Tag Archive for: Stuart Crawford

Crawford mulling Morebattle option for Brucio

Stuart Crawford will be keeping a close eye on the bet365 Morebattle Hurdle, as connections plot their next move with Leopardstown scorer Brucio.

Owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, the six-year-old has begun to get her act together over obstacles and following a successful Catterick raid in January, secured Listed honours with an impressive display in the Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival.

Brucio was subsequently handed an entry for the Ryanair Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, but with Crawford unsure if she will make the trip to Prestbury Park, it is of note that she also holds a ticket for Kelso’s feature handicap on March 2.

“It was a nice surprise winning at Fairyhouse, we certainly weren’t going there bullish we had a good chance, but she was at the right end of the handicap and she was open to plenty of improvement,” said Crawford.

“Hopefully she will keep on progressing, but I don’t know if we will head to Cheltenham with her. I’ll have to sit down and have that discussion and the beauty is there are plenty of options for her and first things first, we would try to pick something where she has the chance to pick up some good prize-money or get her head in front again.”

Irish raiders have enjoyed success in the Morebattle since its reincarnation as a handicap in 2021, with The Shunter winning in the Borders before going on to strike at the Cheltenham Festival.

Crawford himself went close to landing a blow in the race the following year with Saint D’oroux and he admits it could be the ideal place to enhance Brucio’s CV while others have their sights on the Cotswolds.

“There will be plenty of focus obviously on Cheltenham (in the next few weeks), but I will have no problem at all collecting a bit of prize-money at Kelso, that would suit me all right,” he said.

“I think we will definitely be keeping an eye on Kelso and it will probably be a more valuable race than what she would be going in at Cheltenham.

“How well is she going to be treated by the handicapper? That is hard to say and she will take a hefty rise for what she did at Leopardstown. But hopefully she can still be competitive in a big handicap like that.”

He went on: “She made a very promising debut at Punchestown last spring in the mares’ bumper there and showed a bit of ability, but afterwards she probably underwhelmed a little bit and underperformed in her next two starts in bumpers.

“Ultimately she has just probably been more suited to going jumping and even though she has taken a run or two to find her feet, there is hopefully plenty of progress still to come with her.”

Ben Smith enjoys memorable first success at Ayr

There were joyous scenes at Ayr on Tuesday when 17-year-old Ben Smith rode his first ever winner on Follow Charlie, trained by his father, Mike.

Having just his fourth ride under rules, the teenager punched the air on crossing the line, delighted to get off the mark.

Sent off a 17-2 chance in the Ayr Completes Juilia’s Racecourse Journey Handicap Hurdle, he came home 10 lengths clear of Lewa House.

Ben Smith said: “It was just my fourth ride, my second at Ayr and I’m absolutely over the moon, I’m delighted.

“I nearly won on him on my first ever ride. I’d say he was runner-up to a well-treated winner (Gamigin) who has won again since, that filled us with a bit more confidence coming here today and the step up in trip was always going to suit him.”

On returning to unsaddle, the youngster performed a flying dismount and said: “I’m not quite Frankie (Dettori) yet but I’ll keep trying!

“I just naturally progressed through pony racing, point-to-points and showjumping there was never anything else I was going to do.”

Mike Smith said: “I was very emotional, I was nearly crying but if you can’t get emotional about that, what are you in the sport for.

“To do it here, almost home turf, ridden by my son, a horse we bought for handy money (£2,500) – it’s fantastic.”

There was not such good news for Derek Fox who was taken to hospital with a suspected shoulder injury after his mount, Clovis Bay, fell on the flat.

The rest of the card was dominated by Northern Ireland-based Stuart Crawford, who enjoyed a treble.

Ballycoose (13-8 favourite) won the Ayrshire Wedding Show Novices’ Handicap Chase while Joshua Des Flos (4-7 favourite) was an easy winner of the Quiz Night At Golf Inn Prestwick Maiden Hurdle, with both ridden by Daryl Jacob.

JJ Slevin came over to ride Ailie Rose (6-4 favourite) in the Golf Inn Prestwick Handicap Hurdle.

Stuart Crawford (left) and J J Slevin were on the mark at Ayr
Stuart Crawford (left) and J J Slevin were on the mark at Ayr (Brian Lawless/PA)

Crawford is a regular visitor to the track and told Racing TV: “Apart from Down Royal and Downpatrick, this is almost our local track.

“It’s quicker for us to get here than going to the south of Ireland and it’s very easy because for two hours of that journey you are asleep on the boat or reading the paper.

“Joshua Des Flos has been here the last twice and he’s been beaten by nice horses, the novice hurdles here are as competitive as you get anywhere, they take a bit of winning – the big difference today was the softer ground.”

Crawford plans to take it steady with Park Annonciade

Stuart Crawford hopes there is more improvement to come from smart Haydock winner Park Annonciade.

The five-year-old began his hurdling career in the summer with two encouraging efforts at Sligo and Perth, missing out by just three quarters of a length on debut and then winning well next time out.

He returned in autumn after a short break and quickly regained the winning thread with an Ayr success that led him to Haydock on Saturday, where he carried bottom weight, which was assisted further by 5lb claimer Ben Bromley.

The same trainer and owners, Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, were also represented in the race by Carnfunnock, but it was his less experienced stablemate who swept to a two-and-three-quarter-length victory as the 3-1 joint-favourite.

“We probably fancied the other horse more but he was just a bit rusty with his jumping on his first run of the season,” Crawford said.

Park Annonciade at Haydock
Park Annonciade at Haydock (Nigel French/PA)

“Park Annonciade had the advantage of a few runs, he’s been on the go over the summer and the drying ground was a big plus for him and he took advantage of being at the bottom of the weights.

“It was good that we could win with one runner anyway!”

The race was a step up to two miles and three furlongs for Park Annonciade and while Crawford predicts he will stay further in time, he is happy to move up only incrementally in the immediate future.

“Eventually, I imagine he’d be a horse that will run over a trip at some point in time but two, two and half miles at this stage will be far enough for him,” he said.

“I don’t know what the handicapper is going to do with him after that but he’s still going to struggle to get into the better races with the mark he’ll be on.

“We’ll let him progress, he’s a horse that has improved with racing and he’s taken a wee bit of time to come to himself, so hopefully there’s another day in him at some point.”

Of plans for Carnfunnock, the trainer added: “I imagine we’ll go for a similar type of race again, he was the one we were really going there for but it didn’t work out on the day for him.

“He’s come out of the run well and we’ll look for something a bit closer to Christmas.”

Now Where Or When in frame for Irish National bid

Now Where Or When could return to Fairyhouse for the BoyleSports Irish Grand National following his fine performance in the Bobbyjo Chase.

Stuart Crawford’s eight-year-old – who was sent off 33-1 for the Grade Three contest – was rated some 30lb inferior to the winner Kemboy but ran a career best to finish just a length and a half behind Willie Mullins’ ever-popular Grade One winner in third.

The son of Where Or When holds an entry for the Bar One Racing Leinster National at Naas on March 12, but having shown a real liking for Fairyhouse throughout his career, Crawford suggests the Easter Monday marathon that is the feature of the track’s Easter Festival on April 10 is a more likely target.

He said: “The horse has been a wee bit unfortunate this season – he’s had one or two targets and for whatever reason he’s ended up missing them. So he’s kind of been on the go for a little while and crying out for a run.

“We knew he was a wee bit wrong at the ratings, but Fairyhouse is a track he has won at a couple of times and always ran well so we were happy to let him take his chance.

“We were maybe a little bit unfortunate at Leopardstown at the Dublin Racing Festival, he missed the start and never really got into the race there, but hopefully there is a big day in him.”

Now Where or When ridden by jockey Sam Ewing on their way to winning the Start Your Free Trial Now at racingtv.com Handicap Chase at Down Royal
Now Where or When ridden by jockey Sam Ewing on their way to winning the Start Your Free Trial Now at racingtv.com Handicap Chase at Down Royal (Brian Lawless/PA)

On future plans, he continued: “He has an entry for there (Leinster National), but ultimately we would love to come back to Fairyhouse at Easter and that would probably be the target.

“He’s on the verge of whether he would make the cut for that, but he will definitely be given an entry and we will see where we are.

“So far he has proven to be a good jumper and he stays well so it will be worth giving him a shot at it anyway.”

Dorking could deliver Festival victory for Crawford

Stuart Crawford is set to have a small but select squad for the Cheltenham Festival and has highlighted Dorking Cock in the St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase as his best chance of a winner.

The nine-year-old won four times when trained in the UK by Tom Lacey and has added another two strikes since switching to the County Antrim-based handler.

However, it was his performance at Down Royal when hunted down late by David Christie’s Vaucelet that is giving Crawford plenty of cause for optimism.

Only a neck separated the duo at the winning post in the St Stephen’s Day feature, but whereas Vaucelet is the general 2-1 favourite for the amateur jockeys’ contest, Dorking Cock is a best price of 14-1 to turn the tables at Prestbury Park.

“Realistically our best chance would be Dorking Cork in the Foxhunters,” said Crawford.

“I think Vaucelet is a very good horse and he’s as good a young hunter as there is around and I would think there is plenty more improvement to come from him.

“Certainly that day at Down Royal, when the two horses hit the line they went a good bit further before they pulled up. So it would definitely be interesting to take him on again.

“We will definitely be looking forward to him. The horse has been lightly raced and was bought with the race in mind. He has just had a few niggly issues last season and we didn’t get running him where we wanted, but hopefully this year it will all go according to plan.”

Gold Cup Bailly gathered a growing reputation when winning his first three chasing appearances, but had to settle for second behind Thomas Darby at Ayr in his most recent start.

Gold Cup Bailly looks an exciting prospect for Stuart Crawford
Gold Cup Bailly looks an exciting prospect for Stuart Crawford (PA)

The seven-year-old holds an entry for the National Hunt Chase, but a lack of rain could see both him and Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle outsider Ailie Rose skip the Festival.

Crawford continued: “Gold Cup Bailly is in the National Hunt Chase, but he also has a couple of other options and I don’t know whether the ground will be slow enough for him. He probably wants a bit more dig in the ground, so it’ll probably depend on the weather between now and then.

“I’ve a little mare in the mares’ hurdle but she probably wants it a bit slower as well, so she’s another we’ll have to gauge closer to the time.”

Crawford considering multiple options for Gold Cup Bailly

Stuart Crawford is relishing the prospect of getting Gold Cup Bailly back in action – but is still mulling his options for the talented chaser.

The seven-year-old is unbeaten since switching to fences this season and holds a pair of entries for Cheltenham this weekend in the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase and Paddy Power Cheltenham Countdown Podcast Handicap Chase, while he is also entered for a Grade Three assignment at Naas on Sunday in the Finlay Ford At Naas Novice Chase.

Crawford is favouring the open handicap worth £100,000 out of his two Cheltenham options, but with conditions at Prestbury Park potentially proving testing on Festival Trials Day, he could be tempted to hang fire an extra seven days and reroute the son of Turgeon to the William Hill Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby on February 4.

“The horse is in good form and I’m keen to go somewhere soon,” said Crawford.

“If we don’t go this weekend, another option is Wetherby for the Towton Novices’ Chase next weekend. I’m pretty sure if you don’t see him out this weekend, you will see him out the following week – I think he’s in great form and I’m looking forward to running him again.

“At Cheltenham, the premier handicap looks pretty appetising over the novice one. I wouldn’t be opposed a tilt at that, but nothing is set in stone at the minute and the ground at Cheltenham is a bit of a concern.

“It should be on all right you would imagine, but it could end up being quite tacky ground and I would say whatever goes there this weekend could be getting a hard race.”

Gold Cup Bailly holds an entry in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, but Crawford is in no rush to label his charge with a target and is simply keen to see how long he can can keep his winning thread going.

He added: “We are in a lucky position with him where he has plenty of options and no real big plans, we’re just keen to get him out somewhere.

“If we can keep on winning with him in the short term, that is what we’re going to try to do with him and if any horse does that, sooner or later they will be taking you to the bigger race and the bigger day.”

The County Antrim-based handler is also keen to take the slow road to the top with O’Toole, who made an impressive chasing debut at Newcastle earlier this month.

O'Toole returned to action with a win
O’Toole returned to action with a win (Nick Robson/PA)

Although holding a Grade One entry for the Dublin Racing Festival, he is likely to continue swimming in calmer waters at Ayr next week.

“I was very pleased with him at Newcastle because it wasn’t easy,” continued Crawford.

“Starting a first timer up against seasoned handicappers is a big ask and to be honest he didn’t put a foot wrong.

“I would say the ground was really hard work that day and he doesn’t need it as testing as that, but he can handle it.

“We’ll try to find something similar to go again with him and try to bank up a wee bit more experience.

“I think eventually the further the better, but at this stage he doesn’t need three miles and two and a half will be fine.

“There’s a novices’ handicap up at Ayr I could run him in. I like going to Ayr, it’s a nice, big, fair track and good fences. Horses normally get a good education there and it’s definitely somewhere we will have a look at.”

Crawford mulling the options for Gold Cup Bailly

Stuart Crawford feels Gold Cup Bailly is “definitely one to look forward to” as he plots the next move with his unbeaten chaser.

The County Antrim-based handler is well supported by owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede and has amassed plenty of ammunition in their famous ‘double green’ silks that have been a regular sight on raiding missions to the UK.

One of those at Crawford’s disposal is Gold Cup Bailly, a seven-year-old who secured a second Ayr victory on January 2, making a successful step up to three miles in the process.

“At this stage you would be hoping he can go a good while yet before he reaches his ceiling,” said Crawford.

“He’s still inexperienced, but he’s been foot-perfect with his jumping in his last couple of runs and I thought it was a good experience for him going up against seasoned handicappers the last day when he was obviously giving them weight as well.

“I know it was a small field, but it wasn’t a bad race for the grade of it and he’s come through that task well.

“He’s probably going to be forced to bite off a bit more the next day and he’ll be up into a better race again. He is definitely one to look forward to.”

Options remain open for the son of Turgeon’s next outing, with opportunities closer to home entering the equation as well as the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase on Cheltenham Trials Day later this month.

He continued: “Back in Ireland there will probably be a Grade Two or Grade Three novice we can look at or at Cheltenham at the end of January, the novices’ handicap there might be suitable.”

Crawford’s Newlands Farm base has become a real nursery for talent and soon to step out over hurdles for the first time is Lily Du Berlais, who beat a useful cast in a Grade Two bumper at the Dublin Racing Festival last year.

She is set to be aggressively campaigned with the intention of running in the top mares’ novice races in the spring, with the experience she has already banked standing her in good stead for the next stage of her career.

Lily Du Berlais (green) on her way to winning at the Dublin Racing Festival
Lily Du Berlais (green) on her way to winning at the Dublin Racing Festival (Niall Carson/PA)

“I would love to say I will keep her in her stable and keep her unbeaten, but we’ve already got her beat so I’m going to have to keep running her now,” said Crawford.

“I would imagine in the next couple of weeks we’ll be looking to get her started off in a maiden hurdle, then after that I imagine we would be pretty ambitious with her and give her a run or two in better company.

“She’s an exciting mare, there’s no two ways about it. She has a fair bit of experience under her belt as she was destined originally to start off point-to-pointing. So she’s had all that work done as a younger horse and we hope she won’t be too green the first day she runs over hurdles.

“You’ve got a very valuable race at Fairyhouse in the spring and that might be a suitable target for her further down the line, but hopefully we will be in the position where any of those better races, we’ll be fit to go to them anyway.”

O’Toole proves the class act on chasing bow at Newcastle

Punters did not have to look too far back in the form book to see O’Toole looked well treated ahead of the Best Odds Guaranteed At Vickers.Bet Everyday Handicap Chase at Newcastle – and he rewarded favourite-backers in style.

Trainer Stuart Crawford is a regular visitor to the northern UK tracks from his base in County Antrim and is supported by major owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.

Their retained rider Daryl Jacob no doubt looks forward to Crawford sending over his raiding parties and with a strike-rate of around 30 per cent when teaming up with the trainer this year, it is no wonder.

O’Toole (13-8 favourite) was a very promising horse in his bumper season, splitting Kilcruit and Sir Gerhard at the Punchestown Festival, but having won on his hurdling debut he failed to progress in two further outings.

Nevertheless, allotted a handicap mark of 130 he jumped satisfactorily for Jacob, who kept him wide, and he had the race won when King Of May came down at the last. Castle Rushen came through for second, beaten three and three-quarter lengths.

“The way it has turned out I could have run him over two miles as the ground is hard work today,” said Crawford.

“I’m well pleased with that, he jumped well and he’s beaten some solid handicappers.

“We’ve always thought there was a big day in this horse, his bumper form is there for all to see. To be honest, when he was running over hurdles he grew a lot and now he’s levelled off again, hopefully.

“He’ll know he’s had a race, I don’t think any horse will like that ground, but it was good experience for him.”

He went on: “We’ll try to pick a sensible target. I know when he ran in the Punchestown bumper that was good ground so he’ll probably handle better ground when he’s got more experience.

“Something like the (Future Champions Novices’ Chase) at Ayr would be ideal further down the line, but there’ll be plenty for him before then.”

They say weight stops trains and that was certainly true in the case of Tommy’s Oscar who found the concession of 19lb too much to Since Day One in the Download The Vickers.Bet App Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.

It speaks volumes for Tommy’s Oscar that he was having to give so much weight away to Donald McCain’s seven-year-old, who has now won six of his 10 starts under rules.

A winner on his chasing debut at Ayr, Since Day One (85-40) was arguably an unlucky loser last time out at Gosforth Park when a mistake at the last cost him.

Bounced out under champion jockey Brian Hughes, he jumped assuredly in first time cheekpieces, with his only semblance of a mistake when he stumbled on landing after jumping the second-last.

Tommy’s Oscar had a tendency to jump marginally right at his fences and could never quite get on terms with the leader, eventually going down by four and a half lengths.

Brian Hughes explains to Donald McCain how Since Day One won
Brian Hughes explains to Donald McCain how Since Day One won (Nick Robson/PA0

“He should have won the last day here, he threw it away with a bad jump at the last,” said McCain.

“That’s why we put the cheekpieces on today. He’s a bit gormless so they’ve really sharpened him up.

“We were a little bit out of the weights so it was chancy enough coming ,but we got away wit it.

“He’s a handy horse, he keeps winning. We lost April (Strang Steel) his owner last year and she was the nicest woman in the world. Colin (son) is here today so it’s lovely the colours have carried on.”