29 May 2011 Scene & Heard: Stratford - May 27th
by Carolyn Tanner
This year at Stratford saw both Hunter Chase finals held on the same evening, resulting in a delectable feast of action for racegoers. Carolyn Tanner reports.
W + S RECYCLING CHAMPION HUNTERS' CHASE
Southwestern has been in Jeremy and Camilla Scott's Brompton Regis yard since his six-year-old days, but if he was to have a second home it would surely be Stratford Racecourse.
On Friday the now 12-year-old won his second W + S Recycling Champion Hunters' Chase under an inspired ride from Neil Harris. Held up in last until the final circuit, he made steady headway to lead two out and he held on stoutly from the closing pack.
He was regaining the trophy he had won in 2009, while in 2007 he had taken the pointtopoint.co.uk Champion Novices' HC (John Corbet Cup). In the "even" years between he finished fourth and fifth in the big one, and he has now taken his earnings in the amateur sport to over £50,000.
"This has got to be the best one because you don't know if it might be his last chance," beamed Neil, whose fellow riders might do well to beware the injured jockey. Neil admitted to feeling "pretty sore" from the effects of the kicking he received in a fall at Bratton Down five days previously, while his 2009 victory was achieved despite suffering from broken ribs incurred when he went through the wing at Treborough Hill earlier in the day.
Southwestern was acquired out of Noel Chance's yard on Neil's recommendation - the jockey is a former travelling head lad to the Lambourn trainer - and runs in the colours of the vociferous Exmoor Partners, a syndicate which really knows how to celebrate.
This season he has been running out of Camilla's yard so that he could compete between the flags. "We wanted to get his confidence this year so he didn't go to any of the big meetings before this," she explained. "He needed to think he was wonderful again." He is ridden at home "99% of the time" by the Scotts' 17-year-old daughter Laura - "He'd do anything for her," smiled Camilla, who confessed that she was beyond words about the triumph.
POINTTOPOINT.CO.UK CHAMPION NOVICES' HUNTERS' CHASE (John Corbet Cup)
Somebody else who admitted to being speechless was Sheila Crow, whose charge My Flora confirmed all the superlatives bestowed on her by the trainer with an impressive victory in the hands of Richard Burton. Bred by Sheila and her late husband Edward, the mare is owned by Don Edwards and John Whitfield, and was taking her unbeaten run to seven.
"Richard wasn't able to come yesterday so I rode a pipe-opener on her myself," said Sheila, who laughed that the jockey was apt to comment that she wasn't doing it well enough. "She's very laid-back - I could ride her through the middle of London if I wanted to."
"We've placed her really carefully because she frightened herself on her first run," Richard explained, adding "She's got loads of ability, and was the only one in the yard who could work with Cappa Bleu."
Runner-up to My Flora was her stable companion Enter Paradise, partnered by Richard's brother-in-law Will Kinsey. Will was a last minute replacement for intended pilot Paddy Gerety, whose licence to ride under Rules was found to be invalid.
"The champagne's on you, John!" called out Enter Paradise's owner Richard French as the presentations were being made. "We held ours up especially for you!"
Richard pronounced himself to be delighted with the chestnut's performance, while third-placed Dammam, who had a hard race at Cheltenham last time, was perhaps confirming the opinion of Jelly O'Brien, wife of his trainer Fergal, who had expressed a concern prior to the race that the sharper track would suit him less well than Prestbury Park.
Oca de Thaix was several lengths clear when pulled wide of the 13th fence opposite the stands. It transpired that Charlotte Evans had ridden a finish a circuit too soon, and her miscalculation cost her a 12-day ban.
"That was a good prep run for Umberleigh!" Richard Burton points out that he still needs some Point-to-Point ammunition to keep him ahead in the national title race.
RACING POST WEEKENDER LADIES' HUNTER CHASE
At the PPORA annual lunch earlier that afternoon, Paul and Myfanwy Miles had received the champion Young Horse award for their Findlay's Find, and their day was made even better when Lady Myfanwy won the Ladies' race under Claire Hart, for whom it was an initial victory under Rules. It was the mare's fourth Hunter Chase success to go with 24 between the flags, and she had won the corresponding contest in 2009.
"She's firing, so who's to know whether we run her again this season?" was the rhetorical question posed by Myfanwy, who described the ten-year-old as "A bit of a naughty girl in the stable - she kicks and bites."
Claire, who works for Charlie Longsdon, had teamed up with the Miles' when called upon as a very late substitute at Kingston Blount in March when a horse with colic demanded intended partner Sally Randell's attention at home. Claire has triumphed also on Findlay's Find, and considers the pair to be like chalk and cheese. "When Lady Myfanwy runs like today she's brilliant, but sometimes she's felt quite ordinary, while Findlay's Find just doesn't get out of third gear," she explained.
The conditions of the race saw Lady Myfanwy, whose outings under Rules have been confined to Hunter Chases, getting a huge weight advantage from some of her rivals, so the runner-up Shouldhavehadthat was far from disgraced in attempting to give away 17lbs. His performance was another feather in the cap for trainer Phillip Rowley, who has enjoyed such a good campaign.
It was an emotional day for Claire, who learned that her grandfather, who had been seriously ill in hospital, had passed away just 30 minutes after her victory. He had, though, been able to acknowledge her success, "And he even had a £10 bet!" confided Myfanwy.
"Paul is happy, and he's a hard man to please." Myfanwy confirms what a special day it's been!
THE APEX WORKING IN THE COMMUNITY HUNTERS' CHASE
"He's given it a smashing ride," enthused Harry Fry after Harry Derham had brought Takeroc home in the two-miler. Harry is assistant to Richard Barber, with whom the grey was stabled earlier in the campaign before being transferred to Paul Nicholls.
"He was awesome today," said his 16-year-old rider, who honed his skills on the pony racing circuit. Harry is Paul's nephew and will be going to work full-time at Ditcheat when he leaves school next month.
Harry Fry confirmed that Takeroc, who is owned by a trio consisting of the trainer himself, his sister Julie Derham [Harry's mother] and Chris Giles, will return to the Hunter Chase scene in 2012 and will be kept to the short distance contests. "He doesn't get three miles, in fact not much beyond 2.2," he commented.
"He might need a trip to the dentist on Monday." It was pointed out that Harry returned with a slightly bloody mouth, although whether any teeth were missing wasn't revealed.