It was Warwickshire all the way today as between them Dan Skelton and Olly Murphy cleaned up at two of the three Jumps fixtures staged in the UK. After the whitewash of last week's Cheltenham, when several well touted British fancies were turned over by the Irish steamroller, it was business as usual back at the coalface of behind closed doors racing.
Hereford's card was denuded by 17 runners as this perfect Spring weather changed ground conditions to the faster side of good, but that didn't worry Dan Skelton. Four Hurdle winners in the Novices' Juvenile, Mares Handicap and concluding 0-100 Handicap put a spring in the Skelton step, and also undid some of the gains enjoyed by Brian Hughes last week as he swerved Cheltenham to grow his lead in the Jockeys Championship. Harry Skelton has now 86 winners to Brian's 115, but time off for injury in the last 5 weeks of the season can change the complexion of that contest quite briskly.
Over at Market Rasen, Olly Murphy teamed up with Aiden Coleman for a short-priced treble in the Novices' and Handicap Hurdle and concluding Bumper with Here Comes McCoy, Made For You and Doctor Ken to bring his seasonal tally to 68 winners.
Meanwhile, Warwickshire Point-to-Point yards are well represented at the first local fixture after restrictions are relaxed, at Maisemore on March 30. The card has attracted a staggering 187 entries, but the pick of the card looks to be the 4 & 5 Year Old Maiden.
Phil Rowley has reassumed responsibility for the Point-to-Pointers at the family’s Morville yard and normal service should quickly be re-established in this race. The race is dominated by runners from “sales” stables who use these events to market their wares, and that includes Rowley’s representative No Authority who is sure to give a good account of himself.
Only one of the fourteen runners have any racecourse experience which means that the Fran Nimmo trained Adjournment has an advantage over most of his rivals. He sets the standard as he was narrowly beaten on his racecourse debut at Larkhill last March and looks to have a major chance. The Lacey’s Woolhope yard took the honors at the Wiltshire venue and they also have a runner in this race. They have an impressive strike rate in this type of event but other stables have got on the bandwagon and these races have become more competitive. Algesiras could join the long list of winners to emerge from the Herefordshire yard.
Lacy’s near neighbor Clive Boultbee-Brooks has proved adept in his new role of training Pointers and will be hoping that Guinness Village proves better than his rivals with the market providing the best guide to his chances.
Tom Ellis saddles Another Mystery and any runner from this yard must be treated with respect, while West Country trainer Chris Barber has four horses entered in the Boundary Stables Partnership colours.
Hindlip trainer Tom Weston relies on Stumps or Slips and Walk in Clover, while the Peter Mason trained The Eminent Goose is another that catches the eye.
Meanwhile preparations continue for the first ever fixture at Shelfield on April 11.