West Country is well represented as Taunton flag falls on new season

Welcome back Taunton.. After far too long without a spectator in sight, bars and grandstands were opened to the public once again to enjoy chasing at Somerset’s most endearing course. West Country trainers took their fair share of the prizes on offer, although the feature event wen northwards to Cheshire where Donald McCain’s onward winner march shows no sign of stopping.

See The Sea is a transformed horse since a wind operation in July. This handsome win was her third on the bounce since then, her only other run being a 5 1/2l second. She enjoyed a ding dong battle with Tom Lacey’s Glory And Honour up the run-in , but always had the measure of the runner-up, and there’s little to say she might not win a fourth whilst she and her handler are in this sort of form. McCain has already rattled off 48 winners and this was the fourth of the past week.

Winning trainer Donald McCain has plenty to be cheery about
Winning trainer Donald McCain has plenty to be cheery about


The prizes had less far to travel home in the opener when Valentino defied a jump in the weights to win the Cornish Gin Handicap Hurdle by 1 1/2l from Kendelu. Jackie du Plessis’s last two winners have been priced at 100/1 and 25s, so this 15/8 favourite must have been something of a shock! Small yard she may run, but underestimate the Saltash handler at your peril. Her 25% strike rate sits up there with the best.

Another West Country stable jumping out of its skin presently is that of Sutton Veny’s Milton Harris, who has enjoyed a terrific autumn so far, capped today by a double in the concluding two races here at Taunton. Mi Laddo has found it difficult to capitalize on his one victory up to today, but finally found a winning post again in front in the Thatchers Cider Handicap Hurdle under a forceful ride from Paddy Brennan, putting 1 3/4l between himself and his nearest pursuer.

Thirty minutes later, the Harris team were basking in self-satisfaction once again when Fire Lake, a neck second in her debut bumper at Ludlow in early October, went one better in the concluding Taunton Business Club Mares Bumper. This augurs well for a sale, given she remains in the ownership of her trainer, and for  promotion to a hurdle race. The Harris team has enjoyed nine winners in the past month, a personal milestone, and it would appear everything he trains is in with a shout presently. Stick with it whilst they’re in form.

Angela Tincknell has enjoyed horses with Paul Nicholls for a long time, and the latest novice hurdler to carry her colours successfully is Time To Tinker, a fairly straightforward ride for Bryony Frost, doubtless anxious to put the headlines of last Sunday’s papers behind her and get on with the day job. The Nicholls yard has accelerated into a high gear now the autumn is properly here. Big race winners at Chepstow a fortnight ago announced their presence back on the scene, but it won’t be plain sailing to a 13th trainers’ championship. Contenders are lining up behind for this coveted crown.

Having a family connection to help further your career offers a great head start, and Eleanor Williams is making the most of that opportunity, riding her second winner of the summer in the Taunton Racecourse Annual Membership Available Today Handicap Hurdle for conditionals and amateurs. Sensibly she stuck to hands and heels on Voodoo Doll, trained by her father, to repulse the late challenge of Soul Icon, to win a neck. In these days of more and more women riders, she is keeping excellent company in the weighing room.