Challenger Series – Onto the Second…

Another round has come and gone in the Challenger Series and it has continued to be very well supported, with nearly every race having a minimum of eight runners.

The increased field sizes have produced some great performances, here is a recap of the latest races.

Staying Mares’ Handicap Chase Series

The newest addition to the Challenger Series programme has been well received by trainers and produced a great race. Tara Mist for Henry Daly and the Champion Jockey Richard Johnson produced a gritty display to take the prize. It was another masterful ride from Richard, initially holding up Tara Mist well off the pace. They made smooth progress after four from the finish, and swept to the lead approaching the last. Regardless, that she was giving 12lbs to the second Tara Mist won the race by just over a length and could be one to look out for in March.

Staying Handicap Chase Series

The next round in the Challenger Staying Handicap Chase Series saw a gallant effort from prolific pointer Ask The Weatherman at Exeter Racecourse. After winning eight of his nine points and finishing seventh in the Foxhunters Chase at Cheltenham he was asked to carry a weight of 12st 4lbs. This was a masterful training performance from new rules trainer Jack R Barber. Ask The Weatherman was always handy, and was asked by Nick Scholfield to make his challenge four out, then took up the lead at the penultimate fence. Despite drifting right towards the finish, he ran out a ¾ length winner.

Exeter

Middle Distance Handicap Chase Series

The Challenger Middle Distance Chase Series made its way to Newbury for their opening fixture on a fantastic card. The Challenger Series Qualifier did not disappoint which looked a competitive handicap on paper. Willie Boy toughed out a win against well touted favourite Henri Parry Morgan, giving trainer Venetia Williams her first win of the jumps season. Willie Boy and Greybougg set a strong early pace to ensure this was a test of stamina as they went clear. Liam Treadwell sent Willie Boy to the front three from home and despite hitting the last hard, stayed on gamely to win, fending off the late challenge from Henri Parry Morgan.

Mares Handicap Hurdle Series

The second race in the Challenger Mares Handicap Hurdle Series saw a dominant display from the returning Lady Of Lamanver for Harry Fry. Even though she had been off the track for over 500 days, she shed he maiden tag in great style at Fontwell. There had been continuous support for her throughout the day and that wasn’t unjust. Always tracking the leader, travelling powerfully throughout, she went upsides Castafiore three out. Leading at the second last, she was ridden clear up the run in, winning by six lengths. There could be much more to come from this lightly raced seven-year-old and is one to keep an eye on.

Newbury

Staying Handicap Hurdle Series

The Challenger Stayers Hurdle Series had two qualifiers in quick succession from Chepstow and Kelso. The first at Chepstow saw a strong field of 11 go to post, but they were no match for Philip Hobbs’ Steely Addition who bolted up at the Monmouthshire track. Micheal Nolan got him settled in rear, in what looked a fairly steady pace. He made smooth headway after the seventh hurdle and went second four from home. After three out Steely Addition swept to the lead and went readily clear and won very easily.

Three days later the Challenger Series headed to Kelso. Again, this qualifier looked very competitive, but they were no match for Tawseef, who went out a commanding 13 length winner for the McCain team. Anna McCain held the horse up at the rear of the field before making smooth headway four out. Tawseef cantered into the lead two from home and was shaken up and soon clear. These two horses both could be seen in March which would be a fascinating clash.

Two Mile Handicap Hurdle Series

The Two Mile Hurdle Series headed to Cheltenham for their Showcase meeting. The race was the eighth and last race of what was a great days racing, and it was worth the wait. Bobble Emerald sprung a 33/1 surprise victory and gave local trainer Martin Keighley a double on the day. Young Harry Stock sent Bobble Emerald to the front from the off and gallantly made all. However, it wasn’t a smooth trip on the home turn. He made a mistake two from the finish then was badly hampered by a loose horse in the final 100 yards. Regardless of all this interference, he stayed on gamely and ran out a two length winner.

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