With the promise of sunny weather and a highly competitive eight-race card to boot, racegoers were in for a treat at Bangor-On-Dee’s Autumn Meeting on Wednesday 4 October 2023. The feature race of the day came at 4:05pm in the tote.co.uk Never Beaten By SP Handicap Hurdle with a competitive nine-runner field, and ground conditions remained Soft (Good To Soft in places) throughout.
Race 1 – Wynnstay Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m 4 ½f)
Justifying market support and finally breaking his maiden at the 18th attempt, Sinister Minister (5/2 JF) ran out a determined winner of the opening contest, bringing back first prize for trainer Sheila Lewis under a fine ride from Finn Lambert. Racing enthusiastically and establishing a comfortable lead through the opening circuit, Sinister Minister jumped well in the main for Finn Lambert, bowling along a couple of lengths in front of previous course winner Joly Maker (7/1), as Imac Wood (100/30) and Creative Control (5/2 JF) bided their time in rear division. Still in front jumping the third-last, Sinister Minister soon faced his strongest challenge yet as the well-fancied Imac Wood crept ever closer on his outside, joining the leader as they rounded the turn for home. Ridden along on the run down to two-out and looking all but certain to surrender the lead to his newest challenger, Sinister Minister kept on gamely under pressure upon jumping the obstacle, still clinging onto the advantage with one fence left to negotiate. Despite a poor jump threatening to give Imac Wood a second bite of the cherry, Sinister Minister quickly found enough momentum after the last to secure victory by 2 ¼ lengths. Having trained nine winners in total during 2022-23, Sheila Lewis already has eight winners to her name this season, operating at a solid 16% strike-rate!
Race 2 – Horseradish Catering & Events Novices’ Handicap Chase (Class 5, 4yo+, 2m 1 ½f)
Making amends for an untimely unseat 10 days prior at Fontwell, Gambie Tiep (3/1) jumped superbly to claim the spoils in the second race of the afternoon, steered home by Beau Morgan for Gloucester-based trainer Ben Pauling. Favourite backers were out of luck after just a couple of seconds in Race 2, with Paddy Brennan unshipped from market leader Uncle Arthur (13/8F) at the very first obstacle and leaving Gambie Tiep to take the field along out in front. Bidding to extend a consistent sequence of two victories and two seconds, Pittsburg (9/2) raced mainly in midfield under Sean Bowen, racing in company with locally trained Heros De Moutiers (13/2) as Pencil (25/1) brought up the rear through the opening mile and a half. Jumping well at the head of affairs and stringing the field out with every stride, Gambie Tiep held a commanding lead upon negotiating three-out, travelling comfortably on the run towards two-out as Pittsburg and Pencil were asked for their efforts. Sailing over the second-last with all of his challengers now off the bridle, Gambie Tiep kicked on again out in front towards the final fence, Pittsburg trying hard in second place to reduce the deficit. Putting in another sterling jump over the last, victory was never in doubt for Gambie Tiep, the seven-year-old kicking away smartly to score by 2 ¼ lengths at the finish. Always a fruitful partnership, Pauling and Morgan also combined to score in this year’s Summer Cup with Twig!
Race 3 – Overton On Dee Handicap Chase (Class 5, 4yo+, 3m)
Favourite backers were back in business in the third race of the day, the contest won convincingly in the end by Justshortofabubble (6/4 F) who now had two victories to his name for the season for his trainer Grace Harris and jockey Ben Jones. Settling towards the rear of midfield through the opening couple of miles, Justshortofabubble travelled sweetly for the most part under Ben Jones, the market leader racing in the slipstream of outsider Dindin (18/1) as previous course winner Daranova (6/1) led the field down the far side of the track towards the final three fences. Still moving nicely on the bridle, Justshortofabubble made his move on the approach to the third-last obstacle, swiftly moving upsides ridden-along leader Daranova as the chasing pack came under pressure from their riders. Cruising into the lead with two fences to jump, Justshortofabubble looked home and hosed a long way out in truth, the six-year-old moving a couple of lengths clear over two-out with Dindin trying his level best to bridge the gap. Hopping over the last with aplomb, Justshortofabubble soon had the race sewn up under Ben Jones, the leader kicking on to score by three lengths at the line, with Dindin coming home in second place a further 16 lengths ahead of Daranova. No stranger to success over fences, Ben Jones also scored aboard De Rasher Counter in the 2019 Ladbrokes Trophy (Grade 3)!
Race 4 – Ruabon Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 4, 4yo+, 3m)
Race 4 provided a turn-up for the books as the relatively unfancied Queen Antoinette (14/1) defied an absence of 826 days to record a first success under rules for trainer Emma Lavelle, with Tom Bellamy doing the steering up top. Allowing market leader Eve Moneypenny (6/5F) to lead the field a merry dance out in front, Tom Bellamy kept Queen Antoinette towards the rear of the quintet of runners through the opening mile and a half of the contest, second-favourite Drumlee Spud (15/8) occupying the runner-up spot as they made their way down the far side of the track. Still maintaining a lead of a couple of lengths over the third-last, Eve Moneypenny soon came under pressure around the home turn as the chasing pack closed in on the lead, Queen Antoinette travelling ominously well on the outside as Drumlee Spud began to toil. Joining the leader over the second-last flight, Queen Antoinette rapidly asserted on the run down to the final flight, the new leader extending the margin to three lengths as Eve Moneypenny faded rapidly out of contention. Fiddling her way over the last and now facing an unexpected challenge from the rallying Drumlee Spud, Queen Antoinette had to be kept up to her work in the final 100 yards of the contest, eventually pulling out just enough to hold on by a neck at the line. A team to be feared, Lavelle and Bellamy took two valuable Graded races during 2022, including the Classic Handicap Chase (Grade 3) at Warwick with Eclair Surf!
Race 5 – tote.co.uk Never Beaten By SP Handicap Hurdle (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m 7f)
Having been without a victory for almost three-years a couple of months ago, Classic Concorde (9/2) rallied determinedly in the fifth race of the day to record his third win on the spin for trainer David Brace, the 10-year-old gelding keeping on gamely under the capable hands of Connor Brace. Going great guns in the lead from flag-fall, Classic Concorde took the field along at a steady gallop throughout Race 5, followed closest of all by Ballycamus (9/2) and previous course winner Halifax (17/2) through the opening circuit, with market leader Olivers Travels (3/1F) struggling to cope with the soft ground conditions at the tail end of the chasing pack. Holding a narrow advantage over four out with the field now well strung out, Classic Concorde soon faced a stern challenge on his outside from the strong-travelling Halifax and Ballycamus, the trio a length in front of King’s Threshold (5/1) as they all negotiated the third-last obstacle. Coming under strong pressure and appearing to be a sitting duck, Classic Concorde looked sure to be overtaken on the run to the penultimate flight, his nearest challengers now only a whisker away. However, having been joined over two-out, Classic Concorde quickly found his second wind in the final furlong, rallying gamely for Connor Brace to wrestle back the advantage over the final flight and hold off the plucky Halifax by 1 ½ lengths at the finish. A jockey in fine form, Connor Brace also took the EBF Final last year aboard Crambo!
Race 6 – Nightingale House Hospice Maiden Hurdle (GBB Race) (Div I) (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m ½f)
A horse previously seen dining at the top table for Aidan O’Brien on the flat, talented chestnut Wordsworth (10/11 F) ran out a superb winner of Race 6 on his first run for David Pipe, jumping well throughout under Jack Tudor and scampering clear to score by an impressive 13 lengths. Keen to take the field along at the head of affairs, Wordsworth jumped smartly throughout the contest under Jack Tudor, the 5-year-old always travelling smoothly out in front ahead of Easter Junction (9/4) and Wise Guy (13/2), with Black Occ (14/1) racing in mid-division as the field headed towards the final three obstacles. Coming back to the field slightly over the third-last, Wordsworth held only a slender advantage around the turn into the straight, Wise Guy and Easter Junction still moving sweetly enough as the second-last loomed large. Hopping over two-out with the minimum of fuss, Wordsworth soon increased the tempo out in front, tapping into his former flat discipline and extending away from the opposition as Easter Junction unseated Brian Hughes. Under hands-and-heels on the approach to the final flight, Wordsworth quickly asserted after another fine jump sealed the deal, the runaway leader in a world of his own as he crossed the line 13 lengths clear of Black Occ, with Wise Guy a further 3 ¼ lengths behind. Clearly still a talented individual, the next assignment for Wordsworth will be on the flat in next week’s Cesarewitch Handicap at Newmarket!
Race 7 – Nightingale House Hospice Maiden Hurdle (GBB Race) (Div II) (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m ½f)
Another wide margin victory came in the penultimate race of the day where despite some sketchy jumping, Act Of Authority (8/11 F) ran out a 14-length winner on hurdles debut under Sean Bowen, looking very much like one to follow for the Olly Murphy stable. Another market leader keen to get things going at the head of affairs, Act Of Authority maintained an uncontested lead throughout the first mile and a quarter, jumping slightly awkwardly ahead of twice course-placed Iron D’Ex (15/2) in second place, with last year’s dual bumper winner Dino Bellagio (7/2) in third place bidding to finally get McCain and Hughes on the Bangor scoresheet for the day. However, after a couple of jumping errors put him on the back foot, Dino Bellagio soon faded out of contention before being pulled-up down the far side, Act Of Authority still in command on the run towards three-out. Scrambling his way over, the leader quickly stepped up the tempo around the home turn, stealing an extra couple of lengths on the field before crashing through the second-last and landing on all fours. Still way ahead of Iron D’Ex, the only potential challenger remaining for Act Of Authority appeared to be the final flight, but despite another rough jump, the leader got to the other side in one piece and quickly came nicely clear up the straight to score by a wide-margin. Looking to have another smart recruit, winning owner Diana Whateley was also successful at Grade 2 level with Thomas Darby in 2021!
Race 8 – Halloween 31st October Open Maiden National Hunt Flat Race (GBB Race) (Class 4, 4-5yo, 2m ½f)
Coming on a bunch from a second-place finish at Catterick in March, Cannock Park (4/1) stayed on stoutly under Craig Nichol in the eighth and final race of the day to record a first victory under NH rules, the five-year-old gelding coming home four lengths to the good for trainer Paul Robson. Bouncing out smartly to head the field, Cannock Park settled into a nice rhythm under Craig Nichol, leading the way ahead of market rivals Panhandle Slim (7/2 F) and Ridge Hill (9/2) through the opening mile, with plenty of well-bred horses in behind aiming to secure their first racecourse victories. Coming towards the three-furlong point, the leading trio broke away from the chasing pack fairly readily, Cannock Park still holding the advantage around the home turn as Ridge Hill came under a ride from his rider to maintain his position. Scrubbed along for a couple of strides having been sent for home, Cannock Park drew further clear of the hard-ridden Panhandle Slim passing the two-furlong pole, the leader responding well for Craig Nichol’s urgings as he set sail towards the final 200 yards of the contest. With no challengers in behind having anything left to offer, Cannock Park extended away impressively in the final furlong to score by a cool four-lengths, with Panhandle coming home a further 13 lengths clear of King Of Answers (4/1) in third. A reliable jockey in the saddle, Craig Nichol also scored in both the Scottish Borders National and the Grimthorpe Chase in 2019!
Race report by Adam Perkins