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Oct 20, 2016

End of season race report - Thursday 20 October

Our last racing of 2016 finished with a great line up of top trainers, jockeys and horses across the six race fixture.

Philip Hobbs dominated the feature race, as Verni, ridden by champion jockey Richard Johnson, held off the challenge of stable companion Wolftrap to make it a 1-2 for the Minehead trainer. Although just four runners had set out in the £9,500 Download The Free Attheraces App Novices’ Handicap Hurdle, it still looked a hard contest to call with the three-year-old Nachi Falls, who had rattled up a hat-trick and was considered good enough by his trainer Nigel Hawke to have an entry in last Saturday’s Welsh Champion Hurdle, taking on his elders for the first time.

Nachi Falls set a slow pace out in front, but was headed at the penultimate flight by Verni, who was having his first run since winning a maiden hurdle at the course back in April on only his second outing for the stable. Despite not jumping fluently and again being awkward at the final flight. Verni proved too strong for Wolftrap and owners Paul and Clare Rooney should enjoy more winning days with this progressive hurdler.

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has had 40 winners at the course over the last five years and was looking to add to that record with Capeland, his only runner on the card, in the opening SIS On-Demand Racing Games “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle over two miles and three furlongs. Seeking an 11th title, Nicholls has his string in red-hot form with 10 winners in the last week and punters sent off Capeland, who finished third to Geordie Des Champs on his debut over hurdles at Chepstow, the 4-6 favourite to keep the run going under Nick Scholfield.

Racing up with the pace on the inside, Capeland quickened to go clear coming into the home straight, but he had to be driven out by Scholfield, who was standing in for the injured Sam Twiston-Davies, to see off the challenge of Book Direct, who closed the gap to a length on the run to the line.

Former winning point-to-pointer Brave Encounter had got off the mark over fences on his second run for the Jamie Snowden stable when winning at Fontwell Park and, despite a 7lb rise in the weights, he followed up the Nick Ayliffe “A Lifetime In Racing“ Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase, making all the running under Jonathan Moore to beat Tikkapick.

Disappointment of the race was top-weight Generous Chief, backed from 3-1 to 15-8 prior to the meeting, who raced wide throughout and, after jumping clumsily at a number of the fences, could finish only third.

Twelve lined up for the Par Inn Support ”Prostate Cancer UK” Handicap Hurdle, with top-weight Expedite attracting the early money, being backed from 3-1 to 13-8 despite having been pulled up on his last two runs. Although easing slightly on the course, he went off a solid 7-4 favourite, but the money was lost as the race went to Midnight Sapphire, whose three previous wins have all come at the track.

Ridden for the first time by Nick Scholfield when beating On Demand at the last meeting, Midnight Sapphire had to overcome a 4lb rise in the weights, but she made light of the burden, winning again for Scholfield from 25-1 shot I’llhavealook, with the favourite well beaten in third.

The Yank is not the most consistent of performers, but had some form in the book that gave him a chance in the Friends Of Jon Hearne Memorial Handicap Chase and he put his best foot forward for Tom Scudamore to record his first win in a year when holding on by a neck from No No Cardinal.

Khismet brought the curtain down on the year when comfortably taking the concluding “Sharp Rise” Third In American Grand National Handicap Hurdle from the staying-on Moulin Rouge.

We’ll be back again in the spring of 2017 with another 18 fixtures for more great days out full of excitement and fun. Join us for our first race of 2017 on Tuesday 4 April.

We look forward to seeing you soon…