Sporting competition does not have to be between the most talented in any discipline to be the most compelling. Two amateur flyweights slugging it out in the village hall for no more than a mass-produced shield, can produce a spectacle as thrilling as a multi million dollar Tyson Fury/Anthony Joshua fight in Las Vegas.
We have seen this week that the FA Cup football matches, featured on the BBC, between non league clubs comprised of amateurs and semi professionals can be even more enthralling than those featuring the brilliantly skilled antics of the Premier League and its highly paid stars.The members’ race at the local point-to-point is as poignant and memorable to many as the King George VI Chase or the Gold Cup. Thus it was that we looked forward to our second meeting of the season, sandwiched between The Breeders Cup and the season’s first top class jumps meeting at Cheltenham tomorrow, without any fear of producing a day that was not their equal. And so it proved on this latest Remembrance Day.
On what was a relatively mild mid November afternoon the season’s second meeting was run on unusually fast ground (officially good to firm). The attendance, swelled by Racing TV’s members enjoying a free day, witnessed the first race, a selling hurdle run over 2m 3f, won by Celestial Force, running in his lowest ever grade, for Paul Nicholls. Ridden by Lorcan Williams who is now within two of riding out his claim, Celestial Force, as his prohibitive 2/7 odds suggested, won going away. There was no bid for the winner, but the second horse, Eclair des Sablons, was claimed for £6,000.The entire racing community will have been thrilled that Nicholls, some thirty years after saddling his first winner, was rewarded with a trip to Buckingham Palace yesterday to receive an O.B.E.. Well done Sir.
It was a case of déjà vu in the second, the Newton King Estate Agents Novices Hurdle over the same trip which saw Chester Williams, also claiming 3 lbs, bring home another odds on favourite Honneur D’Ajonc trained locally in Devon by his mother Jane Williams. The nearest challenger, Glajou, ran well enough; before the race, the trainer’s daughter Megan Nicholls, had said that she thought he might want for race fitness, and so it proved.
In a previous blog, we’d reported that this was the week of the Williams, after 5 winners from trainers of that name. This sixth, and for good measure, a handicap chase winner at Sedgefield for Redditch-based Ian, brings Williams-trained winners since Sunday to 7. There are fewer stranger trends to follow.
Next, the race many had been looking forward to for many months as it was the first race over the bigger obstacles of the season. This 2m 2f Taunton Business Club Novices Handicap Chase saw Catch The Cuban go off as favourite to win, but not without several heart-stopping moments. At the second last, Heronord, an unexposed horse running in his first handicap, came up between horses going best of all, only to overreach and unship the unfortunate Conor Ring. This left Naizagan, who looked a difficult ride, the only danger to the favourite. At the last Catch the Cuban went well clear only to start pulling himself up before being declared the winner in a photo finish by just a head. A lucky escape.
The 2 mile maiden hurdle seemed to be the most open race of the day, with several unknown quantities among the day’s largest field of 11 runners. The winner, Galore Desassances, very well ridden by Kieran Buckley, came from a long way back to win for Nigel Hawke. Wearing cheek pieces for the first time, Galore Desassances seems to be a very good horse in the making. The fine run of Braveheart, who was backed, should be noted.
There were many amongst the sporting crowd who would have liked to see the Aytach Sadik trained Young Turk overturn the odds on Philip Hobbs’ Ebony Gale in the 2m 7f Arthur & Peggy Moore Memorial Chase. It was not to be as the favourite trotted up. Geoff (Aytach),has not sent out a winner from his Worcestershire yard for seven years, but there are only a few owner trainers in the country, and they add greatly to our sport. Good luck to him.
The last was a thriller. Saturn N’ Silk had been well backed for the Scudamore brothers but refused to race. At the second last there were eight in with a chance including the favourite Molliana who was at the back of the pack but nevertheless got up to win for Sam Twiston-Davies and Neil Mulholland. Home to Bath is a somewhat easier trip from Taunton for successful British mare Molliana; her last five outings have been to the picturesque racecourse at Les Landes in Jersey, and they’ve certainly given her a winning habit: four from five over the summer season has brought pleasure not just to her owners, but to a racing-starved island too.