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Weekend review: racing and rugby come together

Article 17th March 2019

By Graham Dench

The Festival might be over, but there was more to come...

RUGBY AND RACING COMBINE ON A DAY OF HIGH DRAMA

What a magnificent week of sport. First, racing stole the limelight during the week for all the right reasons at The Festival, presented by Magners. Then Wales completed the Grand Slam in rugby’s Six Nations on a day of high drama.

Fitting then that the two sports combined to produce racing’s biggest story of the day on Saturday.

While Jonathan ‘Fox’ Davies was busy on the pitch helping his Welsh teammates defeat Ireland at the Principality, the horse he owns a share of was delivering an equally gutsy and impressive victory at Uttoxeter.

Potters Corner, owned by the All Stars Sports Racing partnership, could hardly be more Welsh. Trained by Christian Williams near Bridgend he is also ridden by teenager James Bowen, who is from a famous Pembrokeshire family all steeped in racing.

Wales were beating England when Potters Corner fell two out in Newcastle’s Eider Chase last month. And although it was half time when the nine-year-old set off at Uttoxeter on Saturday, Davies will have been back on his way out to the pitch by the time the four-and-a-quarter miler was concluding.

Potters Corner has been earmarked for the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown Park on April 27, while Ms Parfois will hopefully be heading to Aintree for the Randox Health Grand National three weeks earlier.

ONE PROBABLY WAS AMUSED AT TRAINER LONGSDON’S GAFFE

What better way for Nico de Boinville to round off a week in which he was crowned Holland Cooper Leading Jockey at the Cheltenham Festival than to ride a winner for Her Majesty.

The Queen only has five Jumps horses in training – most of her runners are on the Flat - but Forth Bridge was a worthy winner of the Matchbook Silver Bowl Handicap Chase at Kempton Park.

The race is framed specifically for horses not quite good enough to make the cut in any of the Festival handicaps and Forth Bridge proved too good for the field.

Spare a thought for trainer Charlie Longsdon, who was busy preparing for the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter though.

Not only had he forgotten Forth Bridge was running and missed watching the action on the big screen, but ITV Racing’s Rishi Persad then told the world (and the Queen, if she was tuned in) the embarrassing anecdote live on TV just minutes later.

WICKED WILLY GETS TWISTON-DAVIES BACK TO WINNING WAYS

Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies ended this year’s Festival without a winner to his name, but did at least watch Wicked Willy win the Matchbook VIP Silver Plate Handicap Hurdle at Kempton Park on Saturday.

Twiston-Davies will have been delighted with Bristol De Mai’s fine third in the Magners Gold cup on Friday behind eventual winner Al Boum Photo.

But he’ll be even more pleased to be back in the winners’ enclosure after seeing off Burrows Edge, ridden by de Boinville and the 7-4 favourite.

QUICKFIRE DOUBLE HELPS KING GET OVER HIS FESTIVAL BLUES

Nigel Twiston-Davies wasn’t the only high profile Jumps trainer who went the week without a Festival winner.

Alan King was another who missed out, although Sceau Royal looked for a moment as if he might do the unthinkable and spoil Altior’s party in the Betway Queen Mother Chase.

King is fiercely competitive and will have been disappointed with his week, but he was on the mark at Kempton in the first two races with Harambe and Timoteo, the latter having also featured in a double for the trainer and jockey Wayne Hutchinson at Stratford at the start of the week.

DELIGHTED GEMMEL BRINGS HOME THE BACON … AGAIN

The two most enduring memories from The Festival are likely to be the emotional return of Jockey Club Racecourses’ ambassador Bryony Frost on Frodon after the Ryanair Chase, and owner Andrew Gemmell’s unconstrained delight at Paisley Park’s storming success in the Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle.

Frost, who had begun the week riding her 100th career winner at Plumpton, could not quite manage another at Uttoxeter on Saturday as Milansbar was pulled up in the Midlands National.

But Gemmell, blind since birth, is a member of the Makin’ Bacon Partnership who own De Rasher Counter, also trained by Emma Lavelle and a good winner of the novice handicap chase there.

Neither Frost nor Gemmell will forget the last week in a hurry, and nor will we.

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