Snow Leopardess in line for Becher Chase after Bangor success

There was a popular winner of the Weatherbys Handicap Chase at Bangor, as Charlie Longsdon’s Snow Leopardess jumped for fun en route to victory.

A quality field was assembled for the three-mile affair, with Canelo, who beat Snow Leopardess in the Rowland Meyrick last season, and Grand National sixth Blaklion both running.

But the grey – who is already a mother, having had a foal to Sir Percy while she recuperated from a leg injury – never looked like being caught and galloped on relentlessly for Aidan Coleman to win by two and three-quarter lengths from Windsor Avenue, as the 5-1 joint-favourite.

Paddy Power cut the nine-year-old to 14-1 from 20s for the Becher Chase over the National fences at Aintree next month.

Snow Leopardess in full flight
Snow Leopardess in full flight (David Davies/PA)

“A lot of people know her history now and she’s been a great mare for us. She did that really well today,” said Longsdon.

“She’s always jumped really well, she loves it and I couldn’t have been more impressed today.

“All ground seems to come alike to her. I probably wouldn’t run on anything quicker than it was today. I worried it wouldn’t be a stiff enough test today, but it was.

“She’s got an entry in the Becher and that is probably what we’ll look at. We’ll take her for a school over the fences at Lambourn.”

The Glancing Queen in winning action under Tom Cannon
The Glancing Queen in winning action under Tom Cannon (David Davies/PA)

The Glancing Queen made a faultless chasing debut for Alan King and Tom Cannon.

King took the unusual step of giving the seven-year-old her first taste of fences in Listed company in the Yorton Stallions Mares’ Novices’ Chase – and was rewarded as The Glancing Queen jumped like an old hand throughout.

Cannon had her nice and settled behind the leading group, with the much more experienced Vienna Court forcing a stiff pace throughout but persistently jumping out to her right, which harmed her chances.

Running down to the last only Maskada was a threat to The Glancing Queen, but Cannon always looked to have her measure and the 5-4 favourite came away to win by a length and three-quarters.

Saint Segal made a winning debut
Saint Segal made a winning debut (David Davies/PA)

Saint Segal (3-1) was a very impressive winner of the Ten To Follow Juvenile Maiden Hurdle on his racecourse bow for Jane and Chester Williams, while the Olly Murphy-owned Hunters Call (15-2) once again showed he would have been a very good horse had he been able to avoid injury when an easy winner of the Greenhous DAF Handicap Hurdle.

Donald McCain and Brian Hughes enjoyed their customary winners through Richmond Lake (100-30) in the Paul Ferguson’s Jumpers To Follow ‘National Hunt’ Auction Maiden Hurdle, and Barrichello (13-8) in the Racing Welfare Supporting Racing’s Workforce Novices’ Hurdle, the latter showing the benefit of a wind operation after finishing second on his previous five outings.

‘We’ve got to raise our game – big time’

Harry Fry warns British National Hunt racing needs to substantially “raise our game” if it is to compete with its Irish counterparts.

British-trained runners won just five of the 28 races across the four-day Cheltenham Festival, with Nicky Henderson’s Grade One-winning duo Shishkin and Chantry House providing the highlights for the home team.

Fry fielded four runners at the Festival – including the well-fancied Metier, who beat just one home in the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, which was won in spectacular fashion by Willie Mullins’ Appreciate It.

While full of respect for the achievements of the Irish runners, Fry thinks there are plenty of areas requiring swift attention if British trainers are to mount more of a challenge next year.

He said: “They’re doing everything better than we are, quite simply. We have to congratulate them on a fantastic week, and aspire to the heights they’ve hit.

“We’ve got to raise our game – big time.

“There’s going to be lots of thought and conversations going on. We’ve already started that, from recruiting the right horses to getting the right owners involved. It’s everything – it’s the race planning, the team at home, the staff that work with the horses.

“There’ll be a lot of British-based trainers taking a hard look at themselves and working out where we can raise our game – because we need to, or we’ve going to get left behind quickly.

“We’ve got big owners investing in Irish racing, because there is some sort of return, and there isn’t here. It’s hard to justify to owners when you’re running around for £3,000 in a race.

“I won the Grade One Tolworth, and I didn’t even win £20,000 for winning a Grade One.”

Charlie Longsdon, who had five Festival runners, believes better prize money in Ireland is key to the strong performance of the raiding party.

He said: “They’ve got better horses than we have. Prize money is the thing.

“We didn’t quite get it right in the handicaps – but their prize money is the main reason their horses are going so well, I think.”

Dan Skelton concedes the Irish horses are superior, but also feels it is time to review the National Hunt system in Britain.

The handler saddled 13 runners at the meeting, hitting the bar on multiple occasions, most notably with Nube Negra – who just failed to catch Put The Kettle On in the Champion Chase – and Langer Dan in the closing Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.

He told ITV Racing: “They’re just better at the moment – it’s as simple as that.

“There is time now for a good look at everything. The whole British system needs a good look, and we need to come out with a plan to make sure we can compete going forward.

“We have to become better competitors – especially at that meeting – and this was the catalyst for it.

“I think you’ll see big changes because of it.”

Tommytucker masters Haydock rivals

Master Tommytucker and Sam Twiston-Davies proved a perfect match as they reunited for an impressive victory in the Back And Lay On Betfair Exchange Graduation Chase at Haydock.

Paul Nicholls’ talented but lightly-raced resurgent star has been let down by his jumping several times over fences.

But with Twiston-Davies back on board for the first time since they struck together when Master Tommytucker was making his racecourse debut in a novice hurdle at Exeter in 2018, there was barely a semblance of a mistake on the way to a fine front-running success for the 2-1 favourite.

The Nicholls camp may consider next month’s Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon for the nine-year-old, who won a match race over that course and distance just under two weeks ago.

For Twiston-Davies, though, this success by 15 lengths from another of his old favourites Good Boy Bobby is a case of job done – with thanks to helpful instructions from Master Tommytucker’s regular jockey Harry Cobden.

“He’s got a serious engine – he jumps from fence to fence and does it the hard way on the front,” he said.

“He does relax in front, but he puts other horses under pressure.

“We got into a good rhythm – and Harry Cobden had a really good chat with me (beforehand), and was incredibly helpful.

“He just said he likes to jump by himself, so just leave him to it – because pretty much, when you ask him, he tends to do his own thing.

“So he said, whatever you do, as hard as it can be, just sit and hold his hand all the way round.”

Reflecting on his first association with Master Tommytucker – who earned quotes of 25-1 and 50-1 for the Ryanair Chase and Gold Cup respectively with Betfair – Twiston-Davies added: “That was a long time ago, but it’s nice to get another go on him – and great that it’s gone to plan as well.

“He rides very smart anyway.”

Charlie Longsdon was earlier delighted with his “dude of a mare” after Snow Leopardess displayed great tenacity to win the Betfair Supports Safer Gambling Week Handicap Chase.

Snow Leopardess, a Listed bumper and Grade Two hurdles winner in her youth, had two years off with injury after an Auteuil success in 2017 and produced a foal by Sir Percy during her sabbatical.

But she showed she has lost none of her appetite for battle on the track, overcoming a serious mistake at the end of the back straight under Brian Hughes to gradually haul in another grey, the front-running Commodore, and hit the front just before the line to win by half-a-length as a well-backed 9-2 joint-favourite.

Longsdon had decided, after two placed runs in useful novice company this season on her only two previous chase starts, that the eight-year-old’s rating of 126 was favourable – and she ensured he was vindicated.

“She has been a really good mare in her time,” said the Oxfordshire trainer.

“She won a Listed bumper at Gowran, and she won a Grade Two at Newbury.

“She got a leg when she won at Auteuil, was off for two years and had a foal and has a yearling on the ground by Sir Percy.

“She’s very, very fragile – and we can’t train her hard at home.”

Nonetheless, Longsdon was always optimistic of a good performance here.

“We knew potentially off 126, it was a nice mark – she was 135 in the past, before she got injured,” he added.

“She loves her jumping, and she stays – and she’s a dude of a mare.

“I think she’ll only improve – and Brian said if she hadn’t made a mistake at the last in the back straight both times, she’d have probably got there easier.

“But I’m delighted with her – a winner on a big day like this is always important for middle-sized yards.”

Longsdon is prepared to aim even higher with her this season too if Snow Leopardess comes out of her victory well.

He said: “We’ll see how she is in the morning – we won’t make any plans (yet), but I know the owner would love to go for the mares’ chase at Cheltenham.

“That is two and a half miles, so we’ll have to make big decisions coming up – otherwise, she’ll have a look at the four-miler (National Hunt Chase).

“The most important thing is keeping her sound now, and we’ll wrap her up in cotton wool.

Llandinabo Lad was a clear-cut winner of the Listed Betfair Weighed In Podcast Newton Novices’ Hurdle for trainer Tom Symonds and jockey Richard Johnson.

The five-year-old remains unbeaten in his two hurdles starts, having finished second in two bumpers last winter and then had a wind operation in July.

He convincingly followed up last month’s Bangor victory, mastering the front-running 7-4 favourite Do Your Job at the last and staying on well to take the opening race in the already rain-softened ground by four and a quarter lengths at 13-2.

Symonds said: “I’m delighted with him, because he was chucked in a bit at the deep end.

“He doesn’t need it soft, but he appears more effective on it.

“The plan was to see where we were today – I’m thinking something like a Tolworth over that stiff two miles at Sandown will suit him, and that’s what we will look at.”

As the rain began to take its toll, the Betfair Racing Only Bettor Handicap Hurdle turned into an eventful and gruelling test – albeit over just two miles three furlongs – and it was Robbie Power who kept out of trouble as Colin Tizzard’s 13-2 shot War Lord stayed on to be an appropriate winner, by a length and a quarter from Umbrigado.

Kim Bailey excited at what the future holds for Does He Know

Does He Know could bid to give trainer Kim Bailey his first Grade One winner in 25 years after continuing his flying start to the season with victory in the feature prize at Cheltenham on Friday.

The five-year-old took another step forward to claim the Grade Two Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle by three lengths under David Bass.

An outing in next month’s Challow Hurdle at Newbury is now under consideration for Does He Know, according to Bailey – whose last top-level triumph came with Master Oats in the 1995 Gold Cup.

Bailey said of the 11-8 shot: “David said afterwards he thought it was a better performance than last time.

“He is a bit buzzy and a bit of an old fruitcake walking around the paddock and it is probably quite a good thing we haven’t got big crowds here at the moment.

“He was very settled in the race and buzzy when he came back in again. He is an extraordinary horse. He is a very athletic and likeable horse.

“We will possibly aim at something like the Challow Hurdle later on.”

Harry Skelton and Protektorat clear the last for victory at Cheltenham (Alan Crowhurst/PA Images)
Harry Skelton and Protektorat clear the last for victory at Cheltenham (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Dan Skelton will continue to adopt a patient approach with Protektorat, who maintained his unbeaten record over fences when running out a 17-length winner of the SSS Super Alloys Supports Racing Welfare Novices’ Chase.

The Alcester handler said of the 6-5 scorer: “You can’t take anything away from his jumping and performance on the day. He has proven himself around Cheltenham now which is a big test for any horse.

“We have taken our time with him so far and it would be foolish to rip the protective layer off now.”

Equally delighted with the performance of Protektorat, who was introduced at 16-1 for the Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Festival in March with Coral and 25-1 for the same race by Betfair, was part-owner John Hales.

“That was class,” said Hales.

“We can look forward to bigger things one day, but not too soon. He has all the stamina in the world – and speed – and if you have got those two you can’t get better than that.”

Paul Nicholls plans to step Magic Saint (100-30) back up in class after laying his Cheltenham ghost to rest at the fourth attempt in the Mucking Brilliant Paddy Power Handicap Chase.

The Ditcheat handler said: “That was just the job. I’d imagine he will have to step up in grade now.

“Two miles obviously suits him well and he puts winning a race around Cheltenham to bed.

“We could look at something like the Desert Orchid at Kempton, but we haven’t really got a set plan.”

There was a sting in the tail for winning jockey Bryan Carver who picked up a two-day whip ban.

Paul O’Brien celebrated his first Cheltenham winner aboard the Charlie Longsdon-trained Castle Robin (13-2), who prevailed by a length and a half in the Markel Insurance Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.

Longsdon said: “Paul said he was almost crying. He deserved it. He rides a lot of our horses. He is a good lad who puts the hours in to get results like today.

“After he won at Carlisle we hoped 119 was quite a generous mark as we thought he was a better horse than that.

“He is only a novice still and he has a long way to go before we have some smart targets.”

Day to remember for Tom Buckley at Kempton

Conditional jockey Tom Buckley had more than one reason to celebrate the wide-margin success of Breffniboy at Kempton.

Not only did victory aboard the Johnny Farrelly-trained six-year-old in the Like Racing TV On Facebook Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle complete the first double of his career, but it also saw him ride out his 7lb claim.

Having travelled well throughout, the 7-4 favourite put the race to bed in a matter of strides once sent on by Buckley before cruising home to victory by 13 lengths.

Buckley said: “It’s my first double. I’m very thankful to a lot of people. It’s a great day.

“I knew this one had a good chance. His race last time was run on ground he didn’t like.

“I’m speechless. It’s my best day ever. I’ve had two brilliant rides for two brilliant trainers. You can’t ask for much more. Hopefully it’s onwards and upwards.”

Storm Goddess (centre) before going on to win the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (David Davies/PA)
Storm Goddess (centre) before going on to win the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (David Davies/PA)

Storm Goddess denied Younevercall a third win in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle when getting up late on under Buckley to prevail by a nose – much to the surprise – and delight – of trainer Charlie Longsdon.

The Chipping Norton handler said: “I thought we were beat. I thought one more stride we would have won and I thought they had held on.

“If she had winged the last she would have won comfortably. She needs three miles now.

“Any Pertemps qualifier is good to win.”

Jack Quinlan got in on the double act, highlighted by a third course success for Mercian Prince (11-2), who jumped his rivals into submission to land the Every Race Live On Racing TV Handicap Chase by 12 lengths.

Winning trainer Amy Murphy said: “It is through no fault of his own that he has had a few wind issues. Some days it catches him out and on days like today, when he gets into a good breathing rhythm, he never misses a beat and shows all of his old exuberance.

“We put the visor on to keep him focused and that is the Mercian Prince we all know. It was fab to see him and he is Jack’s best mate and favourite horse in the yard by a mile.

“We gave him a little spin over hurdles with our 10lb conditional which has obviously done the trick.”

Mick Quinn scored plenty of hat-tricks during his time as a footballer and Pink Sheets completed one of her own to get the ball rolling for Quinlan with a tenacious victory in the Bet At Novices’ Hurdle.

The Newmarket handler said of the 85-40 winner: “ I love her to bits and we got her to have a bit of fun with.

“I thought she would be in the first three if not better, but I was a little bit apprehensive about taking on the geldings.

“She needs the better ground and it was either here or Huntingdon and we decided to go for this race and it has paid dividends. ”

Oscar Rose on her way to landing the Weatherbys TBA Mares' Handicap Chase (David Davies/PA)
Oscar Rose on her way to landing the Weatherbys TBA Mares’ Handicap Chase (David Davies/PA)

Fergal O’Brien moved to within two winners of reaching a half-century for the season after Oscar Rose put in an exemplary round of jumping in the Weatherbys TBA Mares’ Handicap Chase.

O’Brien said of the 9-4 favourite: “She was very good and I could not fault her there. Liam (Harrison) gave her a lovely ride.

“She was a bit keen over hurdles, but fences just help her as she backs off them a bit and gives herself a chance.”