A day of glorious sunshine added to an already buzzing atmosphere at Bangor-On-Dee for the 2023 Summer Saturday fixture, the feature race taking place at 4:00pm in the Boorer Family Handicap Chase (Class 4) where four previous course winners lined-up in a competitive race. Ground conditions remained Good all over throughout the day with six non-runners declared.
Race 1 – Bangor-On-Dee Novices’ Handicap Chase (GBB Race) (Class 4, 5yo+, 3m)
Just the three runners went to post for the opening race on the card, in what turned out to be a walk in the park for odds-on favourite Pottlerath (8/11F), the 8-year-old coming home a comfortable 3 ¾-length victor under Stan Sheppard for his father Matt Sheppard. Content to track the early leader Inishbiggle (9/4), Pottlerath was kept prominent in second place throughout the opening contest, the trio completed by Irish raider Dragon Rock (4/1) in last place under reigning champion jockey Brian Hughes, always a couple of lengths behind. As the pace lifted around the home turn, Pottlerath moved forward to challenge Inishbiggle on his outside, the pair kicking clear of Dragon Rock who looked to be struggling with the increase in tempo with two to jump. Travelling best of all, Pottlerath negotiated the second-last smoothly, quickly asserting into the lead, Inishbiggle now under pressure to maintain second place. Fiddling his way over the last, Pottlerath soon had the race in safe keeping, eventually pushed out under hands and heels for a smooth victory, with Dragon Rock putting in an eye-catching run to snatch second place from Inishbiggle late on. Another winner in the bag for the Sheppard family, trainer and jockey also claimed the Haydock Mares’ Chase Final in 2019 with The Bay Birch, the talented mare having won at Bangor-On-Dee on her previous start!
Race 2 – The Tote.co.uk Bet £5 Get £20 “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 4) (4+yo)
A trip over the Irish Sea proved no barrier for Master Player (EvensF) in Race 2, the six-year-old gelding toughing it out to secure a 2-length victory under Sean Bowen, bringing home the spoils for Irish trainer John Joseph ‘Shark’ Hanlon. Racing in mid-division for the majority of the second race, Master Player travelled comfortably along the inside rail, sat behind the Donald McCain duo On Cloud Nine (16/1) and Trick Of The Tail (100/30) for the most part, with Regal And Royal (28/1) always to the fore. As the field rapidly became more strung out with just three flights to jump, Master Player travelled notably well between horses and soon struck the front on the turn for home, Regal And Royal now struggling to keep up the gallop and fading into midfield. With the plucky Trick Of The Tail still challenging Master Player for the lead upon jumping the second-last flight, the pair looked set to battle out a close finish after kicking clear of On Cloud Nine, who had nothing left to offer in third place. However, staying-on well under pressure, Master Player stole a couple of lengths on his nearest pursuer on the run down to the last and although not the most fluent over it, the six-year-old ran on nicely in the closing stages to make sure of the win. A jockey riding at the top of his game, Bowen had 125 winners last season and is currently leading the Jump Jockeys Championship with 28 winners: best of luck for the remainder of the season, Sean!
Race 3 – The Legendary Ray Barlow Handicap Chase (Class 4) (5+yo)
Impressive from the front, Junior Massini (7/2) ran out a smart winner of the third race, making all by 4 ¾ lengths under Jack Tudor to secure the victory for Welsh trainer Sheila Lewis. Very swiftly into an early lead, Junior Massini jumped boldly out in front for much of the contest, followed closest of all by Irish challenger Camilla’s Choice (100/30) a couple of lengths behind, the field rounded up by previous course winner Steel Wave (15/2) in fifth and last place under Tabitha Worsley. With the field reduced to four after Do No Wrong (9/4F) unfortunately didn’t live up to his name and took a tumble at the 11th obstacle, Junior Massini still held sway at the head of affairs and pushed further clear as the field headed towards the final two fences. Now challenged by Camilla’s Choice on the outside around the home turn, Tudor applied more pressure to his mount in the straight, pushing Junior Massini along to maintain the advantage as Heart Of A Lion (7/2) took a heavy fall at the second-last when fading. Not for passing, Junior Massini found a second gear in the closing stages, clambering over the final two fences well enough and eventually accelerating clear in the closing stages to record a smooth success. Another riding well, Tudor partnered Kitty’s Light to a notable hat-trick last season, including the Eider Chase, Scottish Grand National, and bet365 Gold Cup!
Race 4 – The Beck’s Handicap Hurdle (Class 4) (4+yo)
A dramatic ending to the fourth race provided Feel The Pinch (11/4) with a rather fortunate fourth course victory, the Robbie Llewellyn-trained nine-year-old eventually coming home 2 ½ lengths to the good under Toby Wynne at the line. With just the four runners lining up for his contest, Toby Wynne seemed content to keep Feel The Pinch in third place before the race began in earnest, racing ahead of Glorious Zoff (9/2) in last place, the field being led by Lakefield Flyer (7/2) and recent course winner Hidalgo De L’Isle (6/4F). As Lakefield Flyer faded out of contention rounding the home bend, Hidalgo De L’Isle looked set to fight out the finish with Glorious Zoff, with Feel The Pinch under firm pressure to stay with the leaders on the run to the second flight from home. However, gamely responding to his riders’ urgings, Glorious Zoff quickened into the lead with one flight to jump, looking all but certain to follow-up his recent Warwick victory with another. Cruelly though, after crashing through the final flight, Glorious Zoff crumpled on landing and fell to the turf with the race at his mercy, leaving Feel The Pinch to pick up the pieces in the final 200 yards to quicken past an unlucky Hidalgo De L’Isle, who was hampered by the faller and couldn’t recover the lead. Building a solid reputation as a reliable conditional rider, Toby Wynne (based at the local Greenall-Guerriero stable) recorded 19 winners last season, operating at a solid 15% strike-rate!
Race 5 – The Boorer Family Novices’ Handicap Chase (GBB Race) (Class 4, 5yo+, 3m)
Taking his Bangor-On-Dee record to 2 from 3, Midnight Jewel (9/2) battled well to secure victory in the fifth race of the afternoon, the seven-year-old ridden out to make sure by Lilly Pinchin for trainer Charlie Longsdon. Prominent from the outset, Midnight Jewel sat in second place throughout the opening circuit, chasing the leader Yggdrasil (3/1) alongside recent course winner Heartbreak Kid (15/8F) for the most part, the pair followed by Norley (11/2) and Fire Away (16/1) in midfield. As the field rapidly became more strung out down the far side of the track, the leading quartet kicked on ahead of the remainder, Yggdrasil still holding sway over the third-last as Midnight Jewel ranged up on his outer. Travelling strongest of all on the run down to the penultimate obstacle, Midnight Jewel jumped two-out sandwiched between Norley and Yggdrasil, the trio soon under pressure to maintain their position. As Yggdrasil folded under the pump, Midnight Jewel took a slender lead over Norley towards the final fence, the pair side-by-side with the race there for the taking. Both jumping it well, the leaders could barely be separated in the closing stages but showing a willing attitude to get over the line in front, Midnight Jewel just clung on in the shadows of the post to deny Norley a second win over fences. A solid 2022-23 season that saw 46 winners for the yard, Longsdon also trained the winner of the valuable Masters Handicap Chase with Castle Robin last year!
Race 6 – The Tote Supporting Racing With Pride Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Race (Class 5, 4+yo)
A race in which En Avant (7/2F) unseated early to reduce the field to nine runners, Bergentown (11/1) eventually made the best of his way home to score by 2 lengths in Race 6, Sean Quinlan doing the steering for trainer Jennie Candlish. Hampered at the first after En Avant exited the contest, Bergentown remained towards the rear of the field during the opening circuit, racing alongside Pumpkin’s Pride (6/1) as the field were taken along by Jina (10/1) and Robber’s Bridge (5/1), with last-time-out Bangor winner Balranald (5/1) poised in third place. With little change to the running order, Bergentown looked to be struggling after jumping the third-last flight of hurdles, still well behind Robber’s Bridge who led the field towards two-out travelling comfortably. However, as those in front rank came under firm pressure upon jumping the flight, Bergentown stayed-on well to latch onto the leaders’ tails, cutting through between horses to make a challenge before the final flight. Suddenly in the lead, Bergentown showed a sharp turn of foot over the last to kick on in front and quickly settle the race in a matter of strides, Robber’s Delight and Balranald making up the places in second and third respectively having been unable to quicken once asked. A fruitful combination every season, Candlish and Quinlan also claimed Grade 3 success at Aintree in 2016 with Party Rock!
Race 7 – The Stella Artois Open National Hunt Flat Race (GBB Race) (Class 5, 4-5yo, 2m 1/2 f)
Taking the field apart in stylish fashion on racecourse debut, Rose In The Park (6/4F) looked a smart recruit from the point-to-point circuit in the final race of the day, scoring by 8 ½ lengths under Brian Hughes to provide Shark Hanlon with a double. Leading the field from the flag-fall, Rose In The Park travelled strongly under the champion jockey throughout the contest, racing clear of Madam Ryder (5/2) for the most part as the field remained tightly grouped on their way down the far side of the course. As Maggie O (16/5) and Classical Music (13/2) dropped away tamely on the turn into the straight, there looked to be only one winner as Rose In The Park kicked over a length clear with a couple of furlongs to race. With Madam Ryder unable to live with the increase in tempo, Rose In The Park took full advantage at the head of affairs, quickening stylishly in the final furlong to win going away under Brian Hughes, ahead of the well-beaten Madam Ryder. Owned by T J McDonald and donning the colours of jumps star Hewick (winner of the 2022 bet365 Gold Cup, Galway Plate, American Grand National, and Oaksey Chase), Shark Hanlon looks to have another smart recruit!
Race report by Adam Perkins