The last time I was Hereford was in 2007 when working in the ring for Ivor Perry. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then, including the temporary closure of the course. One constant though is Martyn Of Leicester, the racecourse bookie with more catchphrases than Roy Walker who bets at number one on the course. He was here today with his brother Ian and took time out to speak to me before racing.
12:15 – Mental Health Matters Novices’ Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 4) (4YO plus) 2m 3½f
The first race produced the sort of result that the ring would have enjoyed. Straw Fan Jack swooped at the last making short work of Paul Nicholls’ 5/6 favourite Celestial Force. The winning distance of 1 ¾ lengths belied the winner’s 25/1 starting price. Sheila Lewis’ charge was ridden to victory by Sean Houlihan who said that he’d been disappointed when the gelding fell last time out. He added that the horse was a slow burner but the penny is dropping and that he hoped he make a nice chaser in time. Despite looking like a cracking result for bookmakers the office reported nothing of note bet in the race.
12:45 – Let’s Talk Handicap Hurdle (Div 1) (Class 5) (4YO plus) 2m 5½f
Easkey Lad was flagged up in this morning’s ‘Starter’s Orders’ as having been a warm order in the morning skirmishes. The office didn’t escape laying a bet of £7000 – £1000. That wasn’t the only one backed though, they also laid a bet of £6000 – £1200 Remember The Man so needed them both beaten. They got their wish, though Easky Lad was runner-up. It was a well-beaten 12l runner-up though behind Knight Commander winning at 11/2, not only saving the office but more importantly provided a quick-fire double for Shelia Lewis and Sean Houlihan. The winning jockey, evidently delighted, told Zoey Bird for At The Races that Ben Jones told him how to ride the horse and was very grateful to him, going on to say that when a yard is in form as Shelia’s is, it’s surprising how much the horses improve.
1:15 – Let’s Talk Handicap Hurdle (Div 2) (Class 5) (4YO plus) 2m 5½f
Oscar’s Moonshine came right for Paul Nicholls under Harry Cobden to justify 16/5 favouritism in the handicap hurdle. Post-race the winning jockey said that the gelding had been a bit backward and had taken a couple of runs to get his act together, that he travels well, enjoyed the going and would hopefully go on to win again. One again the office got away with it, Glenn reporting that the losers in the book were Kabrit for £4000 and Ratfacemcdougall for £2500. Copping on a Nicholls jolly, can’t be bad.
1:50 – Mental Health Awareness Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase (GBB Race) (Class 3) (4YO plus) 3m 1f
The three-horse race looked on match on paper and so it proved. It didn’t go exactly the way the market suggested it would though. 6/4 chance Monbeg Theatre got the better of 8/15f Darlac by four and a half lengths. Jamie Snowden’s charge did it nicely under Page Fuller. After the race she said that the horse had done so much for her career but hadn’t always be easy to train, adding that Jamie had done a great job and that Hen (Knight) had helped get his jumping together. She went on to say that ‘Plan A’ had been to just get him home and finding that he still had plenty in the tank to win was a bonus. Sadly, from a business point of view, for the second time today an odds-on favourite had been beaten but the office hadn’t seen a dinar of note for either.
2:23 – Life Is Tough, But So Are You Handicap Hurdle (Class 3) (4YO plus) 3m 1½f
Richard Johnson scored easily aboard Tom Lacey’s Neville’s Cross in the handicap hurdle. The winning jockey said that the gelding had been a big baby and green last year and that he had even come on for last month’s win at Uttoxeter. He added that today he had conditions to suit but didn’t expect to be as far clear as he was. Business had been light in the office but the winner still relieved them of four-figures.
2:58 – Ask The Loud One If They’re OK Mares’ Handicap Chase (Class 3) (4YO plus) 2m 5f
Oscar Rose provided winning jockey Paddy Brennan with his 31st success of the season when winning the race before the penultimate for Fergal O’Brien by 21 lengths from only other finisher Kalahari Queen. The 11/10 favourite was having her first win over fences, the fourth victory of her career. After the race, the clearly in a hurry Paddy Brennan said that the plan he been to keep it simple and make all the running. Richard Johnson suffered a nasty looking fall out in the country on his mount Nightfly. Happily, the mare carried on running, seemingly unscathed after her tumble, the jockey was eventually up on his feet too, albeit gingerly. There was once again very little of interest in the office though. Ed, who had taken over from Glenn, reported that there had been only two losers in the book but the winner wasn’t one of them.
3:33 – Make Your Mental Health A Priority Mares’ Handicap Hurdle (Class 4) (3YO plus) 2m 3½f
There were excellent scenes after the penultimate, as I marched up to where Zoe Bird and camera team were interviewing, trainer Sheila Lewis and groom were running down to track beaming from ear to ear. With good reason too, Sheila had just trained her third winner of the meeting, her first treble landed when 6/1 chance Cotton End did the business under Sean Houlihan, a treble for him too. Just about catching her breath after all that running she said that today had been her first double too, describing very modestly that she ‘scrambles along’ training as well as running her beauty business. She said that Cotton End had always given the impression that she just stays two miles but won nicely over 2m3f today, adding that she’s become more settled and calm as she’s progressed.
4:08 – Stand Up To Stigma ‘National Hunt’ Maiden Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 4) (3YO plus) 2m
There were no surprises in the lucky last when the 4/6 favourite Benson just about justified favouritism winning under a determined ride from Lee Edwards for trainer Dr Richard Newland. The office didn’t come back to me with any bets, let’s hope they weren’t off to the bank for more money. That’s it, a memorable day for Sheila Lewis, someone send round champagne!
Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.
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