The racecourse at Eaton Hall is a welcome addition to Welsh Borders venues and has potential but the organisers of Leominster Races face challenges if they persist with an early season fixture.
The course rode well and received favourable comments but car parking is detached from the action and that is a negative and needs some innovative thinking to resolve.
West Midland stables were quick to get their names on the scoreboard when Jason Warner’s colours were carried to victory by Mr Burgees in the second race on the card, the Confined.
Having been ridden by novice riders for most of last season, the presence of Byron Moorcroft resulted in more aggressive tactics which resulted in him leading from flag fall and this took some of his rivals out of their comfort zones.
Mr Burgees and Byron Moorcroft lead the field at halfway in the Confined
The Kvilleken lost 10-lengths at the start but moved into contention approaching three out, but Moorcroft chose this moment to ask his mount for another effort and that increased their advantage on the home turn.
Mr Burgees was 10-length clear but connections had a moments anxiety when the leader stumbled after the last which caused his rider to become momentarily unbalanced. That situation was quickly rectified and they stayed on well to hold the challenges of the strong finishing Sacre Toi and How About It.
Jason Warner left and Moorcroft right who went onto to compete a weekend five timer
Queried why he had two horses with the Bridgend based trainer/rider Warner replied. “Byron wanted a safe conveyance for Georgina Wemys who is starting race riding and Mr Burgees looked a good option. The horse was so well we decided to run him here. Byron gave him a cracking ride. He was never right last season and was in the last chance saloon, but showed some of his old sparkle at Bratton Down so we decided to persevere with him”.
Leading trainer Phil Rowley and jockey Alex Edwards got off the mark when their first runner Bears Affair scored a facile win in the Mixed Open.
Pantxoa and Jacob Pritchard Webb set the early pace, but were joined by Claire Hardwick and Western Diva with a circuit to run, with Bears Affair poised on their heels in third.
Alex Edwards took his mount to the front in the straight and the winner showed his class by maintaining his clear advantage over the final two fences. “He really enjoyed that and quickened up nicely after 3 out”, commented the jockey later.
Two young trainers who made a name for themselves last year continued where they had left off 6 months previously.
Maxwell Young also scored with his first runner of the season when Cavs Girl beat her solitary rival (a 5-year-old racecourse debutant) in the Mares Maiden.
The bookmakers were taking no chances by offering a shade of odds on for both horses during the early exchanges, but Quite Remarkable’s supporters soon knew their fate as she ballooned the first and lost 10-lengths and fared little better at the second.
Zac Baker had few problems with his mount who was putting her previous experience to good use which resulted in a foot perfect display.
Her rival closed the gap as they went out onto their final circuit but Cavs Girl gained ground at every obstacle and was good value for her 25-length success.
Cavs Girl and Zac Baker create a favourable impression in the Mares Maiden
Questioned by owner Martin Oliver about the merits of this success the winning jockey expressed his delight “She did all I asked of her and she’s brilliant over her fences. She is a nice mare and probably wants it a bit softer than we had today and should have no difficulty winning a Restricted”. Young said afterwards “We have always liked her and it’s nice to train a winner for Martin”.
Ryan Potter’s Dublin Indemnity put on a bold show in the 2-1/2 mile Maiden but eventually had to settle for second place. The order remained unchanged before Double Indemnity made a mistake at the 10th. He managed to cling onto the lead for another couple of fences but was unable to respond when Henry Crow sent the Joe O’Shea trained Mr Snuffles into a clear lead on the home bend – a welcome birthday present for owner Don Constable.
Mr Snuffles and Henry Crow are clear of their rivals at the last
This provided a third winner of the afternoon for Cheshire trainer O’Shea who has notched up 4 victories during the first two days of the new campaign.
Irish Anthem and Immy Robinson set the ball rolling in the 2 runner Members. The partnership set out to make all the running and succeeded in doing so although Hillview Lad managed to get within two and a half lengths at the post but was subsequently disqualified for failing to weigh in.
Leading West Midland based rider Tommie O’Brien had the proverbial steering job on Road to Rome in the Restricted. This combination had opened their account at Buckfastleigh 7 days earlier and were never headed after taking an early lead and scored an impressive 35-length success over Pearlesque.
O’Brien later suggested to owner Graham Briscoe that he should “look after him because there are better races to be won with him later on in the season”.
Road to Rome and Tommie O’Brien score for the second time this season in the Restricted
Ryan Potter sent out his first winner since moving to new stables on the Caradoc Estate over the summer when Light Flicker justified odds on favouritism in the Open Maiden.
Jack Tudor and Double Dipper set a steady pace but Tudor was already hard at work as they went out onto their final circuit whereas Bradley Gibbs was sitting motionless as the favourite waited in the leader’s slipstream.
Double Dipper (yellow cap) is pushed along to maintain his lead in the Maiden, while Light Flicker (left) bides his time
Sent to front on the final bend Light Flicker extended his advantage up the home straight. The 6-year-old was placed on several occasions last year for previous trainer Andrew Campbell but the Ledbury qualified gelding now carries the colours of the Tewkesbury Partnership.
Light Flicker in the winners enclosure
1ST IRISH ANTHEM MISS I ROBINSON 1-8 FAV
1ST MR BURGEES B MOORCROFT 5-1
2ND SACRE TOI
3RD HOW ABOUT IT
1ST BEARS AFFAIR A EDWARDS 4-7 FAV
2ND WESTERN DIVA
1ST ROAD TO ROME T O’BRIEN 1-5 FAV
1ST CAVS GIRL Z BAKER 4-5 FAV
2ND QUITE REMARKABLE
4-5-6-7 YEAR OLD MAIDEN
1ST MR SNUFFLES H CROW EVENS FAV
2ND DUBLIN INDEMNITY
3RD BONNIE LILY
1ST LIGHT FLICKER B GIBBS 4-7 FAV
2ND DOUBLE DIPPER
3RD KING NIDGE
With 24 runners the North Hereford did the best of the weekend meetings, 23 horses were declared at Barbury and 21 horses at Howick. Although it was done for valid reasons the decision to financially support early season meetings has had repercussions and with the exception of the Mixed Open, racing at Barbury did little to support this initiative.
6 horses lined up for this contest with Iberico and Knockaderry Flyer representing the home contingent, while Net D’Ecosse and Shotavodka had both travelled a long way to participate.
Course specialist Iberico was installed as favourite but it was Knockaderry Flyer who set the early pace, while Iberico put in several clumsy jumps during the first circuit.
Shotavodka (nearside), leads Petrou and Iberico (pink) at halfway in the Mixed Open
The race began in earnest as they raced down the back straight for the final time and Net D’Ecosse had just taken the lead when he blundered Jack Andrews out of the saddle at the 13th.
Shotavodka and Petrou quickened the pace at the next where Iberico was caught flat footed and lost about 10-lengths on his rivals.
The winner started to get the better of Petrou on the run to the penultimate but Iberico’s stamina started to kick in and as he always does he put in his best work in the closing stages, passing Petrou on the flat and was only a length and three quarters behind the winner at the finish.
Success on Shotavodka continued the good start to the season made by Tommie O’Brien but his exploits were put into context by Byron Moorcroft who landed at 4-timer at Howick including a walkover on Jason Warner’s Beneficial Joe in the Mixed Open, while Upton on Severn trainer Jo Priest took the Members with A Tale of Intrigue at the start of this meeting.
Photo’s – Graham Fisher and Pete Mansell