While there was plenty of great action at Aintree and Sandown on Saturday, Welsh jockeys and trainers were making hay at Chepstow, winning six out of the eight races.
Sean Bowen rode a short-priced double for Harry Fry. Ask Me Early finished alone in a three mile novice hurdle as a warmup for the Welsh Grand National on the 27th, for which he is the 8/1 joint second favourite. Ree Okka won the two and a half mile novice hurdle. As usual with this type of race at Chepstow, the winners are good prospects.
Lorcan Williams (photographed) rode out his claim aboard the odds-on Take Your Time, who needed every yard of the three miles to get on top. He could be back for a Welsh National in a year or two. Williams has been attached to the Paul Nicholls yard for six years and it was apt that the multiple champion trainer supplied this, his 75th career winner.
Sam Thomas’s Iwilldoit ran away with the Coral Welsh National Trial, leading for most of the race and galloping 24 lengths clear at the line. The Braces’ consistent Colorado Doc was second. Both will probably line up for the Welsh National itself.
Pat’s Fancy won the three mile novice chase for Rebecca Curtis and Ben Jones. This was only his second outing over the larger obstacles, but he jumped nicely. He has run creditably on softer going than he encountered here, which augurs well for the future.
Powys trainer Brian Eckley won the National Hunt flat race with his home-bred Libberty Hunter, who made all the running against fourteen opponents. It was the horse’s second bumper victory – not many manage that – a full twelve months after his last run. He could be anything. If Eckley wants to name his price, it’s sure to have six figures.
Richard Patrick went to Wetherby, where he rode a double for Henry Daly and Anthony Honeyball. He is on the crest of a wave at the moment, with a best-ever strike rate of 14 winners from 69 rides since the beginning of October.
Away from Chepstow, the Welsh were less fortunate.
At Sandown, Christian Williams’ Strictlyadancer failed to add to his three consecutive victories, being pulled up in the three mile five furlong London National.
James Bowen’s first ride on dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree was not a happy one; the horse was never going and was pulled up at halfway. In the Becher Chase soon afterwards Bowen took a fall at the Chair from his father’s Mac Tottie, on whom he’d won the Grand Sefton a month ago.
James had the consolation of winning the finale at Huntingdon on Sunday riding Lord Sparky for Northamptonshire trainer Caroline Bailey. His brother Sean normally gets the call from that yard, but he had been booked to ride the favourite for the Scottish Borders National at Kelso for Gordon Elliott. That turned out to be a rare loser for the Irish stable this weekend.
The Sheila Lewis-trained Straw Fan Jack was sixth, beaten ten lengths, in the very competitive handicap hurdle that closed Aintree’s card on Saturday. The horse won a novice hurdle on the same card last year by 30 lengths, but he did well to run there at all this time. The trainer is having to self-isolate due to a positive Covid test and her sole employee, amateur jockey Katie Powell, broke her collarbone in a fall at Sandown on Friday.
Our final meeting of the year is Thursday 16th December and the full 2022 fixture list is on the website.