It wasn’t just the racing returning to Wincanton which put a spring in the step, owners were returning to Britain’s racecourses for the first time in 2021 after COVID-19 protocols were relaxed.
A day of thrilling sport was served up to those in attendance, including a double for trainer Paul Nicholls, a treble for championship-chasing jockey Harry Cobden and a shock 125-1 winner in the last race. We sent Graham Clark to follow the action.
DELIGHTED NICHOLLS AT THE DOUBLE TO REACH 150 MARK
Paul Nicholls bolstered his chances of beating his seasonal best total of 171 winners after completing a double, secured by an impressive second victory over hurdles for Danny Kirwan.
Having broken through the £2million barrier in prize money at the weekend the 11-time champion trainer remains on track to better his 2016-17 winners’ total following the eight year old’s success in the Bet At racingtv.com Novices’ Hurdle.
Taking a significant drop in class, the 5-4 chance made light work of his rivals to run out a 14 length winner of the extended 2m 5f contest, which was also the middle leg of a treble for rider Harry Cobden.
Nicholls said: “That’s 150 winners for the season, which is great. Our best ever total is 171 and I had in my mind if we could get to 150 by April 1st then we would have an outside chance of getting what we need in April, as that is usually quite a good month for us. The ground is drying out and while it won’t suit some of ours it will suit plenty of them.
“It was a good performance by Danny Kirwan and he loves better ground. He is a good ground horse and he has done that well. I don’t know whether we will run him again but he will be an awesome chaser in the autumn.”
Confirmation Bias had got the ball rolling for Nicholls and Cobden when gaining his first success since making a winning debut at the track in November 2019, prevailing by a length and three quarters in the Racing TV Extra ‘National Hunt’ Maiden Hurdle.
COBDEN FIRES TITLE WARNING SHOT WITH IMPRESSIVE TREBLE
Harry Cobden completed a treble of his own to put himself in contention in the race to be crowned champion Jump jockey - then warned rivals Brian Hughes and Harry Skelton: “Don’t underestimate me."
Cobden partnered the Colin Tizzard-trained Kauto The King in the Dot Tolson Handicap Chase to a length and a half victory at odds of 3-1.
Afterwards Paul Nicholls’ number one jockey warned the title race is far from over. He said: “I’m a long way off but with horseracing anything can happen.
“I’m not writing myself off yet, although I was after Cheltenham. But you bounce back and I’ve had winners nearly every day since, including three today. Don’t underestimate me."
COUNTERACT PROVES WORTH THE WAIT FOR PATIENT SMITH
Suzy Smith ended her 397 day wait for a winner with the nine length success secured by Counteract on his debut over fences in the Join Racing TV Now Novices’ Handicap.
Also on hand to celebrate the success was triumphant owner Sarah Palmer, who had travelled to the track from Kent with her son Tom, following the relaxation of coronavirus lockdown rules which allowed two owners per horse back on track for the first time this year.
Smith said: “We’ve not been very lucky with things not falling right. We knew that he wanted better ground. He came here last time and the heavens opened before the race and I thought that’s typical.
“When you look at him he doesn’t look like a hurdling type and it is all about fences. This race was not the strongest race but he did it well.”
Delighted owner Palmer added: “This is only the second time we have been able to see him race and the last time was at Fontwell back in October when six owners were allowed in.
“I’ve had him since a yearling and I broke him in. I ride him every Saturday morning and he shouts across the yard, so he recognises me which is kind of unusual.
“My family have owned horses for a long time but this is the first one I’ve had on my own. It wasn’t done especially (to have him run today) but I’m very glad it worked out like that.”
SUMMERS TIME AS 125-1 CHANCE SPRINGS HUGE SURPRISE
Peter Summers enjoyed a day to remember after celebrating a breakthrough winner under rules aboard 125-1 chance Catchin Time.
The winner also gave trainer Laura Hurley her first victory in over four years when claiming the Visit racingtv.com Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle by four and a quarter lengths.
Summers, who is known as Fionn to his weighing room colleagues, said: “I’ve been riding for six years now and that’s my first winner. It’s only my second ride under rules.
“Laura Hurley was very nice to me to give me my first opportunity under rules before Christmas and to ride for her again today is brilliant. It is a really special day for me. He is a lovely little horse.”
BUCKLER HOPES FOR TURN IN FORTUNES AFTER 464-DAY WAIT
Bob Buckler hopes the two and a half length success of Cushuish (3-1) in the Every Race Live On Racing TV Mares’ Handicap Chase is a sign of things to come for the remainder of the campaign.
The Courtway handler said of his first winner in 464 days: “That’s the first of the season but we have a lot of babies that have taken time. We’ve always thought a lot of this mare but she can be a bit of a madam at the start.
“She battled well and is a tough little mare. It’s been a long season without a winner until now but hopefully this will get us going.”