After a chilly week leading up to the meeting, the sun came out for Saturday’s Think Pink Ladies Night, with jockey Noel Fehily and trainer Harry Fry making hay with a double in front of another big crowd, writes David Hucker.
Brahms De Clermont, who was making a quick reappearance after scoring at Exeter four days earlier, was a solid favourite to follow up for trainer Paul Nicholls in the feature £10,000 Whites-Buyers Of All Scrap Metal Handicap Hurdle. Nicholls, who is looking to regain his champion trainer crown from Nicky Henderson, has got off to a good start in the new season, sending out four winners at a strike rate of 36%, to lie second to his former assistant Dan Skelton.
Sent to the front by Sam Twiston-Davies, Brahms De Clermont made the running until joined by Golden Birthday, who looked like posting a comfortable success.
But, a mistake at the penultimate flight opened the race up again, with Red Indian mounting a challenge down the stands side, and it took all of Fehily’s strength and experience to keep the leader on an even-keel and hold on for a second success over jumps.
Fehily and Fry had struck earlier with Black Mischief in the Ardencote Spa & Golf Interactive “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle. Get Rhythm, sixth in a handicap on his last run at Chepstow, was just preferred to Fehily’s mount in a tight betting market and he set a strong gallop from the start in the hands of Adrian Heskin.
However Fehily was just biding his time in behind the leader and, having jumped the second-last flight alongside, Black Mischief quickly went clear to atone for his fall on his hurdling debut at Wincanton back in January.
Jockey Harry Skelton, who had finished fifth on Sir Mangan in the first race at Haydock Park’s afternoon meeting, made the journey down the M6 to Warwick to partner odds-on favourite Blairs Cove in the opening Kevin Holder Novices’ Hurdle over two miles and three furlongs.
Setting a steady pace at the head of affairs, Skelton tried to quicken the tempo off the home turn, only for Blairs Cove to hang to the right. Straightened up approaching the final flight, he then jumped awkwardly, but still had too much in hand for his five rivals, coming home nine lengths clear of second-favourite Cogburn to record his first win.
With eleven runners, the Pertemps Network Group Handicap Hurdle boasted the biggest field of the evening, with the Nicholls trained Braqueur D’Or sent off the 7-2 favourite in an open-looking contest. Given every chance by Twiston-Davies, who hugged the inside rail throughout, Braqueur D’Or never looked like winning, finishing only third to Bendomingo, who led into the straight and went clear under amateur Zac Baker, with 50-1 outsider Mr McGuiness filling the runner-up spot.
Just four lined up for the first steeplechase of the evening, with Bagad Bihoue a red-hot favourite to follow up his easy Kempton Park win. Never out of third gear, he made all the running with Twiston-Davies and despite some sketchy jumps, recorded another facile victory to bring up win number five of the season for Nicholls.
Riding performance of the evening came from Charlie Deutsch who steered veteran The Last Bridge to another course success in the Listers Skoda Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase. Opening up a useful lead with the five fences down the back straight to jump, The Last Bridge looked to be heading for victory until joined by top-weight Kings Cross on the home run.
But, Deutsch had a willing partner beneath him and, racing on ground faster than he likes, The Last Bridge stuck his neck out to prevail in an exciting finish.
Seven set out in the concluding National Hunt Flat Race and they were tightly packed turning out of the back straight. It was Leighton Aspell who made what looked like a decisive move, but with his mount Jersey Bean wandering off a straight line, the door was left open for favourite Paddy Boss, owned and trained by Alan King, to sweep from last to first and send the large, enthusiastic crowd home happy.