Newmarket trainer Lucy Wadham has a terrific record with her jumpers, her 24 winners last term amassing nearly £250,000 in prize money, just shy of her personal best. You can always rely on a Wadham youngster in any bumper or novice hurdle. A graduate from the Point-to-Point field, Wadham cut her teeth as a journalist in current affairs before reverting to horses.
There won't be any headlines about her most recent winner last night at Stratford however. The concluding bumper took place on a card overshadowed by an altogether larger sporting event taking place some 100 miles south-east at Wembley, where England beat Germany 2-0 to progress to the Euros quarter-finals.
The impeccably-bred Ocean Heights, a 4 year old son of Dubawi, stayed on gamely to win his first National Hunt race at the fourth attempt, putting winner number 3 on this term's Jumps scoresheet for the Wadham team, aby ridden by claimer Corey McGivern, enjoying just a third career win.
It was a day for football parallels; the best finish of the day came in the 2m 6f handicap hurdle, where Graeme McPherson might have said,"We wuz robbed" in classic footie parlance, after his deserving neck winner Calum Gilhooley was denied the race by failing to weigh in correctly. The weight cloth and saddlecloth were both shed in the final 150 yards of the stirring finish.
There was also a notable entrant to the novice chase ranks in the opener, when Rhythm Is A Dancer prevailed for the Ditcheat team of Paul Nicholls, representing former sponsor of the Foxhunter Chase, William Harrison-Allan, for whom this was a home-bred success.
There are over 400 racehorse trainers licensed by the British Horseracing Authority, so it shouldn't be a surprise when one comes across a new name. Although every trainer will tell you there's no money in training horses; the churn ratio of trainers exiting the sport has remained at around 10% each year for 40 years. Yet as one door closes on a career concluding, another opens for an ambitious newcomer eager to fill the gaps.
Ilka Gansera-Leveque is one such newcomer. German-born Ilka cut her teeth as an amateur rider with champion trainer Bruno Schütz in her homeland, graduating to an apprenticeship for 3 years, before spending some time with horse whisperer Monty Roberts in the USA. Schütz was a winner of the German Derby at Hamburg no less than four times before his death in 2000.
She returned to this country to qualify as a veterinarian, one of just two such who are trainers (the other is Mark Johnston - say no more). After a spell with Rossdales in Newmarket, she set up on her own, pre-training, breaking and training her own small string on the Hamilton Road in 2012.
It hasn't been an overnight success, but the bedrock of this sport comprises horsemen and women whose lives are dedicated to the well-being of their bloodstock, and who immerse themselves in the improvement of the stock in their charge. When husband Stephane returned to Newmarket to set about training Arabians, it was time to follow.
Runners over obstacles have been few and far between in a yard with no more than 20 inmates, and Southwell is hardly Ascot, but a first for this season - and last - when she extended her licence to both codes, was something of a milestone in today's 3m handicap hurdle as Just Once repaid the faith with a 3/4l victory. A lucky 13th ever runner under National Hunt rules.
Let's hope for Ilka's sake he doesn't live up to his name.
You don't need to be a diehard Jumping fan to appreciate the superb racing and pageantry that defines Britain's best known race meeting. Put simply, the 35 races of the Royal fixture at Ascot next week are to Flat racing fans what Cheltenham is to the winter brigade, but Ascot's reputation and draw is now worldwide, with runners drawn from Europe, the USA and the Pacific.
It all started when Queen Anne discovered Ascot heath on a hack and declared that the land is "perfect for the horses to gallop at full stretch.” She further introduced many of the principal races, led by the Gold Cup. The first race meeting took place in 1711 on August 11th, and since then, the meeting has grown in stature and length. Today, we refer to these five days as Royal Ascot.
There are two tracks at Ascot, suitable for both flat racing and national hunt. The Jumps course was imported lock, stock and barrel after the closure of nearby Hurst Park in 1963. And were if it not for the marquee events at Cheltenham and Aintree, Ascot's jumping calendar would top the pile.
This year, the Ascot Authority plans to open the meeting for five days, starting on Tuesday June 15th. The 35 races will offer will offer £6m in prize money,
A major reason for the popularity of the event is the royal connections with the race. The prize money is another reason why the audience is so invested. The Royal Ascot prize for this year is a total of £6million throughout the different races. Two foremost races, The Prince of Wales’s Stakes and The Diamond Jubilee Stakes, offer a total of £700,000 for each race.
Ascot is also a key marker in the fashion calendar, but with just 12,000 people allowed to attend each day in 2021 due to Covid restrictions, this will be somewhat subdued. If you're one of the lucky ones attending, then your chances of being picked up by the TV cameras are that little bit higher than hitherto!
Royal Ascot 2021 is a few days away and there's plenty of talk around fancied runners; you can find more about the Royal Ascot 2021 races and the latest betting tips and predictions, sharing up to the minute information and the best tips since Eliza Doolittle encouraged Dover in My Fair Lady.
The opening race of the first day would be the £400,000 Queen Anne Stakes, in which Palace Pier is currently odds-on favourite, at 8/15. Palace Pier is laying claim to be the number one miler in the world.
The second popular race is the King’s Stand Stakes. Experts are predicting that the 7-year-old Battaash will win the race. He is among the fastest horses in the world, trained by Charlie Hills, winner of the corresponding race in 2020. This season, he will defend his title. The Queen also has an intended runner in King's Lynn, trained by Andrew Balding.
For the Prince of Wales Stakes on Wednesday, experts are suggesting that Lord North has the greatest potential. According to John and Thady Gosden, his trainers, he is in perfect shape to face off his opponents.
For those that normally eschew the Flat however, there are two races that are always worth watching. Both over extended distances, they play to Jumping trainers with dual purpose horses that have sufficient speed to win on the flat.
On Tuesday, the Ascot Stakes is a handicap for horses rated 0-100 over 2m4f. Last year, this was part of an Ascot treble for Alan King with Coeur du Lion, but the past four runnings have gone to trainers with strong winter connections.
On Saturday, the Queen Alexandra is a conditions race over even longer: 2m 6f. This final "getting out Stakes" was another winner for King in 2020 with Who Dares Wins, but five of the races since 2011 have been won by trainers with Jumping credentials, including Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott.
After the Belmont Stakes and the Derby last weekend, the Royal Ascot is another major event this month as the summer rolls out festival after festival. And you can be sure that our leading Jumps trainers will be stealing the odd race from under the noses of the Flat brigade, just as the opposite has become the case at Jumping's biggest meetings nowadays.
Enjoy the spectacle.
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