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Skelton still eight ahead of Hughes after title-chasing pair draw Sedgefield blank

Harry Skelton still holds an advantage of eight over title-holder Brian Hughes in the race to be champion jump jockey after both drew a blank at Sedgefield on Tuesday.

Skelton was left the more frustrated as he had four seconds from his book of rides, to stay on 148 for the season that ends on Saturday.

And he picked up a four-day ban (May 4-7) for careless riding when finishing fifth on Dubai Guest behind Millie The Minx (7-1) in the Carpet Gallop For The Professional Trainer Handicap Hurdle. Thankfully for Skelton, the upcoming suspension has no bearing on his title aspirations.

His bout of seconditis began on Costly Diamond, who led to the final fence where Valence D’Aumont (5-1) took over in the hands of Ryan Mania.

The Sue Smith-trained seven-year-old got the better of Dan Skelton’s charge to prevail by a neck in the Call carpetgallop.co.uk 01785719991 Handicap Chase.

The winning connections denied Skelton on Ambassador as they completed a quick double with Burrows Diamond (9-4) in the Dust Free Horse Bedding Envirobed 01785719996 Handicap.

“The horse has done it really well,” Mania told Sky Sports Racing.

“I wasn’t sure how the form would hold up from her last run as she did it so easily and I wasn’t sure what was in behind me.

“But she has certainly has improved for that performance, has got her confidence and has done it really nicely.

“A strongly-run two miles is perfect and this ground has been the key to her.”

Skelton had a third successive second place when Getariver found Road Warrior (100-30 joint-favourite) too good in the Envirobed 01785719996 after he dropped his whip in the closing stages.

Rebecca Menzies’ seven-year-old kept finding for Kane Yeoman and gave the 7lb claimer a ninth career triumph.

Skelton’s forcing tactics looked like paying off on Get Sky High in the concluding bumper, but the 6-4 favourite was worn down by Martha Willow.

Jedd O’Keeffe’s four-year-old filly went on to score by five and a half lengths.

A third place was the best Hughes could muster, although he looked unlucky in the opening carpetgallop.co.uk 01785719991 maiden hurdle.

He was leading on Malpas when his mount came down at the second-last. Hughes then got a glancing blow from Miss Smartypants, who also came down at that flight, when he tried to take evasive action.

However, he was quickly on his feet and none the worse.

The race went to the Roger Fell-trained Spantik (13-2), ridden by Alain Cawley.

Sedgefield abandoned – after four inspections

Sedgefield was forced to abandon Monday’s meeting after a fourth inspection of the course – which took place at 12.30pm, the initial scheduled time of the first race.

Hopes rose for much of the morning that temperatures would increase sufficiently to allow the seven-race card to go ahead, having dipped to -2C overnight.

But they never did so, as the winter sun faded and cloud cover moved back in – with frost still in the ground.

After an initial inspection on Sunday afternoon, the announcement of another at 8.30am – put back to 10am – and then two more, the abandonment was finally confirmed on Sedgefield’s official Twitter feed.

It read: “Unfortunately racing today is abandoned.”

Clerk of the course Michael Naughton said: “The stewards took everything into account, and it was just the odd patches that were still frozen. It wasn’t worth taking the risk for safety reasons.

“It had improved, and the sun is back out again. In another hour we may have been OK, but we couldn’t put it back any further and have another inspection.”

In the hours up to 12.30, it was clear several trainers were not prepared to let their horses take part – with 26 non-runners announced because of the going.

Naughton added: “It was just patches of the course that were giving us problems.

“The majority of the course was OK. There were a couple of patches where the clouds went against us. At one point cloud cover came over, and it started cooling down again. Everything that could go against us did go against us.

“There was nothing more we could do. A lot of people made the effort to get here, so we thought we’d push it to the wire if we can and see what we could do.”

There were mixed outcomes from two inspections elsewhere on Monday morning, for Wednesday’s racing.

Exeter’s card was abandoned because of waterlogging, after 17mm of rain since Sunday morning.

Warwick may yet go ahead, however, as standing water receded – but the meeting will be subject to a second check at 2pm on Tuesday, with further rain forecast.

In Ireland, Tuesday’s meeting at Limerick has been called off because of waterlogging.

There will be an inspection on Tuesday morning for Thursday’s card at Wincanton, where there is standing water and further rain forecast on heavy ground.

Sedgefield faces fourth inspection

Sedgefield’s meeting on Monday hinges on a fourth inspection at the track – at 12.30pm, which was initially the scheduled time of the opening race.

The course passed an initial check on Sunday afternoon, as frozen conditions began to improve, with a second inspection announced for 830am on Monday.

That was put back by an hour and a half, however, in the hope that temperatures would continue to rise – having dipped to minus 2C overnight.

The course was still not raceable, though, and it was announced a further inspection must take place at 11.30am.

That too was inconclusive, and a Tweet on Sedgefield’s official feed read: “We’re doing everything we can to help our fixture go ahead so we’ll be having a further inspection at 12.30pm.”

The ground is described as heavy for the scheduled seven-race card.

There were mixed outcomes from two inspections elsewhere on Monday morning, for Wednesday’s racing.

Exeter’s card was abandoned because of waterlogging, after 17mm of rain since Sunday morning.

Warwick may yet go ahead, however, as standing water receded – but the meeting will be subject to a second check at 2pm on Tuesday, with further rain forecast.

In Ireland, Tuesday’s meeting at Limerick is off because of waterlogging.

There will be an inspection on Tuesday morning for Thursday’s card at Wincanton, where there is standing water and further rain forecast on heavy ground.

Sedgefield waits on mid-morning inspection

Sedgefield’s meeting on Monday hinges on a 10am inspection.

The course passed an initial check on Sunday afternoon, as frozen conditions began to improve, with a second inspection announced for 830am on Monday.

That was put back by an hour and a half, however, in the hope that temperatures will continue to rise – having dipped to minus 2C overnight.

A Tweet from the course read: “Inspection has been pushed to 10am. Temperatures are set to rise above 0 before 9am”.

The going is described as heavy for the scheduled seven-race card.

There were mixed outcomes from two inspections elsewhere on Monday morning, for Wednesday’s racing.

Exeter’s card was abandoned because of waterlogging, after 17mm of rain since Sunday morning.

Warwick may yet go ahead, however, as standing water receded – but the meeting will be subject to a second check at 2pm on Tuesday, with further rain forecast.

In Ireland, Tuesday’s meeting at Limerick is off because of waterlogging.

Rebecca Menzies celebrates first career treble at Sedgefield

Rebecca Menzies was thrilled to saddle her first treble at Sedgefield on Wednesday.

Based less than five miles from the County Durham venue at Howe Hills Farm, which she rents from former trainer John Wade, Menzies learned her trade with the late Ferdy Murphy before become the youngest ever female trainer in Britain in 2013.

The 30-year-old broke the £1million barrier in prize-money earned when Tabou Beach Boy won at Musselburgh in January of this year, and claimed the biggest winner of her career to date when Stormy Girl landed the Listed Flying Fillies’ Stakes at Pontefract in August.

Reflecting on her latest milestone, she said: “It’s been a brilliant day and it’s great all the winners were for John Wade, who was here today.

“I’m so grateful to John, who has invested a lot of money into the yard this year in terms of facilities and also into his bloodstock.

“He has some nice, young horses who will hopefully takes us to the bigger days, which is what it’s all about.”

The first of the three winners on the card for Menzies, Wade and jockey Henry Brooke was Return Ticket (15-8), who dominated from the front in the Sky Sports Racing Sky 415 Novices’ Chase.

Little over an hour later Raecius Felix (3-1) secured a hard-fought victory in the Watch Sky Sports Racing In HD Handicap Chase, before She’s A Dancer obliged as the 13-8 favourite in the Download The At The Races App Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Menzies – whose day got even better when Twisted Dreams won at Newcastle’s evening meeting – added: “Return Ticket and Raecius Felix are two horses that John bought privately from his friend Richard Collins over the summer. Richard had a bit of a dispersal, John bought a few off him and Richard was racing as well today, which was good.

“All the horses appreciated the drying ground and everything has clicked into place. Henry gave them all good rides.”

While she has enjoyed success on the Flat, Menzies views herself as predominantly a National Hunt trainer and is looking forward to the winter with optimism.

She said: “I thought through the summer this was going to be the best team of jumpers that we’ve had for the winter. I was excited about them, but it takes until October/November to get rolling, so it’s nice to have some on the board already.

“We have around 35 jumpers that will be running through the winter. We have a good few Flat horses, but the bulk of them will be going to the sales at the end of the month and hopefully we’ll get some fresh ones in for next year.”