Swinton Hurdle Day at Haydock Park is like no other, as it is the last remaining mixed card to take place in the UK.
There was plenty to note both on the Flat and over the Jumps and we sent Nick Seddon to speak to the winners on the day…
COPPERLESS MAKES UP FOR AINTREE MISHAP
The Olly Murphy-trained Copperless was one of the hard luck stories of the entire meeting at last month’s Randox Grand National Festival at Aintree, parting company with conditional jockey Lewis Stones when seemingly travelling well at two from home in a competitive handicap.
Copperless was handed a 3lb rise by the handicapper for that effort, but that didn’t deter punters as he was sent off as the 9-2 favourite for the feature race on the card, the Grade Three Pertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle over two miles.
This race is normally one of the most competitive races of its kind, but the six year old, who is owned by Murphy’s father Aiden and Alan Peterson, seems to have really clicked into place for Murphy and he couldn’t have been more impressive when turning what should have been a hot handicap into a procession – winning by eight lengths.
Murphy was delighted by that performance, and said: “It was gutting what happened at Aintree, which was at no fault of the young lad Lewis Stones, but we’ve made amends today and he was really impressive.
“I was cursing the handicapper coming into this (after being raised 3lbs for his performance at Aintree) but how right he was! He’s a horse on an upward curve and we’ll enjoy today and winning a good pot. It was very impressive and he’s going to get clobbered for that but the Greatwood (staged at Cheltenham in November) looks the obvious option and he’ll contest nice races from now on.
“My dad is probably one of the most unlucky owners of racehorses ever, so I’m chuffed for him and I’m chuffed for the Peterson family who have supported me since I started training.”
GILLARD ENHANCES HIS FINE RECORD AT HAYDOCK PARK
We’re all aware of the saying ‘horses for courses’, though it seems that jockeys can also building a liking for certain tracks too, as Fergus Gillard showed when winning the opening Pertemps Network Long Distance Handicap Hurdle on the veteran Dell’ Arca.
Gillard is into just his third full season in the saddle, but he’s already enjoyed considerable success at Haydock Park coming into today’s opener, winning two valuable contests on Main Fact in 2020 before striking here on Sexy Lot in a Challenger Series Final last month.
The latter of Main Fact’s victories here under Gillard came courtesy of a withering late run after the final flight and it was a similar story with the 12 year old Dell’ Arca, who got up in the dying strides to deny the Lucy Wadham-trained Trincomalee.
And Gillard was delighted to have enhanced his fine Haydock Park record on the old boy, who is a popular figure at David Pipe’s Pond House base.
He said of his 11-1 success today: “I knew that he’s a good horse and that he’d stay the trip but it’s such a long run after the last that he needed every inch of it. He’s not stopped galloping and I’m so delighted for (owner) Caroline Tisdall and everyone at home, he’s a real yard favourite. This place has done me really well so far and hopefully that continues.”
ALEAS LOOKS UPWARDLY MOBILE
There were several commanding winners on the afternoon, though the most impressive was perhaps the Ralph Beckett-trained Aleas, who relished the heavy conditions on the Flat course when scooting to a nine and a half-length success in the mile Pertemps Network Handicap under Hector Crouch.
Hitting the front at the two furlong pole, Aleas (11-8 Favourite) soon had matters underhand and quickly pulled clear to pick up a third victory in four outings – something which particularly impressed his jockey.
Indeed, when speaking after the race, Crouch stated that he feels there could be plenty more to come from Kirsten Rausing’s homebred Archipenko gelding yet, who ought to find himself in some nice races sooner rather than later after winning this off a mark of 86.
He said: “That was very impressive from him. I knew he’d like the ground and I was just able to take a sit in behind them. He travelled up very strongly and they kind of stopped in front of me so it was very comfortable and he relished that ground.
“I imagine he’s going to step up in trip in time and will probably shape more like a mile and a quarter horse or even further in time, we’ll have to see what the handicapper does but you’ll imagine he’ll go up a good bit for that and he might be at the level to get into some good handicaps now.”
CAPE BYRON BOUNCES BACK TO FORM
It may have been a Class 2 race on paper, but the four-runner Pertemps Network Conditions Stakes had the feeling of a Group level sprint to it, with established Pattern performers Brando and Khaadem sitting at the top of the market.
It certainly wasn’t a match race however as the Roger Varian-trained Cape Byron was a smart performer in his own right. Having missed the majority of last season through injury, the seven year old showed no rustiness on the back of a 203-day break, tracking the front-running Brando before gamely holding that rival off when hitting the front in the final furlong.
With regular partner Andrea Atzeni riding at Ascot it was Eoin Walsh who took the ride and the jockey was delighted to have been given the opportunity to ride such a talented horse.
He said of the 3-1 winner: “He did that nicely. We got away with the ground as it was quite heavy out there and his soft ground form isn’t on anything as deep as this but he handled it fine and hopefully he’ll come on a lot for this.
“There was no confirmed pace and although I didn’t want to make the running it was looking as though I was going to have to, luckily Brando went on and I could just sit in behind and there was no excuse from there.
“I don’t know what the plan is, so I’ll leave that to Roger Varian and Andrea Atzeni to discuss that, but it’s a great opportunity for me. The one meeting a day rule gives lesser known jockeys like me a chance to shine on the big stage and hopefully it works out now.”
BOARDMAN LIKES IT TESTING!
It was unseasonably heavy on the Flat track at Haydock Park, which opened the door to performers who show their best when there is a bit of a cut in the ground.
That certainly proved to be the case for the Tim Easterby-trained Boardman (9-1) in the Pertemps Handicap over seven furlongs, who relished the conditions when picking up his first victory in more than two years under Dane O’Neill.
And his jockey pointed out that it’s a big advantage to be booked on a runner who enjoys tricky conditions when the rain comes. He said: “Tim said the ground would be a big factor for him and of course if they go in that ground you’ve got a lot in your favour.
“He travelled nicely into the race and Tim said to ride him with a little bit of confidence to relax him and let him fill up for the second half of the race. He got through the ground nice and easy, he’s my third ride today and I’d say it was heavy on the others but it felt good to soft on him!”