A blustery wind, a thin crowd, but some competitive races were the mixed ingredients for Friday’s meeting at Market Rasen.
Feature race of the afternoon was the £22,000 Weatherby’s Bank Handicap Steeplechase in which front runner Fiendish Flame set a fast pace from the off.
He was clearly determined to repeat the form of his previous outing at Ludlow where he won in style. Here he had to settle for second as he was challenged two out and then beaten on the run in by Brian Ellison’s Bocciani (14-1) ridden by Tom Scudamore. It proved the first of a double for the jockey/trainer duo.
Bocciani bagged a good prize at Ayr and clearly loves the fast ground. Ellison said he now intends to bring him back for the big Summer Plate prize in July.
The opening race,a 2m 3f novices handicap hurdle, saw a win for Halifax (8-1) ridden by Denis O’Regan and wearing a visor for the first time.
The five-year-old had plenty of useful flat form back in 2011,but has had only modest success over hurdles. This was the moment however as he just got up to win over the smaller obstacles at the fourth time of asking from top weight and 15-8 favourite Full Speed, who had Richie Magrath on board.
The latter had only had one defeat in his last four starts over hurdles and that was on heavy ground, so this was a useful win for the John Furguson trained Halifax.
The second race, the 2m 1f Racing UK Handicap Hurdle saw Coffee (4-1) reward the efforts of top trainer Jonjo O,Neill and jockey Richie McLernon. The latter is currently getting rides on the stable’s better horses with Tony McCoy out of the saddle injured.
The winner clearly likes the firmer Spring ground having shown little form mudlarking in the winter. The key was in the market as Coffee was backed down from 7-1.
The first chase, the Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance Novices Handicap, saw Badger’s Retreat (3-1) fight out the run in with Nomadic Dreamer (8-1). The winner had Sam Twistan-Davies on board and is trained by Ferdy Murphy, whose horses have shown better form with the firmer ground. He opened his account at Sedgfield in April, but the runner up,a multiple point to point winner, could be one to watch in the future.
The fifth race, a 3m handicap hurdle, gave Ellison his double alongside Scudamore with bottom weight Andreo Bambaleo (100-30f). Dawn Commander showed up well early on but when it got gown to the business end of the race Scudamore produced his mount at just the right time.
The nine-year-old has dropped in the weights after some inconsistent efforts over hurdles and fences, but had shown signs of being something more like at Utttoxeter last time out. He timed his run perfectly to get up as the post arrived.
Foot the Bill (9-1) with Brian Harding up, took the sixth race despite running only in snatches while the bumper at the bottom of the card was claimed by Cape York (13-2) trained by Malcolm Jefferson and ridden by Brian Hughes.