There are horses for courses, and horses who love to win full stop. Course specialists are favourites of punters looking for trends to give them an edge. Two such were to be found at Stratford on Saturday.
One Forty Seven is a nine year old chaser, winner of one Point-to-Point and five chases since joining Nigel Twiston-Davies in the summer of 2016. Three of those chase victories have come in the same race, a 0-120 chase at Stratford that most recently took place yesterday.
In 2018, he was a comfortable 11l winner under 11st 10lbs. The following year, having added a further chase winner at Uttoxeter, he was again an assertive winner by 5l. He avoided the race in 2020, but was back again yesterday to win by his shortest margin, just 3/4l in a harder-fought finish that still tells you he loves Stratford's tight circuit.
Pillar of Steel is also a multiple winner, but unlikely to be gracing the hallowed turf of Cheltenham, Ascot or Aintree any time soon. Nevertheless, he's given trainer John Spearing and owner Kate Ive a terrific summer, with no less than five handicap hurdle triumphs. Now that's the sort of horse most trainers would exchange for any number of fragile would-be prospects.
Pillar of Steel is a mare who has taken her time to get into a winning groove. A graduate of two bumpers, where she ran respectably without troubling the judge, her novice season extended over two seasons, and allowed her official rating to sink to just 82 lbs. Then all of a sudden, the penny dropped.
At Worcester in June, despite her saddle slipping after the last, she ran on well under Jamie Moore to record a 9l win in the lowest class of race. Even trainer John Spearing was at a loss as to explain her so-called improvement in form. But to show it was no fluke, she reappeared again three weeks later at Uttoxeter to repeat the dose, this time under Fergus Gregory.
Back to Worcester again a fortnight later, the winning margin had receded somewhat, but Pillar of Steel was evidently enjoying the limelight. Up a grade, she saw off all comers by 3/4l to record her third straight win.
An interruption to the dream at Bangor was then corrected by a return to Uttoxeter on September 1st, when the courageous mare was ridden out to record her fourth win of the summer. Surely too good to be true?
Yesterday, this remarkable mare took her seasonal tally to five with a 1l victory around Stratford's tight turns. Who knows how long this might continue?
Spearing of course is a man who knows a little about training winners. 215 over Jumps and a further
357 on the Flat since 1988 make him one of the sport's most enduring handlers, with, seemingly, no appetite to retire. Only the other week, he was advertising for staff to support his operation in the famous gallops at Kinnersley.
Horses like Pillar Of Steel and One Forty Seven are the sorts that build an affinity with their audience. They won't be found in the history books, but they have a following nonetheless, which we should welcome. And when the competition gets a bit too hot at our summer tracks, expect to see them around Shelfield, Chaddesley and Maisemore, where we can enjoy them a while longer.