A Royal visit from HRH The Princess Royal added an extra element of excitement to the 2022 Clwyd Special Riding Centre Charity Day at Bangor-On-Dee! The feature race of the day came at 3:36pm in the Educate Group Handicap Hurdle (Class 4), which included previous course winner Blakeney Point, and ground conditions stayed Good (Good To Soft in places) on a sunny afternoon.
Race 1 – Jones Bros Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m 4 ½f)
After avoiding some very early drama at the first fence, well-backed 6/5F Midnight Jewel ran out an impressive winner of Race 1 under Lily Pinchin, going on to score by 3 ¼ lengths in what was a sixth win in the last nine starts for the winner! After a calamitous jump from Abaya Du Mathan brought himself and Pens Man down after the very first obstacle, Midnight Jewel was left in an uncontested lead throughout the early proceedings. In second place and stalking the leader for much of the race, Donald McCain inmate Obey The Rules sat prominently under Theo Gillard, with a couple of lengths further back to the veteran Cracking Find in third place, and a similar distance back to Rostello in fourth and last place. Jumping awkwardly at many of his obstacles, Rostello struggled to make any grounds on the leaders as the runners made it through halfway, with Midnight Jewel still dictating matters in front. Coming to the third-last and with Cracking Find and Rostello both under pressure, Midnight Jewel and Obey The Rules soon went clear of the remainder and looked set to fight out the finish, both still travelling well as they entered the home straight. Scraping his way over the penultimate fence, Midnight Jewel was soon only a length clear of Obey The Rules, but having found a second gear after winging the last obstacle, the six-year-old managed to stay on well under Lily Pinchin’s urgings to record a smooth success. In second, Obey The Rules ran gallantly in defeat, finishing 17 lengths clear of Rostello in third, with Cracking Find fading into fourth. After claiming the Becher Chase with star mare Snow Leopardess last season, winning trainer Charlie Longsdon looks to have unearthed yet another progressive chaser. Congratulations to Charlie and his team!
Race 2 – Shade Oak Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m 3 ½f)
A superb battle from the back of the last hurdle saw Apple Away get off the mark under National Hunt rules in Race 2, the five-year-old mare winning at odds of 11/1 for the former Grand National winning duo of Derek Fox and Lucinda Russell. Keen to lead from the outset like many Donald McCain horses, Famous Function headed the field of eight in the early stages, kept company by Peerless Beauty and 5/2F Betty’s Belle on the outside, with Liloo D’Ores and Apple Away racing towards the inner behind those. An eye-catcher on her last two runs at Bangor-On-Dee, the back marker for much of the contest was Gamesters Girl, one of a couple of hurdling debutants in this novice hurdle race. With little change in the running order until Famous Function drifted badly through the field coming to the third last, the new leader as they made their way to the home turn came in the shape of Peerless Beauty, the Fergal O’Brien inmate soon clear with Liloo D’Ores and Apple Away for company as the second-last came into view. As Liloo D’Ores bowed under pressure, Apple Away seized the opportunity to challenge Peerless Beauty for the lead over the second last, the pair kicking well clear on the run down to the final flight. Having both flicked through the top, the leaders could not be separated with 100 yards to go, but responding well under a determined Derek Fox, Apple Away just about got her head in front on the line to deny the plucky Peerless Beauty of a second win over hurdles, with Gamesters Girl in third place having once again caught the eye by staying on through beaten horses. Not only famed for their Grand National heroics, Fox and Russell also claimed two Grade 2s and a Grade 1 with smart stayer Ahoy Senor last season!
Race 3 – Corbetts Malpas Novices’ Handicap Chase (Class 5, 4yo+, 2m 1 ½f)
The third race of the day went the way of Kepy Blanc, who simply annihilated the field by an ever-growing 14 lengths under Tom O’Brien, going on to win at odds of 100/30 for trainer Philip Hobbs. After negotiating the first couple of obstacles, the lead was mostly shared by a trio including Captain Ivan, Getaman, and Gambie Tiep, the first named of those eventually taking over proceedings after the first ¾ of a mile. Racing behind the leaders towards mid-division, Kepy Blanc hugged the inside rail throughout the contest, keeping company with Augharue on his outside, the pair clear of the likes of Evron and the 11/4F Heritier in rear. There were plenty of novicey jumps involved as the runners made their way down the back stretch with both Charlie Siringo and Razzo Italiano pulling up after one too many blunders, and Heritier also throwing in some worrying leaps from the back. As the original leading trio began to fade under the increase in tempo, Kepy Blanc burst onto the scene under Tom O’Brien having negotiated the third from home, quickly assailing into a lead of more than five lengths rounding the bend. With little impression being made from those in rear, including the disappointing Heritier (eventually fourth), Kepy Blanc was over both the second-last and the last in the blink of an eye, careering away up the run in a mile clear of the staying-on Evron (66/1) in second place and Augharue, a solid third (10/1). Always a duo to be feared, O’Brien and Hobbs also teamed up to win the Grade 3 Silver Trophy at Chepstow with Orbys Legend in 2021!
Race 4 – Educate Group Handicap Hurdle (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m 7f)
Another disappointing run from the market leader proved vital to the outcome of race four as 4/1 chance Go Chique stayed on strongly by 2 ¼ lengths to score comfortably for trainer Nicky Henderson. Outsiders came to the fore during the first circuit of the contest as the unfancied pair of Starsky and Chanceanotherfive shared the lead, holding sway from Go Chique racing prominently alongside Oxwich Bay. Looking towards the tail end of the field, previous course winner and 6/5F Blakeney Point raced in company with Ted’s Friend in the early stages, behind Iron Heart and Madera Mist racing towards the rear of midfield. As the pace quickened with only four obstacles to negotiate, Starksy soon faded out of contention and left Go Chique to challenge Chanceanotherfive up front. With Blakeney Point having no more to offer behind the main bunch, Go Chique quickly extended a couple of lengths clear rounding the home turn ahead of Oxwich Bay and Iron Heart, with Chanceanotherfive beginning to beat a very swift retreat. As the runner made their way over the second-last flight, Iron Heart fluffed his lines and began to weaken under the pressure, with Oxwich Bay and Ted’s Friend now looking the only real challengers to the strong-travelling leader. With victory all but inevitable, Go Chique flicked her way over the final obstacle and kept on well up the run in under the hands and heels of Nico De Boinville, with Oxwich Bay staying on for second ahead of Ted’s Friend in third. Not the first time De Boinville, Henderson, and Middleham Park have combined with a progressive mare, today’s connections also combined at this year’s Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals, culminating in two Grade 1 Mares Hurdle victories for Marie’s Rock!
Race 5 – Demon Tweeks Maiden Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m ½f)
The market leaders came to the fore in the fifth race of the afternoon when the 2/1 2nd Fav Keep Running did just that in the final furlong to record a smart success under Daryl Jacob for trainer Harry Whittington. Another race to contain early drama, upon jumping the first flight of hurdles almost sideways, Tio Mio proved unsteerable for Kevin Brogan who lost his irons and struggled for half a mile to pull up his mount in the home straight. Despite being hampered in the early skirmish, Keep Running set the pace at the head of affairs for much of the contest, closely followed by the 7/4 market leader Stroll On By, ahead of racecourse debutantes Iron D’ex and Thunder Flash. Proving a difficult ride himself, Keep Running showed a tendency to jump or hang right at some of his obstacles, giving Daryl Jacob a tough task to keep his mount in front, a task that looked doomed when Stroll On By lived up to his name coming to three out. With the SP Fav now in a narrow but clear lead rounding the home turn, it looked like Keep Running’s exuberance may prove costly in the home straight. However, as Stroll On By came to the final flight, a rejuvenated effort from Keep Running catapulted the former French hurdler into an uncontested lead with 200 yards to go, a lead that kept on growing as the leader eventually crossed the line with 8 ½ lengths to spare; Iron D’ex finished a well-beaten but admirable third place on his introduction to hurdling. Another former Grand National winning jockey on today’s card, Daryl Jacob also had a fine 2021-22 season, with Grade 2 victories in the West Yorkshire Hurdle, Elite Hurdle, and the prestigious Charlie Hall Chase!
Race 6 – Kronospan Handicap Chase (Class 5, 4yo+, 3m)
Lucinda Russell and Derek Fox were at the double in the penultimate race of the afternoon as their eight-year-old mare Methodtothemadness proved much the best to score readily by 11 lengths at odds of 9/2. After jumping the first fence, 2/1F Glendruid was quickly pulled up by Sam Twiston-Davies having gone wrong and unfortunately suffering a fatal injury; we would like to pass our most heartfelt condolences to all connected with the horse. With the field now reduced to six, Peter’s Portrait and Kauto D’Amour fought it out for the lead in the early stages, with Seemingly So and Methodtothemadness next, while Steel Wave kept company with Young Wolf in rear division. Struggling to maintain a good position throughout the contest, Young Wolf gradually became more and more detached from the main bunch as the runners made their way down the far side having completed a circuit. As Seemingly So and Steel Wave began to feel the pinch, Peter’s Portrait went through the top of the fifth-last fence and eventually reduced the field to five by unshipping his rider Lily Pinchin to the turf, leaving Kauto D’Amour in the lead with three obstacles left to negotiate. Making smooth headway into second place through beaten horses, Methodtothemadness soon made a strong challenge to range up alongside the new leader having jumped the third-last, the pair now miles clear of the stragglers. Having outjumped her closest rival at the second-last, Methodtothemadness soon found herself cruising into an unchallenged lead, and after sailing over the final fence quickened even further clear up the home straight to record a facile success ahead of Kauto D’Amour in second, with Seemingly So a further 23 lengths behind in third place. Owned by Mrs S Russell and A M Russell, Methodtothemadness is now their third winner at Bangor-On-Dee since the beginning of the 2021-22 season, with Green Vault and Rapid Raider also successful!
Race 7 – Portal Construction Open Maiden National Hunt Flat Race (GBB Race) (Class 4, 4-6yo, 2m ½f)
Front-running was the key in the final race of the day when Fergal O’Brien’s Point-To-Point recruit AJP Kingdom got off the mark under rules, finishing 1 length ahead on the line at odds of 13/2. Just four furlongs into the contest, another sad incident occurred on the track as Mark The Man suffered a fatal injury having taken a false step in mid-division; we send our deepest condolences to all concerned. Leading from the very start, Connor Brace set a steady gallop aboard AJP Kingdom in front rank, with Catuaba and Trick Of The Tail racing prominently in behind, ahead of Sailed Away and Rhodia in rear amongst others. Little change to the running order throughout left AJP Kingdom with an uncontested lead for much of the race, with the majority of the field off the bridle as they made their way to the 3f pole. Coming under firm pressure, the leader kicked for home two furlongs out but looked to be a sitting duck as coming widest of all, Sailed Away produced a stern looking challenge alongside Rhodia in the home straight, both making ground from the tail of the field. However, not to be overhauled, AJP Kingdom pulled out a little extra for Connor Brace and responded well to the fight by gamely holding off Rhodia in the closing stages, the latter possibly too far back for much of the contest. Having looked a threat, Sailed Away eventually faded in the final 100 yards to finish a solid third place ahead of Trick Of The Tail back in fourth under Brian Hughes. A jockey utilised to a good extent by Fergal O’Brien, Connor Brace also rewarded the trainer with a Grade 3 success aboard Paint The Dream in last season’s Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury!
Race report by Adam Perkins