Market Rasen racing: Cheltenham Festival qualifiers at County Raceday

Michael Chapman's L'es Freemantle - an 80/1 winner at Rasen earlier this month - pictured in the parade ring before running fourth with Rachael Macdonald on board PICTURE: Peter Thompson EMN-181126-121317002
Michael Chapman's L'es Freemantle - an 80/1 winner at Rasen earlier this month - pictured in the parade ring before running fourth with Rachael Macdonald on board PICTURE: Peter Thompson EMN-181126-121317002

Market Rasen Racecourse was the gateway to the Cheltenham Festival last Thursday as the Pertemps County Raceday featured two qualifiers for the world-famous event.

The feature race of the card was the £20,000 Class 2 Handicap Hurdle, a qualifier for the Pertemps Series which ends with the final at Cheltenham next March.

Winner was 3/1 shot, the Irish-bred Aaron Lad, with 5lb-claiming jockey Charlie Hammond up top.

Trained by Grand National-winning handler Richard Newland, horse and jockey survived hitting the final flight of hurdles before heading main rival and three-time winner Jersey Bean on the run in.

However, a trip to Cheltenham is not yet achieved as the horse is likely to need another qualifying win to secure his place in the final.

The second race on the card was another Cheltenham qualifier in the Challenger Mares Hurdle Series, and was won here by Queen of the Wind, ridden by Tom Scudamore for the Colin Tizzard Sherborne yard.

The meeting also gave a look at horses from two local yards.

At the earlier November meeting here, L’es Freemantle had shocked punters with his 80/1 win for Michael Chapman’s Market Rasen yard.

Chapman sent out the seven-year-old in the FMCG Executive Network Handicap Chase in what was a stiffer race.

Rachael McDonald had the ride again and the horse far from disgraced himself, being sent off at 25/1 and finishing a decent fourth.

McDonald held up her mount well off the pace in the rear on the first lap, before getting closer in fourth before three out and staying on.

Hard Station (7/2) jumped well throughout and was more than 30 lengths ahead by the eighth fence.

The lead was greatly reduced before three out, but Harry Bannister made sure his mount battled on gamely on the run-in to hang on and give trainer Richard Bandey his first professional win under rules.

The win was tempered by a four-day suspension for Bannister for misuse of the whip.

Another local trainer with runners was Nick Kent who brought two horses from his stable at Newstead, near Brigg.

Bowie is now 11 and finished well beaten in the sixth race, the Lady Riders Class 4 Handicap Hurdle.

Speaking to the Market Rasen Mail before the race, Kent said the horse still loved racing, but hinted that it may not be long down the line before Bowie calls it a day.

It was only in March 2017 that his last win at Market Rasen occurred.

Kent said: “I’m not sure it’s soft enough for him today, but he still likes his running even though he is 11.

“He was really bred for the flat so it’s a big ask to keep him jumping, but he is always keen when he sees his box ready for him in the yard.”

Looking ahead, Kent said Gonalston Cloud is likely to run in the Lincolnshire Grand National on Boxing Day.

The horse won the big race two years ago.