Kim Bailey reveals how some eventing input pays dividends on his yard
The evergreen (or white) Bristol De Mai won the Betfair Chase for the third time on Saturday. This exuberant jumper seems to save his best for Haydock and this well-known chase. I know his trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies will probably not agree with me, but with a record of five wins from six starts around Haydock, it rather stacks up as his racecourse to savour. It was, as ever, an excellent training performance to bring this nine-year-old back to his very best first time out.
Ground conditions at Haydock were pretty testing to say the least and the card was full of good performances, and although none better than Bristol De Mai, one has to say that Main Fact winning the Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle was another masterful piece of training; it was Main Fact’s ninth win on the trot.
“A horse on a roll”
At Ascot, our Imperial Racing-owned horse Imperial Aura was awesome when winning the Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase. Imperial Aura is a horse on a roll and just keeps on improving.
Last season he won the now-defunct novice handicap chase at the Cheltenham Festival and this season he was impressive on his reappearance at Carlisle, but on Saturday he blew away some very good horses in what was a small field of very select runners; David Bass his jockey set this horse up with some magnificent jumps to settle the race.
National Hunt racing is all about jumping and that is what we saw with Imperial Aura, who will now be aimed at the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Talking jumping, First Flow hardly did that when winning the big two-mile handicap chase at the end of Ascot’s card. First Flow is a real mudlark and Saturday’s ground was certainly not soft enough for him. Tony Solomons’ horse was run off his feet early on and very much out of his comfort zone; he struggled for a long way, but crept into the race when David Bass conjured up a do-or-die jump at the last to seal a great win.
This weird horse has his own tendencies and foibles, but he is hugely helped by event riders Lucy Jackson and Ginny Thompson, who come over regularly to ride him out in the afternoons.
Tom Symonds is a trainer having a complete resurgence since he and David Dennis joined forces during the summer. The dice have certainly rolled their way and on Saturday, Tom had a big race double with Song For Someone winning the Coral Hurdle at Ascot and Llandinabo Lad winning the big novice hurdle at Haydock.
“Owners names should be in lights”
Sadly, Ascot suffers from small fields — but they don’t suffer from bad racing, as their cards are always full of top-quality fare.
I have been asked many times about the feel of racing under lockdown, and first I must say that we as a sport are incredibly lucky to be racing.
We are also incredibly lucky to be allowed two owners per horse to attend. However, compared with the norm, it is not a great experience.
Owners of our horses are the people who pay our wages, and frankly without them we would all be looking at empty stands and small field sizes – we really should do more to keep them in racing by recognising what they do. Owners should have their names in lights after a win, and the two Sky-based channels need to do more when talking about the winning horses and recognise that the owner needs mentioning. ITV’s coverage has been really good at highlighting this side of the sport, but the others need to do the same because without owners where would we be?
The racing bandwagon moves on to Newbury and the Ladbroke Chase, one of the toughest long-distance chases to win. Aye Right is the current favourite and whoever wins it will have a large pot of gold to take home.
ITV will do justice to the big race without crowds with the excellent Ed Chamberlin leading the way.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 26 November 2020
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