Back in February 2016, a hurdler called Ballyoptic made his British debut at Ffos Las after some consistent runs in point to point races in Ireland. He was sent off at odds of 16-1 so presumably not a huge amount was expected but he won fairly comfortably.
On that chilly winter day, little did we know we were witnessing a performance from a horse who would become extremely popular with racegoers – not just for his victories but his hugely game and determined attitude.
Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, the now eleven-year-old Ballyoptic was retired last week after refusing at the 21st fence in the Grand National. He won nine of his 32 career starts including the Grade 1 Sefton Novices' Hurdle at Aintree in 2016 and the Grade 2 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in 2019. His prize money haul was £343,000.
He won the Silver Trophy at Chepstow in 2016 as well as the Native River Chase at the same track in 2019. He also ran several fine races in defeat, coming within a nose of winning the Scottish National at Ayr in 2018 a month after he was fourth behind Presenting Percy in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham.
Ballyoptic will definitely be remembered as one of the best horses to have run at Ffos Las since the course opened in 2009. I wish him well in his retirement.
Racehorse owners returned to another Welsh track for the first time since lockdown measures were relaxed when Bangor hosted racing last weekend. Owners have been back at Chepstow for the last two fixtures and we are about to start discussions with Carmarthenshire Council to gain permission for them to attend our next meeting on May 10th.
There is still no news about the return of all spectators and further updates are expected from the Welsh Government in the near future. Please keep an eye on the Ffos Las website.
Welsh jockey Alan Johns had a rewarding trip to the Scottish Grand National meeting at Ayr on Friday when he rode Aquila Sky to victory for Shropshire trainer and former point to point rider Sam Allwood. The partnership were also successful with Rob The Getaway at Stratford on Sunday.
Pembrokeshire trainer Peter Bowen sent his recent Newbury winner Mac Tottie to Ayr on Sunday and the eight year old ran a great race to finish runner-up in the Class 2 CPMS Novices’ Champion Handicap Chase.
Congratulations to trainer Neil Mulholland who won the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr with Milkwood. The seven year old gelding finished fourth in the Potter Group Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las last October and was a close third in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham last month.
The next meeting at Chepstow is this Friday 23rd April when the course hosts its last jump meeting until the Unibet Jump Season Opened in October. Flat racing resumes on Friday 30th April.