom Cannon, Governor Green took advantage in the early stages of the contest to lead the way under Jay Tidball, making most ahead of Spirit Of Regulus and Force De Frap who raced prominently. In a race where very few runners got involved, it was soon apparent as the runners came into the home straight that despite setting the pace up front, Governor Green was travelling best of all. Pushed clear as the field were directed around the penultimate flight where Tom Cannon was being tended to, Governor Green kicked on impressively over the last and never looked in any danger of recording an eye-catching victory; Spirit Of Regulus and Force De Frap maintained their prominent positions to hold on for second and third places respectively. Matching last season’s personal best of 26 winners, Alastair Ralph looks to have another progressive hurdler at his disposal, having also trained Well Vicky and Magical Maggie to win three races in 2022-23!
Race 6 – Stella Artois Handicap Chase (Class 4, 5yo+, 2m 4 ½f)
Setting a new course record in the process, victory went the way of Allo Allo (9/2) in the sixth race of the afternoon, the Stuart Edmunds trained gelding sailing away by 4 lengths under Ciaran Gethings at the line to win emphatically on his third start over fences. Content to track leaders Yggdrasil and Heartbreak Kid in the early stage of Race 6, Allo Allo raced prominently under Ciaran Gethings in a wider position than most. As Yggdrasil came under the pump having made mistakes down the far side, Heartbreak Kid took the reigns at the head of affairs, followed closely by Allo Allo, who travelled ominously well on the run towards two-out. Brushing through the top of the penultimate fence, Allo Allo swiftly overtook the leader with the minimum of fuss, powering on down to the last under hands and heels riding from Gethings. With victory never in much doubt, Allo Allo popped the final fence nicely and accelerated away up the run-in to record a smart success ahead of a staying-on Zestful Hope and a well-beaten Taste The Fear. A familiar trainer-jockey combination, Edmunds and Gethings have teamed up for plenty of notable successes in recent years, including the Jane Seymour Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) in 2019 with Queenohearts!
Race 7 – Wrexham FC Good Luck Tonight ‘Junior’ National Hunt Flat Race (GBB Race) (Div. I) (Class 4, 4yo, 2m ½f)
Half-sister to the classy Presenting Percy, rules debutant Mrs Tabitha (11/2) showcased her own brand of star-quality in the penultimate race of the afternoon, kicking clear by 4 lengths in the final furlong under Henry Brooke to provide Greenall & Guerriero with a double on the day. Content to race in midfield under a patient ride, Mrs Tabitha sat a couple of lengths off the leader Josh The Boss throughout the contest, with the field remaining well-grouped until the tempo increased 4f out. Seemingly tapped for toe, Henry Brooke had to nudge Mrs Tabitha along on the turn into the straight, the field now led by Gotthereintheend and Wise Guy with a couple of furlongs to race. However, with stamina in her pedigree and a willing attitude to boot, Mrs Tabitha responded well for Brooke’s reminders and suddenly surged down the outside into a commanding lead in the final furlong, soon settling the race in a matter of strides to win going away; one to keep an eye on, Renoir suffered a troubled passage in the closing stages and may well have finished much closer than his eventual third place finish would suggest. Another jockey enjoying a career-best season, Henry Brooke has now achieved 57 winners in 2022-23, operating at an impressive 17% strike rate!
Race 8 – Wrexham FC Good Luck Tonight ‘Junior’ National Hunt Flat Race (GBB Race) (Div. II) (Class 4, 4yo, 2m ½f)
Owned by Jimmy & Susie Wenman and trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, the final race of the day went the way of Push The Button (5/1), ridden out to a ¾ length victory under Finn Lambert in a pulsating finish. Leading from the outset, Push The Button set a steady tempo at the head of affairs, tracked closest of all by market leaders Dancing In Brazil (2/1F) and Bingo Little (5/2) throughout. Attempting to slip the field around the home turn, Finn Lambert pushed away on the leader to maintain his position, pursued all the while by rank outsider Barford Groover (150/1) who suddenly flew down the outside to take a marginal lead with just a furlong to go. However, not to be denied a first success under rules, Push The Button fought back in plucky style along the inside rail, rallying well under Finn Lambert to muscle into a ¾-length lead in the dying strides to deprive Barford Groover and Sean Houlihan of a remarkable victory; Dancing In Brazil held on for a solid third-place finish. With various highlights to choose from in another solid season in the training ranks, the main feature of the Twiston-Davies season was I Like To Move It, who scooped the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle in November and the Kingwell Hurdle (Grade 2) in February!
Race report by Adam Perkins