While the Arc de Triomphe took centre stage on Sunday, three Welsh jockeys were enjoying a good afternoon at Uttoxeter.
Sean Bowen rode Mariners Moon to win there for Caroline Bailey, a Northamptonshire trainer with whom he has had a long association. Caroline was the first lady to ride a winner at Cheltenham and her father Dick Saunders rode Grittar to land the 1982 Grand National. Mariners Moon had a nasty fall last time out but showed no anxiety as Bowen steered him to a 19 length win.
Richard Patrick has had a quiet summer, with no winners and only nine rides since the end of May, but Orchard Grove stopped the rot with a battling victory. The horse is trained by Kerry Lee, whose Happy Diva and Storm Control have furnished Patrick with big-race successes at Cheltenham in the last two seasons.
In the final race on the card James Bowen steered The Bomber Liston to a wide-margin success for J P McManus and Nicky Henderson.
There’s quality throughout both days of this weekend’s Unibet Jump Season Opener meeting at Chepstow when there is £400,000 of prize money on offer. It gets under way on Friday with a race commemorating popular and much respected owner Andy Stewart, who died recently. His trainer Paul Nicholls is intent on winning the race named after his old friend and his entry Knappers Hill is sure to be a short price.
Nicholls makes a habit of training winners at this meeting, but readers with long memories will recall him riding them too. Broadheath won the Mercedes-Benz Chase (since renamed the Native River) three times in a row in the mid-1980s and Nicholls was on board for the last of those.
Friday’s highlight is the £60,000 Unibet Persian War Novices Hurdle, named after the winner of three consecutive Champion Hurdles in 1968-70. For the first two he was trained close to Chepstow racecourse by ex-jockey Colin Davies, but Persian War’s owner was a difficult man to please and the horse was moved to another stable. This year’s race has 19 entries, 18 of which have won under National Hunt Rules. The exception is The Grand Visir, and as he finished only seven lengths behind Stradivarius on the flat six weeks ago that may be the best form of all.
Saturday’s main event is the £75,000 Wasdell Group Silver Trophy, but the novices’ chase has seen many stars of the sport at the beginning of their careers over the big obstacles, including Cue Card, Silviniaco Conti and Clan Des Obeaux. The day also sees the launch of a new 256 page book, “Champion Jump Horse Racing Jockeys”, the first to tell the story of all 22 post-war champions. The author, Neil Clark, will be signing copies at Chepstow, as will some of the jockeys featured in the book.
David Evans’ promising two-year-old Wind Your Neck In went in at Salisbury last week after two good placed efforts there. Three and a half lengths was the winning margin. His stable companion Rohaan is being aimed at the six furlong sprint on Champions Day on Saturday week. Course form is a big advantage at Ascot these days and he is around 5/1 in the ante-post market.
Finally, we are delighted to welcome the Potter Group back as sponsors of the £50,000 Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las on Saturday 16th October.