Ffos Las stages the £50,000 DragonBet Welsh Champion Hurdle this Sunday, their first jump meeting of the season proper. Last year’s winner and runner-up Effernock Fizz (photographed) and Milkwood are among the entries. The first race is 1.35pm and tickets are available in advance and on the day.
The winter jump season gets under way on Friday with Chepstow’s two-day Unibet Jump Season Opener. Several Irish trainers have entries including Gordon Elliott, Gavin Cromwell and Peter Fahey. Paul Nicholls will have plenty of entries, including Captain Teague, third in Cheltenham’s Champion Bumper, making his hurdling debut. Nicholls had eight winners at this meeting in 2020 and rarely has fewer than three. Evan Williams has some nice novices entered. Rain is on the way and that should make the going ideal.
Four Welsh jockeys went to Fontwell on Saturday for one ride each and three of them finished second – James Davies, Sean Bowen and Connor Brace. None of their mounts were favourites, so it was a fair enough outcome but a long way to go.
On Sunday Bowen had several good rides at Uttoxeter. He was in the winners enclosure after the novice hurdle on Olly Murphy’s Booster Bob, who could be seen going best half a mile out. However, in the end he had to get quite serious to hold off a couple of fast-finishing rivals.
Half an hour later Bowen won a three-runner novice chase on Chasing Fire, who is in the same stable and the same ownership as the previous winner. He jumped well on this, his fencing debut.
The last race on the card went to Tim Vaughan and Alan Johns with Weaver’s Answer. The five-year-old deserved his success after four consecutive placed efforts last season. It was the yard’s first winner of the new winter season.
On Monday Ben Jones was in the winners’ enclosure at Stratford after success aboard Jigginstown King for trainer Oliver Signy. Jack Tudor has built up a great partnership with the David Pipe trained mare Myristica who won her fourth race of the summer at the same fixture.
Rohaan’s victory at Ascot last week was a welcome relief after a largely disappointing season. Wales’s leading sprinter showed a bit of his old spark in the Ayr Gold Cup last month, finishing a close seventh. The handicapper dropped him to a mark of 102, from a peak of 115 after winning his second Wokingham, and Evans entered him in a typical big-field sprint handicap at Ascot on Friday. Despite top weight of 9-12 and 15 opponents, he was the market leader at skinny odds of 2/1 to secure his fifth win on his favourite track. Drawn near the favoured stand side, he was as usual held up for the first half of the race, but his cause appeared hopeless as jockey Neil Callan was forced to sit and suffer behind a wall of horses in front of him. After what seemed an age a gap opened near the rails and Rohaan went through it willingly, ran on strongly and hit the front in the last few strides.
Evans admitted after the race that he had told Rohaan’s Irish owners the horse was on the way back, and they were present to see his faith justified. Connections have nothing to lose by going for the Champions Day Sprint over the same distance on the 21st. Rohaan was fourth in that in 2022, when in better form than he has been this year.