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Race Meeting Report - Monday 13th March

Mon, Mar 13, 2017

This new meeting on the eve of the Cheltenham Festival proved fruitful for some of the smaller Welsh and west country trainers, while the bigger stables were concentrating on readying their charges for the week ahead. It was a sunny day and the going was soft, good to soft in places.

The first division of a 3m hurdle went to the top weight, Sutter’s Mill (7/1), who had been running consistently for Evan Williams, though without success. His jockey Adam Wedge had his work cut out to catch Filatore, who had gone for home turning into the straight, but once landing over the last in front he kept on strongly to win by a length and a half.

John Berwick enjoyed his first success as a trainer in the second division. Phar Away Island (16/1) hinted at a return to form in his last run and overcame the obstacle of being 11 pounds out of the handicap to beat Bandon Bridge. It was a first course winner for his young rider Harry Teal, who kicked on after the third last and kept the horse nicely balanced to maintain a two length advantage all the way to the line.

The next was a 2m maiden hurdle, and this was won by the hard-to-spell Ckalco Des Loges (evens fav) from the Dan Skelton yard. He was struggling in third place two out but responded gamely to pressure from Bridget Andrews. Nevertheless he was all out to peg back the long-time leader King’s Tempest, only hitting the front in the final 50 yards to win by a neck.

Richard Price’s What’s Up Rory (9/4 fav) went one better than his last run here a fortnight ago when taking the 2m chase. He and Shintori fought it out from the third last and the latter was getting the better of it until the winner suddenly found a bit extra and was driven into the lead by Liam Heard half a furlong out. Time And Again was finishing like a train, and was in front a stride after the post, but that was too late; Rory held on by a head.

There was another close finish in the fifth race, a 2m4f hurdle. Rafafie (5/2) took the lead after the third last and tenaciously held off first The Caller and then We’ll Be There, who ran on strongly after the last. The winner didn’t want to be passed and he prevailed by a neck. Lucy Gardner rode him for her mother Sue.

The big question before the 3m chase was whether the Swincombe Scorchio’s last run, a fast finishing second to a decent novice, meant he was a blot on the handicap. The answer was yes. Polly Gundry’s 11/4 favourite, ridden by Mr Wayne Biddick, steamed clear after the fifth last and won as he liked. Lac Sacre was nine lengths back in second. The winner looks as if he could follow up soon, but the trainer was adamant that there’d need to be some rain in order for him to run again this season.

In the bumper it was the two four-year-olds who came to the fore. When Monar Lad briefly threatened to slip the field half a mile out, The Flame went after him with Amateur (4/1) in pursuit a few lengths behind. These two went well clear of the rest, both running on strongly. Amateur, benefiting from cheekpieces and a change of stable, gained the upper hand in the last 50 yards and won by a length and a half. He was ridden by Ian Popham and trained locally by John Flint.

Let’s hope for some more Welsh-trained winners this week at Cheltenham, such as Debra Hamer’s Tobefair, who will be going for his eighth consecutive victory.

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Jim Beavis