In these pages, we try to bring you a flavour of the Jump racing scene across the UK, and occasionally with races of merit further afield. Despite remonstrations that British racing is the best in the world, there are plenty of racing territories who also know how to stage a show.
Belmont Park in the USA piggy-backed the creation of the Breeders' Cup 30 years ago to add a Breeders Cup Chase, of which the most famous winner was none other than the Toby Balding - trained Morley Street, Champion Hurdle victor of 1991 and winner of 3 Aintree Anniversary Hurdles on the trot. Morley Street's venture across the Atlantic in October 1990 has set a trend for an increasing number of high value raids stateside and a steady stream of sales to the growing North American jumps market.
However, Belmont is much better known as the venue for the Belmont Stakes, the third and final leg of the US Triple Crown that includes the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, the Preakness at Pimlico and the eponymous race at Belmont. It's a notoriously difficult treble to win. Although Justify and American Pharoah have both succeeded in the past 6 years, there was a 37 year wait until American Pharoah broke the hoodoo in 2015.
This year's Triple Crown is rather different after the travails of Covid, meaning the Kentucky Derby on May 1 started the ball rolling. This year's final leg at Belmont is on Saturday June 5.
Preakness winner Rombauer looks set to renew rivalry with only one other Preakness runner, the seventh placed Japanese runner Go Da Ina, but there are at least six Kentucky Derby also-rans lining up for the Belmont. Rombauer is not a guaranteed runner; he may yet swerve the Belmont for an alternative engagement.
Essential Quality is one of the favourites after his fourth at Churchill Downs. His racing record to date includes the Bluegrass Stakes, Southwest Stakes, and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
The GB home team has hitherto rarely been represented on the dirt surfaces of the USA. However, Newmarket-based Charlie Appleby, representing the global Godolphin bloodstock operation, has lined up Rebel's Romance, winner of the Group II UAE Derby at Meydan. No European runner has won the Belmont since Go And Go won by 8l for Dermot Weld in 1990.
Given the globalisation of racing, even over Jumps nowadays, the big events of the Flat season have ceased to become quite so far away. There's a delicious uncertainty about horseracing that transcends time zones and geographical boundaries, and God loves a trier! To increase your chances of winning your horse racing bet it's always as well to read up and understand the US betting market. Failing that, being partisan and following the home team will always allow for some interest!
One time Welshman Bradley Gibbs, now based in Hertfordshire, warmed up for what might be a memorable Friday evening at Stratford with a win in the less salubrious surroundings of Southwell this afternoon.
Tanit River, trained by Robbie Llewellyn in the Vale of Glamorgan, prevailed by 1 1/4l over the much vaunted Cat Tiger in the Join Southwell Golf Club Hunters Chase to give Gibbs his third winner of this fresh season, but 18th past the post under Rules or between the flags since October.
Gibbs has Premier Magic to look forward to in Friday's Hunters evening at Stratford, the most valuable collection of hunter chases anywhere in the UK calendar.
Gibbs is jocked up against Captain McGinley and Premier Magic in the pointtopoint.co.uk Champion Hunters Chase, aka the John Corbet Cup, whilst Premier Magic is also entered in the Pertemps Network Stratford Foxhunter Chase too.
It has to be said that if Premier Magic is to be considered a candidate for next year's Cheltenham Foxhunter, then winning either race is a must. The John Corbet Cup has spawned some excellent hunter chasers, including Harbour Court, winner of the United Hunts Challenge Cup, Garde Ville, winner of four hunter chases this term for Patricia Rigby and Now Ben, winner of 15 of his 24 Point-to-Points. Premier Magic's reputation is very strong, and going into the summer with one of these races under his belt would give spice to the countdown to next year's Festival.
The East Anglian season has taken such a hammering this past few months that to spawn a champion in our midst would be a great fillip.
There hasn't been much to celebrate at the elite end of the sport when Ireland and Britain have clashed recently, but we can take some pride that our Hunter chasers and Point-to-Pointers are ruling the roost.
The number of trainers sending horses to Punchestown this year in particular has been very limited. In fact, in recent years, most of our top horses have aimed for Sandown's Celebration meeting, which set out some time ago to ensure the home team stayed home. In that respect, it's been Mission Accomplished. However, Punchestown is a lesser event without the spice of international competition, so I hope our leading lights will be back next year.
Not so, one Paul Nicholls, whose successful sally across the water brought success in the Punchestown Gold Cup, where Clan des Obeaux overcame Al Boum Photo and other top flight stayers, and Bob And Co, who nicked the Champion Hunters Chase from under Willie Mullins' nose yesterday evening.
David Maxwell, owner-rider of Bob And Co, is a rarity by today's standards, in not working for a licensed trainer or running a livery yard,as is the case with so many of our young riders. And he's not so young either! Although more than capable I should add.
Not foot-perfect, it didn't stop him joining issue with long-time leader Billaway, a Cheltenham Foxhunter runner-up on two separate occasions, at the second last, challenging all the way to the line to win a nose. Maybe we're not so bad after all.
Bradley Gibbs meantime enjoyed a memorable evening at Cheltenham, when the season was sung out with the annual Hunters' evening. The East Anglian challenge was muted, but Welshman Gibbs, now based in Hertfordshire, flew the flag with a double on Captain McGinley in the Intermediate that used to be the Connolly's Red Mills Final, and Highway Jewel in the Mares race.
Captain McGinley wasn't overly troubled in the Intermediate, and we can hope to see him step up to Open class next season.
Highway Jewel, on the other hand, had her backers sweating somewhat after a dreadful mistake at the 16th, landing on the fence. Momentum and a good seat carried Gibbs through, and whilst headed, she rallied to put in a good leap at the last and win going away. The trainer-rider was having his first two runners at Cheltenham, and maintains a 100% record. That'll do!
Highway Jewel looks a nice sort, and improving. This was her third run of the season, and second win. Her second run was a 3/4l second to the Tom Ellis-trained Late Night Pass at Warwick in February, then rated 8lbs higher.
Kimble winner Another Mystery (Lot 28) was sold to Newmarket trainer Lucy Wadham for £55,000 at last Friday's Tattersalls April Sale at Cheltenham where several successful Pointers were traded up to Rules racing.
Wadham was in the market again later in the day when Chris Barber-trained Kimble runner-up Dash For Cash was also knocked down to her for £45,000.
The day's trading was marked by several Pointers appreciating significantly in value from the step up to the professional game.
A four-year-old son of Fame And Glory out of a mare who was a half-sister to the highly-talnted Treacle, Scotch On Da Rocks was sold to Tessa Greatrex of Highflyer Bloodstock for 80,000gns. He was offered for sale by Warwickshire’s Tom and Gina Ellis, who trade as G & T Racing. Tom trained the horse to win at Mollington, and is headed for another Point-to-Point Trainers' title this season. The horse will be trained in Gloucestershire by Ben Pauling.
Fellow Cotswold trainer Charlie Longsdon will train Dingley winner Lyrical Genius (Lot 15) sold from Chris Barber's to Charlie for £32,000, whilst Yorkshire - trained Marton Abbey, left Cherry Coward's for Kim Bailey to a bid of £24,000.
Last Saturday’s Chaddesley Corbett winner Dondiam (Lot 35) made £50,000. Trained by Fran Nimmo, he was sold to Dan Astbury and Tim Talbot, while Nimmo’s Adjournment (Lot 12) made £45,000 to a bid from Oliver Greenall and Astbury.
Welshman Bradley Gibbs, now living in Hertfordshire, enjoyed a memorable afternoon at Chaddesley Corbett on Saturday, when Premier Magic, unbeaten in 3 runs this season, snaffled the most prestigious of the "classic" Point-to-Point races in the Lady Dudley Cup.
On the back of a Mixed Open victory on the same course at the Wheatland fixture in early December, followed by a 3/4l victory in the Dick Saunders Novices Hunters Chase at Leicester in February, Premier Magic and trainer-rider Gibbs were sent off a justifiable favourite, and picking off Igor for the Waley-Cohens at the turn out of the back straight, Gibbs had plenty in hand to assert as the race developed, winning by 12l.
On ground improved by watering from the indefatigable Clerk of Course Jim Squires, the excellent entry for this and the other 7 races bore fruit with a good turnout.
The Gibbs fortunes weren't yet finished for the day however, as he also picked up the Maiden Conditions race with Post No Bills, a 14l winner from Rose Iland.
Lucy Wadham secured a decent prize at Cheltenham's final fixture of the season for professional riders today, when Martello Sky won her fourth race of the season in the Listed Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Novices Hurdle on a card solely for mares and fillies.
Lucy has enjoyed her best season since 2015-16, topping £230,000 in winnings from her 23 winners. Rare among trainers, she shows a healthy £40.57 positive to a winning £1 stake from her 136 runners. Amidst a town where Flat racing rules, Newmarket-based Wadham is flying the flag successfully for the winter game.
Gratifying also to see today a Pointing graduate to the higher echelons in The Player Queen, winner of the concluding mares Bumper. Trained by Mel Rowley, the winner was last seen winning her Maiden at Maisemore back in October, and retains a 100% record from her two runs. All good news for when she comes to the sale ring no doubt. The second horse home was Game On Foir Glory, trained by.. Lucy Wadham. There'll have been as many rooting for her horse, ridden by Brian Hughes, to narrow his deficit in the Jockeys' title race.
Meantime, the nearest East Anglian Pointing fans are going to get to action in the area is Aldington in Kent tomorrow and Edgcote on Sunday. Courses that cannot water are finding it difficult to flush out runners unsurprisingly.
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