Race Meeting Report - Saturday 8th April
Sun, Apr 9, 2017
It was Grand National day at sun-drenched Chepstow, whose eight races were punctuated by action from Aintree on the big screen and TVs all round the course. A record crowd for this fixture was also able to enjoy the post-racing concert from a Madness tribute band. The going was good, good to soft in places, but generally drier than it had been since the autumn.
The drama started early, with the first race, a 2m novices hurdle, delayed for some time by the unruly behaviour of an outsider who was eventually withdrawn. The complexion of the race changed rapidly in the closing stages. The odds on favourite Top Ville Ben was going well when meeting the third last all wrong and coming down. That left Philip Hobbs’ Resolution Bay (100/30) in the lead, and Micheal Nolan had to keep at him all the way to the line to hold Dance In The Dust by two lengths. Unsafe Conduct would have finished third but for falling at the last.
There wasn’t much to recommend Double Treasure (12/1) in the 2m4f chase, his recent form being poor, but today he breezed into the lead approaching the fifth last and pulled 19 lengths clear of The Geegeez Geegee, jumping well for James Davies. His trainer Jamie Snowden may want to run him again under a penalty rather than wait for the handicapper to reassess him.
Matt Sheppard’s small Herefordshire yard has done well here this season and his fifth success from 19 runners came with Act Four (12/1) who, to the irritation of favourite backers, snatched a last-gasp victory from the 6/5 shot Bletchley Castle by a length and a quarter. The latter had made most of the running and looked sure to win until the last 50 yards when Mr Ed Bailey, who had been working hard to get Act Four this close, dashed past. The rider was clearly delighted, for it was a fine ride, and his first winner under National Hunt rules.
Though there were only five runners for the 3m novices chase, none could safely be ruled out. Paul Nicholls, who had had a winner earlier at Aintree, ran Boa Island (3/1). Ridden by Jack Sherwood, he hit the front four out when the long-time leader Get Involved started jumping right. That one eventually trailed in seven lengths behind. Petite Power was only a couple of lengths adrift of the leader and still in with a chance when falling at the last.
Zulu Oscar (11/2) must have benefited from a change of scene, because on this, his first start for Jeremy Scott, he shouldered twelve stone five pounds to victory in the 2m handicap hurdle. He was able to avoid one of the pair that came down at the first flight. Held up by Matt Griffiths, he was only in sixth place two out, yet he stayed on so well that he led landing over the last. It was an impressive two and a half length win over Muffins For Tea.
There were four in line at the fifth last fence in the 3m chase but two who’d set the pace soon dropped away and Clubs Are Trumps (8/1), appreciating the better ground, went on after the next. He quickly had the race in safe keeping and despite an awkward jump at the last galloped right away to beat the plugging-on Thegreendalerocket 13 lengths. The Jonjo O’Neill-trained winner was carrying the well-known J P McManus colours and his pilot, Jordan Canavan, was the second jockey today to break his duck.
There was an interval of almost an hour to watch the Grand National, with the tension whipped up to fever pitch by false starts before One For Arthur scored for Scotland, leading home 19 finishers in a race with thrills but not many spills.
Two bumpers completed the Chepstow card. Both winners were trained by Tom George and ridden by his son Mr Noel George, who had piloted the 15 year old Big Fella Thanks into third place in the Aintree Foxhunters the day before. In the first division Forgot To Ask (5/2 fav) cruised into the lead half a mile out and won most convincingly by 11 lengths from Battle Of Ideas. The second division was won by Truckers Lodge (3/1), who had to work a little harder to shake off Mont Des Avaloirs but was running on powerfully when passing the post nine lengths ahead. Both of these are worth following, as the stable’s The Worlds End won this last year and he has turned out to be above average.