Today's Crudwell Cup at Warwick produced a tensely fought finish between established champion lady rider Gina Andrews and new boy Albi Tufnell in one of the more competitive hunter chases post Cheltenham, among which may be some clues for next week's Hunters' Evening at Stratford.
The Crudwell Cup, previously held in February as a preamble to the Cheltenham Foxhunters, is named after the prolific winning chaser who set a twentieth century record for wins over fences between 1950-60, frequently under the guidance of Dick Francis. Crudwell, trained by Frank Cundell, won 50 races, and reached the frame in 32 others from his 108 starts, including a Welsh National in 1956. In those days, the Welsh National followed hot on the tail of the Aintree version, just 10 days later, and that particular victory helped Francis put the nightmare of Devon Loch behind him.
Today's race won't stay in the memory quite so long, except possibly for Albi Tufnell, enjoying a great novice season with Captain Cattistock, owned by his mother, Jane, for whom he rode a Cheltenham winner at the Hunters' evening on the same horse just three weeks ago. Having taken up the running at the turn into the back straight, he must have hoped to see the race through without seeing another horse. Gina Andrews, riding Sugar Baron for PPRC Chairman Nick Wright, had other ideas. Since she came back from a wicked injury at Cheltenham in December at the end of March, she's been making up for lost time.
The winning distance was 1l, but there was a full 9 1/2l to Southfield Royal in third.
The vagaries of the British weather are manifesting themselves perfectly this May. After the driest April on record, ground conditions have been described as soft or good-to-soft at meetings where most handlers had prepared top of the ground specialists. It could produce some interesting results if the belated April showers persist to Stratford at the end of next week.