Our columnist Neil Watson recently attended the fantastic meeting at Wetherby and gave us his exclusive run through of the meeting.
If it’s a Graded steeplechase over three miles at Wetherby then it can only mean one thing, back whatever Nigel Twiston-Davies sends up and that proved to be the casing point as Ballyoptic got his novice chasing career back on track with a dour display to bag the 3m Towton Novice Chase in gritty style on very testing ground as he fought back to overpower long time pace setter Vintage Clouds.
A useful renewal on paper the race had a faller midway when the mare Pearl Royale took a tumble at the ninth after already skidding on landing at the fence before, up the straight at the business end Shades Of Midnight hit the front before running out of steam and getting overtaken by the class horses of the race, in the end Tom Bellamy was rewarded for persistence to land the odds, he holds entries in the Stayers and the RSA at Cheltenham but many Wetherby regulars will be curious to see if his trainer comes back here in November with Bristol De Mai and Blaklion for a triple assault on the Charlie Hall!
Vintage Clouds has plenty of experience over fences and reportedly has Aintree as his target and this run here off 140 will have done his chances no harm to get up the weights, he will probably come to Haydock in two weeks’ time for the big trial race for the National. Ballyoptic
“Elsewhere on a race day with a few small field races there weren’t many shocks it truth be told”.
The first two races on the card had a similar pattern following them in that both were trained by lady trainers from flat racings headquarters of Newmarket.
Shambra easily landed the opening mares’ novice hurdle for trainer Lucy Wadham and Maxime Tissier (7), a winner on the flat at Carlisle in heavy ground off 65 last September she ran on readily enough and looks a progressive mare, wether she has a go at the Dawn Run is one thing, but her flat mark will possibly be exploited in the summer too.
The other trainer was Amy Murphy whose continued good fortunes came with Mercian Prince who just got up to land the 2m4f Handicap Chase in a pulsating three-way drive to the line, he didn’t handle the big greens of Aintree but came here off the back of a nice win at Kempton, The Byrne Group Plate has been touted by the trainer as a possibility.
Dan Skelton may have been out of luck in the big race but he left Yorkshire with a double on the day, first one came in the 2m5f Novice Hurdle with Robin Waters obliging like a 4/9f should, Harry Skelton put him in front at the last where he was always cantering and never came out of first gear, he will make a chaser next season but before that it’s possible he might have a pop up to Haydock for the Persian War before a crack at the three mile novice event at Cheltenham but he has a decent future.
Second up came Red Rising in the 3m Handicap Hurdle who also breezed home and might be aimed at the Challenger Final at Haydock on Easter Saturday next month, another progressive type who will be chasing next season.
Galway Jack repeated his win in the 3m Hunter Chase beating only one opponent in Auldthunder who was 64 lengths back, 13 now this win was merely a glorified racecourse gallop,even more so than Buveur D’Air at Sandown but connections picked up £2,370 and a few pennies after three of the five declared runners got pulled out which was a disappointment for the sport.
Last up came the bumper run in almost darkness and won nicely by Black Pirate from the James Ewart yard, a point winner over 2m4f in December he looks useful enough to make a fair jumper in time.
Some reasonable racing then but of course the main story of the weekend was the sad passing of Malcolm Jefferson one of the stalwarts of the northern jumping scene, he will be much missed and like everyone in this sport we send our condolences to all the family and wish his daughter Ruth all the best as she now flies the flag in Malton for the family name.