Just over a week on from the hugely popular Wrexham Lager Family Funday, plenty of quality action was on show at Bangor-On-Dee’s Spring Meeting. The feature race of the day came straight away in Race 1 with the eclipse-marketing.uk Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase, ahead of plenty of other competitive contests. With intermittent rain showers amongst dry and sunny spells, ground conditions were ideal for the majority of runners and stayed Good To Soft throughout the day.
Race 1 – eclipse-marketing.uk Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase (Class 3, 5yo+, 2m 4f 72y)
No shocks came in the first race of the day as the Fergal O’Brien-trained Mortlach ran out a ready winner as the 4/6 Favourite by a comfortable 4 lengths. Just the four runners went to post, and the running order barely changed an inch throughout much of the contest, with Mortlach leading under Paddy Brennan, followed closely by previous course winner Could Be Trouble, with Decoration Of War and Ballinslea Bridge bringing up the rear. However, as the quartet jumped the eleventh fence, Could Be Trouble sprawled badly on landing to be left toiling in last place, having left Mortlach in a clear lead coming towards the home turn. Shaken up coming to the penultimate obstacle, Paddy Brennan made sure of the outcome by kicking his mount clear from the rallying Could Be Trouble in second place, with a further 18 lengths back to Decoration Of War in third place. A notoriously prolific duo, Paddy Brennan and Fergal O’Brien enjoyed plenty of success in top races last season, with Brennan bagging multiple Graded races aboard Knight Salute, and O’Brien’s Paint The Dream stealing the show in the Grade 3 Greatwood Handicap Chase at Newbury. Congratulations to both!
Race 2 – Remembering Kitty Warburton Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m 3f 123y)
The second race of the day was run in memory of Kitty Warburton, who sadly passed away this year. We send our deepest sympathy to Kitty’s family.
After grabbing a handful of winners in the fortnight beforehand, Alan King’s fine form continued when his 6-year-old gelding Methusalar triumphed in Race 2 at odds of 5/2 by 1 ½ lengths from the Gary Hanmer-trained 9/4 Fav Bright Sunbird. Leading the quintet of runners from the outset, Bright Sunbird continued to jump right at her hurdles under Tabitha Worsley for much of the contest, with the chasing pack never too far behind. As the field came to the third-last flight of hurdles, there was some notable scrimmaging for room with Methusalar jumping through to second place behind the long-time leader, leaving Chestnut Pete, Maskia, and Annies Prayer struggling to keep up. As the leading pair went clear, Methusalar responded well for pressure under the determined Tom Cannon and eventually wore down the valiant front-running effort of Bright Sunbird to stay on strongly at the line. Another prolific duo, Alan King and Tom Cannon twice combined to win at the highest-level last season, winning Grade 1s in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown, and the Arkle Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, both with smart chaser Edwardstone; what could 2022-23 bring?
Race 3 – Magners Maiden Hurdle Race (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m 145y)
The market principals came to the fore in the third race of the afternoon, but there was some distance between them at the line as Stony Man, the 4/5 Favourite, absolutely flew up the home straight to a 14-length victory under Sean Bowen, way ahead of 3/1 shot Tip Top Tonto. Fresh off a promising 2nd place finish at our Family Funday fixture on 14th May, Copper Fox led for much of the race under Brian Hughes, setting the pace ahead of Tip Top Tonto and Stony Man, with the pair of outsiders Dee Eire and Islebriand in rear division. The race began to unfold between the third and second-last flights of hurdles when Tip Top Tonto blundered badly alongside the tiring Copper Fox. This soon left Stony Man to sail down their outside and quickly clear away, merely having to be pushed out by Sean Bowen to record a comfortable victory for local trainer Gary Hanmer. With 94 winners and over £1 million in prize money earnt, 2021-22’s season was a stellar one for Sean Bowen, who recorded a notable victory over the Grand National fences in the Topham Chase aboard Mac Tottie for his father Peter, as well as riding Thomas Darby and Anna Bunina to Grade 2 glory.
Race 4 – Stella Artois Handicap Chase (Class 4, 5yo+, 3m 5y)
Familiar faces told the story of Race 4 as recent Family Funday chase winner Daranova kept on well to record another victory at Bangor-On-Dee, thus providing Gary Hanmer with a quickfire double, and favourite-backers with more joy. The 11/10 Favourite was mostly kept prominent under Kevin Brogan, racing behind the early leaders Fly Smart and Ecossais, ahead of For Jim, Potters Venture, and San Agustin. The race slowly began to fall apart with three of the 6 runners soon struggling to go with the pace being set by new leader Daranova four from home. With Ecossais beginning to drop away as they crossed the third-last fence, San Agustin was the only challenger left for Daranova, who soon came under pressure as the pair entered the home straight. After a fine battle between the two, Daranova had enough left in his locker to pull away from valiant San Agustin and hold on by a length at the winning post to record his second victory in a row, which could well have been three if not for an unlucky unseat after the final fence at Bangor-On-Dee in April. With yet another winner at the track, Gary Hanmer has certainly found the right formula over the last couple of years; that’s now four winners at Bangor-On-Dee already this season, just one behind his total of five wins at the track last season! Congratulations to Gary, Kevin, and all the team at Church Farm in Cheshire!
Race 5 – Corona Mares’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (Class 5, 4yo+, 2m 145y)
Fans of 80s & 90s soul-pop were in clover after the fifth race, as the Donald McCain filly Simply Red bounded clear of her three rivals to scoot home by 9 ½ lengths under Peter Kavanagh. Outsider of the quartet Optical Girl led the field for much of the contest under Adrian Heskin, only giving way shortly before the third-last flight of hurdles to the strong-travelling pair of Durragh (8/15 Favourite) and Iroseaboveitall, with Simply Red keeping close tabs on the new leaders in third place. Coming towards the penultimate obstacle, it soon looked a two-horse race as Iroseaboveitall began to weaken into third, leaving Simply Red to deliver a menacing run down the outside of her stablemate Durragh. Having skipped over the second-last, Simply Red soon scuttled clear between the final two flights of hurdles, going on to win impressively from Durragh who was gradually eased-down by the reigning champion jockey Brian Hughes when defeat looked inevitable. With this win, promising conditional jockey Peter Kavanagh provided Donald McCain with yet another Bangor-On-Dee win. Having already trained 10 winners this season, fresh from a personal best tally of 155 winners in last year’s campaign, 2022-23 is shaping up to be another sterling season for the Cholmondeley trainer!
Race 6 – Goose Island Handicap Hurdle (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m 7f 7y)
The final race of the afternoon seemed to be wide-open, according to the bookmakers, who could only separate the entire field of 6 runners by 4 points in the betting market. However, in typical fashion, Donald McCain and Peter Kavanagh struck again for a quickfire double with 7-year-old bay gelding Steinkraus, staying on well to win by 1 ½ lengths at the line. For much of the race, previous course winner (3/1 Favourite) Butler’s Brief set the tempo ahead of Lelantos and Point Of Principle, closely followed by The Vollan and Steinkraus, with Blakeney Point waited-with in last place. Jumping the penultimate flight of hurdles, Butler’s Brief appeared to be travelling best of all ahead of Lelantos and was soon sent for home by his rider Nick Scholfield. However, rallying under firm pressure from Peter Kavanagh, having been ridden patiently throughout, Steinkraus stayed on strongly to challenge Butler’s Brief after jumping the final flight, and soon put distance between himself and his main rival, going on to score a shade cosily; Lelantos eventually faded to hold on to third place by ¾ of a length from The Vollan, a whole 11 lengths behind the winner. A local legend, Donald McCain has trained more winners at Bangor-On-Dee than anybody else in the last five years and having already trained 4 winners here this season, who knows how many more may follow?!
Race report by Adam Perkins