Sam Jukes produced two contrasting but well-judged riding performances which provided Clive Bennett with a double on home bred horses at Larkhill on Sunday afternoon.
The Dymock based trainer/rider led from flag fall and repelled all challenges before landing the Conditions on Marcle Ridge but then showed remarkable patience on Miss Seagreen who snatched Division I of the Maiden in the final 25 yards.
Marcle Ridge has always been well regarded by connections but the Larkhill bookies saw fit to install Sam Cavallaro, Teeton Kato and Portrait King as early favourites.
After opening up at 7-1 Marcle Ridge came in for significant support which sent his odds tumbling as the runners made their way to the start.
Jukes mount was in front by the second and having claimed that position was able to stride along at the head of affairs and was still in front as they disappeared from view at the far end of the course.
The climb up to the 14th exposes any stamina limitations but the partnership had maintained their clear lead when they reappeared over the horizon. The chasing pack did their best to close over the next half mile but Gizzit was 3-lengths down at the penultimate.
Marcle Ridge (pink) just leads at the last from Knockaderry Flyer (noseband) and the grey Portrait King
Portrait King and Knockaderry Flyer then put in their efforts but Marcle Ridge kept finding extra and maintained his advantage around the final bend. The favourite put in another prodigious leap at the last and showed remarkable bravery clinging onto his diminishing lead as they passed the post.
Marcle Ridge is named after a local landmark which Bennett can see out of the window from his Dymock home.
Clive Bennett (cap) and winning jockey Sam Jukes pick up the silverware
A bag of carrots for the horse is a nice touch
The jockey explained later “I didn’t plan to make the running because it seemed everybody else wanted to, but he jumped in front at the first, grabbed the bit and I did not want to disappoint him”.
Having had their fingers burnt with Marcle Ridge the bookies were taking no chances with stablemate Miss Seagreen in Division I of the Maiden later in the afternoon.
Sent off as favourite her supporters must have been fearing the worst as the commentator reported the mare was being scrubbed along to stay in touch at halfway.
Several of the early leaders started to drop away soon afterwards and Ballyjim and Martin McIntyre then took command, with Hon the DJ in second place. The first two looked to have the race between them but Jukes continued with his efforts and the mare then made rapid progress to go 3rd at the 16th.
She was still 6-lengths down at the penultimate but continued to close and saved several lengths when she got through on the inner as they turned into the home straight.
Miss Seagreen (pink) storms to the front during the closing stages of the Maiden
The three runners were spread across the course and there was little between Ballyjim, Hon the DJ and Miss Seagreen as they started off up the run in but Jukes mount was now hitting full stride and got the measure of her rivals in the final 30 yards.
Home bred double for Clive Bennett
A runner up twice last year, the jockey described her “as a tough mare who ran a bit green when she hit the front”. Asked if he was confident of picking up his rivals Jukes reported “Only at the second last, I thought they had gone too fast and would come back to me, and they did, just”.
Bennett has recorded doubles in the past but this is the first time with a home bred pairing. These successes provided a major boost to connections, as Bennett is still recovering from a major operation. He was keen to return to the racecourse immediately afterwards but heeded his family’s concerns that he needed time to recover.
Both of these horses were qualified with the Ledbury, whereas the Mens Open winner Stellar Notion has a North Cotswold certificate.
10 horses faced the starter, but Stellar Notion and Abricot de L’Oasis dominated the race from flag fall and were soon well clear of the other runners.
They had a significant advantage passing the start with a mile to run and with neither of them showing any signs of stopping it was obvious it would require an extraordinary effort for their rivals to get into contention.
Stellar Notion (blue and white) and Abricot de L’Oasis (left) barely saw another rival during the Mens Open and are still inseperable at the last
The favourite Shotavodka began to make progress in the final half mile but Stellar Notion saw off the challenge of Abricot de L’Oasis around the final bend and eventually prevailed by a length and a half.
Trainer Thomas Frost and owner Steve Dunn (left) on their way back to the winners enclosure
This win provided a first training success for Thomas Fuller who is based at Steven Dunn’s yard at Solihull. The handler admitted he was nervous before the race. “The horse had been going well at home and we thought he would love the galloping track. This is the best start we could hope for”.
The Skinners Pet Foods sponsored Ladies Open provided the best field of its type seen out so far this season and was won in impressive style by the Rose Loxton trained Monsieur Gibraltar.
With Sonneofpresenting an early casualty Southfield Theatre assumed his customary front running role but was joined by Harriett Tuckers mount at the 10th and along with Bistouri d’Honore they began to drew clear of the rest of the field.
Monsieur Gibralter after his success in the Ladies Open
The latter was the first to crack and was quickly followed by Southfield Theatre who was unable to match the pace of Monsieur Gibraltar over the final 2 fences.
1st Marcle Ridge S Jukes 2-1
2nd Portrait King
3rd Knockaderry Flyer
1st Monsieur Gibraltar Miss H Tucker 2-1
2nd Southfield Theatre
3rd Bistro D’Honore
Maiden – Division I
1st Miss Seagreen S Jukes 2-1
3rd Hon the DJ
Maiden – Division II
1st Hello Jazz R Withey 10-1
2nd Silver Louna
3rd Double Miss
1st Stellar Notion J Andrews 4-1
2nd Abricot de L’Oasis
1st Coco Live J Savage 10-1
3rd Haven’t Time
1st Storm Lantern Miss J Harbison 7-2
2nd Adrenalin Flight