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Frost and Rockadenn strike in Taunton feature

Paul Nicholls dominated the finish to the feature race at Taunton, with Bryony Frost and Rockadenn just edging out Harry Cobden on Pic D’Orhy.

Pic D’Orhy looked sure to register his first win since last season’s Betfair Hurdle was cruising to the front at the second-last in the Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance Handicap Hurdle.

However, he found a little less than Cobden was expecting, and Frost was at her tenacious best on the Million In Mind-owned winner, with Rockadenn (17-2) prevailing in a photo by a head.

Rockadenn (left) still had ground to make up at the final flight
Rockadenn (left) still had ground to make up at the final flight (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“I didn’t know what to expect because he ran out up at Musselburgh,” said Nicholls.

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“The other lad was having his first run since a wind op and maybe I ran him a bit quick.

“He (Pic D’Orhy) has a couple of entries at the Festival in the Coral Cup and the County Hurdle, and he could also go for the Scottish Champion Hurdle before we turn his attention to fences in the autumn.”

Cobden did not leave empty handed, though, as he had earlier provided Colin Tizzard with a welcome winner thanks to The Widdow Maker in the Aspen Waite Complete Business Growth Service Maiden Hurdle.

Harry Cobden had an easy time on The Widdow Maker
Harry Cobden had an easy time on The Widdow Maker (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Always handy, the pair came clear up the run-in to score in a common canter.

Cobden said: “He was quite keen on his previous run which is why Joe (Tizzard) decided to put a hood on him. To be fair he hardly picked up the bridle and it was a good bit of placing.”

Olly Murphy’s Allavina looks a mare of some potential given how she cruised to victory in the British EBF Mares’ National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Aidan Coleman kept apart from Lilly Pedlar all the way up the straight and the 13-8 favourite was not hard pressed to win by six and a half lengths.

Allavina looks like a mare with a bright future for Olly Murphy
Allavina looks like a mare with a bright future for Olly Murphy (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Murphy said: “She’s a mare who took a while to get it all together, but she’s hacked up today.

“Aidan was very pleased with her and there’s a possibility that she’ll run in the mares’ final at Newbury.”

The winning Welsh National duo of Evan Williams and Adam Wedge teamed up to score with Ring The Moon (13-8 favourite) in the Kate Austin Misses Her Racing Handicap Chase.

Mitchell Bastyon registered another winner when Laura Young’s Auenwirbel caused a 33-1 surprise in the Taunton Round Table Selling Handicap Hurdle, while Putdecashonthedash (9-1) won the Geoffrey Bosley ‘Tally Ho’ Handicap Chase for Tom Bellamy and Kieran Burke.

Taunton off as freeze takes toll

Taunton’s meeting was abandoned after an early-morning inspection on Tuesday – leaving a second successive blank day in the British jump racing calendar.

As the freeze takes hold, Taunton’s card was called off before 7am.

A Tweet on Taunton’s official account read: “Racing today has been abandoned. Temps overnight down to – 3C. Course frozen with no prospect/forecast of temps rising above 0C until around 1pm with a high of +1C”

Market Rasen’s meeting was abandoned after an inspection the previous afternoon – but there will be a jumpers’ bumper card at Kempton on Tuesday, after that course passed a morning inspection called because of forecast overnight snow.

Southwell’s all-weather evening Flat fixture is also set to go ahead.

Doncaster’s meeting on Thursday will, however, not take place after the course failed inspection on Tuesday morning – with snow on the track.

Wednesday’s National Hunt card at Ludlow was also abandoned following an inspection on Tuesday morning.

Thursday’s fixture at Ffos Las is also in some doubt, needing to pass an 8.30am precautionary inspection on Wednesday.

A tweet from the course said: “In view of updated weather forecast, we will hold a precautionary inspection at 8.30am tomorrow to assess impact of overnight temps ahead of racing on Thursday. Forecast -2 overnight & early morning, up to -4/-5 inland. We hope our coastal location will help with milder airflow.”

Jumps courses on weather watch as cold snap bites

Jumps tracks are bracing themselves for another week of inspections and abandonments due to the continuing cold snap.

Sunday’s card at Musselburgh survived a morning inspection, but fixtures remain under threat in the coming week.

A poor weather forecast has prompted Plumpton to call an inspection at 8am on Monday to determined prospects for that day’s card.

Light snow is forecast with temperatures down to -2C overnight and not expected to rise above freezing.

Frost sheets were deployed on landings, take offs and vulnerable areas on Friday.

The prospect of a sharp frost on Sunday night has forced Carlisle to hold a precautionary inspection at 8am on Monday ahead of the same day’s meeting.

There is currently no problem with waterlogging, but there is a chance of snow on Monday.

Taunton are to inspect at noon on Monday to assess prospects for Tuesday’s card.

The course was free from frost on Sunday morning, but it is set to get colder overnight with temperatures forecast to drop to -2C on Sunday and -4C on Monday night. Daytime temperatures will struggle to get above freezing.

An precautionary inspection is also set for Market Rasen at noon on Monday ahead of Tuesday’s fixture due to the potential risk of snow and frost.

Wednesday’s meeting at Fontwell has been abandoned following an inspection on Sunday afternoon.

The course was found to be waterlogged in places and unraceable.

An inspection is set for Huntingdon at 4pm on Monday ahead of Thursday’s programme as the course is waterlogged.

The Alconbury brook has burst its banks and areas of the home straight are flooded.

Friday’s jumps card at Kempton is also in doubt due to the lake bend being waterlogged.

Officials are expecting up to 25 millimetres from a mixture of rain, sleet and snow. Minimum temperatures on Wednesday and Thursday could go down to -5C, with a maximum temperature of +2C.

Haydock goes ahead

Haydock’s Peter Marsh meeting will go ahead after the course passed an early-morning inspection.

Saturday’s seven-race card was subject to a scheduled 8am check because of the threat of frost, having already survived the ravages of the midweek Storm Christoph.

However, the inspection was brought forward to 7am, and a Tweet from Haydock’s official account confirmed shortly after 7.15am that the course was fit for racing.

Taunton’s eight-race card was given the go-ahead before a scheduled 8am inspection there too, as overnight conditions relented sufficiently.

Haydock will stage four Grade Two events, including the feature Peter Marsh Handicap Chase – while dual champion hurdler Buveur D’Air makes his long-awaited return from injury against just two rivals in the The New One Unibet Hurdle.

An update from the track read: “Today’s precautionary inspection has passed! The Going is Heavy.”

Temperatures had been forecast to fall below freezing overnight, but they did not do so.

There remains a “slight chance of sleety snow flurries” at the Merseyside venue – but Haydock’s card, which had already passed a Thursday inspection after being waterlogged in places earlier in the week, will get under way at 12.55.

The ground at Taunton is soft, heavy in places – as it is at Ascot, where the Grade One Matchbook Betting Exchange Clarence House is the highlight of a seven-race card.

Navan, the sole Saturday card scheduled in Ireland, will not however take place – after the course failed an 8am inspection, with the track “frozen and unfit for racing”.

Talking takes Listed honours at Taunton

Talking About You landed her second Listed success when making most of the running in the Byerley Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Taunton.

The Sean Curran-trained filly had earned her first black type on her previous start at Aintree and backed that up with a game display on her ninth run over the smaller obstacles since August.

As in her recent races, Talking About You was to the fore from the outset, sharing the pace-making duties with Perfect Myth, the 13-8 favourite.

The pair were still vying for the lead until after the third-last flight left where Talking About You (2-1) started to take a clear advantage.

Pushed out by Harry Bannister, the daughter of Sixties Icon stuck on gamely to score by two and a quarter lengths from Will Victory.

Perfect Myth was five and a half lengths away in third place.

Curran said: “We’ve found the key to her. She’s a bit tricky before the race, but she gets on with it then.

“She keeps surprising me, which is handy. She’s won two Listed races now – brilliant.

“She handled the ground better than the rest and she’ll jump a lot better on better ground.”

Curran will now have to work out where to go with Talking About You in the future.

“It’s a shame Aintree’s Festival is a long way away. I’d opt for there more than Cheltenham. None of those races are easy at Cheltenham or Aintree,” said the Swindon handler.

“I don’t think we have a whole load of options. I’m not sure what to do.

“I’ll sit down and see what we can do.

“The owner (Ian McGready) has a few quid in the kitty and he’s a good mate. He’s been a great supporter of mine when I was race riding, so he’s always 100 per cent behind me.”

Thorne loses Taunton appeal

Conditional jockey Alex Thorne has lost an appeal against his 21-day ban from the Taunton stewards for failing to weigh in after winning on Twin Star.

Thorne’s case caused controversy this month – when because of Covid-19 protocols in place at the track, the jockeys had to take a different route to the changing rooms, whereas in the past they would have had to walk directly past the scales.

Unfortunately for Thorne, who carried out a winning TV interview, he went straight into the changing rooms and was disqualified and placed last as a result.

Thorne was represented at the independent disciplinary panel hearing by Rory Mac Neice – who highlighted the fact that since the resumption of racing and the new track layouts, nine jockeys had failed to weigh in compared to just three in 2019.

The 21-day penalty for failing to weigh in is fixed but can be changed if there are “exceptional circumstances”.

However, the appeal was dismissed by the panel who did not think Thorne’s case met those criteria.

Drama at Taunton as Twin Star disqualified after rider fails to weigh in

Trainer Noel Williams has plenty of sympathy for Alexander Thorne after the conditional jockey failed to weigh in having finishing first past the post at Taunton on Twin Star, causing him to be disqualified.

Due to Covid-19 protocols jockeys at the Somerset track are currently using a temporary changing room, while the scales are in their usual spot.

Thorne went directly into the changing room after conducting a winning interview rather than weighing in first, and the stewards were left with no other option but to disqualify Twin Star and announce Robinshill the winner. Thorne was also suspended for 21 days.

The race was the first ever from the course shown by the ITV cameras.

“Obviously it is an unfortunate situation,” said Williams.

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“I think there has to be a little bit of help for these guys. I know they are professionals and are responsible themselves for weighing in, but there are a lot of things going through their heads when they come in from a ride, good and bad.

“Particularly when they win, as happened today, they can be taken to one side for an interview and they have a lot of things going on.

“I’m not sure what it’s like at every track, but at Taunton to get back to the changing room before you’d basically trip over the scales getting back to the weighing room, but obviously it is different now with the Covid restrictions.

“Alex isn’t the first jockey that’s ever done it and he certainly won’t be the last. I have plenty of sympathy for him – he’ll be absolutely gutted. We’ve all lost out on what was a career-best effort (from Twin Star), but he’ll be really gutted.”

The trainer went on: “I think they need a bit of help, someone on the door just checking they’ve weighed in, it takes very little for that to happen as no one wants this to happen.

“Everyone loses in this situation – apart from the connections of the original second – and even if I was the connections getting promoted to first it’s a hollow victory.

“I would rather this was looked into, especially with the layout of courses at the moment. Jockeys shouldn’t have to have a sat nav to get back to their changing room.”