The Quest for 200…It’s On!
The team at Lodge Hill have had much to celebrate over the last two weekends, with success at both the Grand National & Scottish Grand National Festivals.
The team headed to Aintree with a strong-looking hand over the three days, and were rewarded with a winner and a very near miss on Saturday as well as some eye-catching performances from placed horses during the meeting. On Thursday Cheltenham hero Ch’tibello was stepping up in grade to contest the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle, acquitting himself well to finish third behind the top-class pair of Supersundae & Buveur D’Air. Later in the meeting the Hales family’s Aux Ptits Soins bounced right back to his very best in the Grade 3 Gaskells Handicap Hurdle, taking the field apart for an impressive victory over stable mate Tommy Rapper. He becomes one of a select few horses to have won handicaps at both the Cheltenham & Aintree Festivals, having been a previous winner of the Coral Cup when trained by Paul Nicholls.
Both the Three Celts’ Destrier and Chris & Sandra Giles’ Oldgrangewood ran with enormous credit to finish third in their respective races on Saturday, but finish of the day had to be the climax to the Grade 1 Stayers Hurdle, in which Mares’ Hurdle winner Roksana lost out by the narrowest of margins in a pulsating three-way finish between eventual winner If The Cap Fits, herself & Apple’s Jade. It was a second try in Grade 1 company at the venue after finishing runner-up to Santini in the novices’ event in 2018, and the Faulks’ mare once again showed herself to be a high-class and gritty performer at the top level.
With a well-deserved quiet Sunday & Monday for the team, it was back to business at Southwell on Tuesday where the horses were at the double in impressive fashion. Rio Gold Racing Club’s Goodthyneaway followed up his previous course & distance win with a taking victory in the handicap chase, whilst only half an hour later Mr Betts’ four-time hurdle winner Hatcher made it two from two over fences. He now holds an entry at the Punchestown Festival and looks to be a horse to follow over the coming months. The team celebrated three more victories in the following days courtesy of Barry Adams’ Bbold at Warwick, Can’t Say No Partnership’s So Lonely at Huntingdon & DW Racing’s Solo Saxophone at Wetherby, taking the seasonal total to 188. With the team due to head north on Friday for the opening day of the Scottish Grand National meeting the race to 200 looked to be hotting up.
After being rerouted from Aintree’s Topham Chase on account of the rain-softened ground, the Widdowson & Kelvin-Hughes’ Born Survivor put in a very assured round of jumping to take the Listed Hillhouse Quarry Handicap Chase and secure a third victory in the race following Value At Risk & Two Taffs’ previous successes. In the novices’ handicap chase the extraordinary Peppay Le Pugh added another victory to his tally in the colours of the Hools & Forces Partnership; in 14 starts since joining Lodge Hill he has not finished out of the first four when completing and has been victorious on six occasions.
Scottish Grand National day started with a bang as the Blind Squirrels’ Azzuri blitzed his rivals with an exuberant front-running display in the Listed Handicap Chase over two miles. Molly The Dolly made it a quick-fire double when taking the novices’ handicap chase on the card in the colours of Dermot Hanafin. Mention must also go to the consistent Solomon Grey who finished a very creditable second in the handicap hurdle. It was brilliant to see the horses running so well during both the Aintree & Ayr Festivals, and just reward for the mammoth logistical effort from the team to get the horses to the races in tiptop condition.
With the tally for the season now creeping closer to the magic 200 mark and plenty of racing ahead over the Easter weekend, it looks like being a busy end to the season!