It was a mixed experience for James Bowen at Cheltenham at the weekend, deputising for Nico de Boinville with five rides for Nicky Henderson. It couldn’t have got off to a better start, thanks to the impressive victory of Sir Gino in the opener, a Grade 2 Juvenile Hurdle. He trounced Burdett Road by ten lengths and replaced him as favourite for the Triumph Hurdle.
Bowen’s next two mounts were well beaten but then came a most frustrating ride on Jonbon, a 1/4 favourite in the rearranged Clarence House Chase. He didn’t jump as slickly as he normally does and a juddering mistake at the fourth last nearly unseated Bowen. Despite losing a lot of ground, the horse’s class enabled him to take the lead by the final fence, only for him to jump it cautiously and hand the initiative back to Elixir De Nutz, his only challenger. Jonbon gamely tried to catch him, only to go down by a neck.
Bowen bounced back at Doncaster on Sunday, doing well to settle Marie’s Rock in the Grade Two 3m hurdle. She had the best form, but as you could see from her high head carriage she can be too keen for her own good. It turned into something of a sprint, but with the help of neat jumps at the last two flights she scuttled ahead on the run-in to win.
Ben Jones has had a fine week, with a Chepstow treble on Wednesday sandwiched between winners at Newbury and Huntingdon. He has made the most of a new connection with trainer Ben Pauling. At Doncaster on Sunday he was riding the yard’s Champagne Twist, who made all the running in the maiden hurdle to score by six lengths.
Jones completed a double for the stable in the bumper on debutant Les’s Destiny Star. Probably the most heavily backed horse of the day, his early odds tumbled from 15/2 to an SP of 6/5. He’s now ridden seven winners from his last fourteen mounts.
Sean Bowen is hoping that a scan on his injured knee on Tuesday will bring good news. A fitness test would then be necessary to pass him fit to return to the saddle. He is rueing his diminishing lead over Harry Cobden in the jockeys’ title race, which is now down to 15. His rival his ridden 14 winners this month.
Adam Wedge (photographed) will be out of action for at least a few months due to a fall while schooling for Martin Keighley on Thursday. Three vertebrae have been damaged. It’s a further reminder that participants in jump racing are subject to abrupt changes of fortune.
Daniel Muscutt, born in Zimbabwe but raised in West Wales, was at Kenilworth in South Africa to ride for his father at the weekend. He picked up a winning spare in a Group 1 on a 33/1 shot, Double Superlative, for another local trainer. Muscutt was due back at less glamorous Wolverhampton to ride on Monday evening.
Our next meeting is this Thursday with seven races set to get under way at 1.30pm. Tickets are available in advance and on the day.