Kim Bailey: A cracker of a weekend for racing *H&H Plus*


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  • What a “Super Saturday” of racing that was from both Newbury and Warwick. The winter has been so wet, it was a surprise to see Newbury’s races run at a faster speed than what we’ve been watching all winter. Speed makes racing even more exciting and Newbury’s Betfair-sponsored card was a cracker.

    Altior gave us the odd heart flutter but, in the end, he won as he liked. He seems to enjoy making us worry that all is not well in running but, when push comes to shove, his finishing speed is awesome — he is a true champion.


    Nicky Henderson is preparing Altior for another crack at the Champion Chase. This year, Altior might just struggle to retain his crown, especially if allthe hopeful runners hold their ground in March — it really could be the race of the meeting.

    Following a messy false start in Saturday’s Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, one thing that came out of the raceday was that standing starts don’t work in big-field handicaps. The standing start system, which follows a false start, is there to stop horses trotting in. On Saturday, I could not see much wrong when the first start was supposedly in motion, but a false start was called.

    Then, trying to get 24 horses to stand still to start was always going to be hard — especially when the jockeys need a decent view to see the flag movement to get a good start. The Betfair Hurdle was marred by the fact that several of the fancied horses missed the break. At the speed they went off, those who missed the break were always going to struggle.

    I was impressed with Chester Williams, who won the Betfair Bet In-Play Handicap Hurdle on One For The Team. Chester has been based with me all season but still rides for his parents.

    He gave the horse — who is trained by his father, Nick Williams — a beautiful ride. Chester is tall and thin, but might struggle with his weight later on. However, he is very good value for his current five-pound allowance.

    Webber’s very welcome winner

    At Warwick, trainer Paul Webber had a very pleasing winner with his good mare, Indefatigable, who took the Listed Paddy Power 31 Sleeps To Cheltenham Mares’ Hurdle in fine style. It was not only a good result for the trainer and the jockey, Richie McLernon, but also for the horse’s Overbury Stud-based sire, Schiaparelli.

    Standing jump stallions is a slow-burn industry, but Schiaparelli is gradually getting some decent youngsters on the racecourse. In time, he could be an excellent replacement for their champion National Hunt stallion, Kayf Tara, when he finally stops his day job.

    Harry Whittington is a young trainer going places. He won the Agetur UK Kingmaker Novices’ Chase on Saturday for the second time when Rouge Vif, under Gavin Sheehan, outstayed his opposition — in fact, they dominated the race. Gavin has done well this season and deservedly so — he is proof that, as a jockey, if you put your head down and work hard the rewards come.

    We have seen some brilliant racing over the winter months and now that spring is on its way, the ground will hopefully start to dry up a bit. Cheltenham is only a month away and recent trials are shaping the Festival up nicely — it is going to be as good as ever and perhaps even better if I can grab a winner, too.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 13 February 2020