The festive season is now over and with it a bundle of Challenger Series races have been completed. The Series has been as competitive as ever with some strong support from Owners and Trainers alike.
2 Mile Handicap Hurdle Series
The 2 Mile Handicap Hurdle Series started the Christmas period at Ffos Las in some really testing conditions. Potters Story seemed to relish a return to the track and a drop back in trip, as he ran out a 21-length winner for trainer Peter Bowen, ridden by son James. Despite being very keen in the early stages, Potters Story tracked leader Rayvin Black until 2 out when he took over the lead. He soon went clear after the last and ran on strongly on the flat.
Next the Challenger Series headed to Haydock Park where conditions were equally as challenging. Chti Balko, who beat Potters Story last season at this venue, is another who seemed at home on softer ground. The Donald McCain trained winner was sent out in front by jockey Will Kennedy and couldn’t be pegged back. Although he made a mistake 3 out, he never looked in trouble and readily drew clear on the run in to be a comfortable 6-length winner.
Staying Handicap Hurdle Series
The only fixture for the Challenger Stayers Hurdle Series was at Warwick on New Year’s Eve. Eight went to post in this stamina-sapping 3m 2f contest. It payed to be held up off the pace as the first two home filled the last two places for the first circuit. The Henry Daly trained Flashjack took up the lead from six out and even with a blunder at the last, was an easy winner as Definitely Vinnie looked very one paced after the second last.
Mares’ Handicap Hurdle Series
The Mares’ kicked off the festive Challenger Series racing with a hurdle race at Southwell. Despite the better ground, only six went to post and favourite Midnight Silver made no mistake. The Jamie Snowden trained mare was sent out in front by Gavin Sheehan and couldn’t be reeled back in by Kalaniti. This proved a fruitful trip for the Snowden yard as he made it a double on the day.
The Series then headed 160 miles north to Newcastle for the final fixture before Christmas. The Johnathon Haynes trained Beyondtemptation took advantage of a tumbling mark and made it a second win in thirteen starts this season. Jockey Thomas Dowson sent him into an early lead and went clear very quickly. He idled up the home straight and hung left but no one could get near. It proved to be a very enterprising ride.
Middle Distance Chase Series
The first Challenger Chase Series of the period started at Fakenham for a Middle Distance Chase. Ben Pauling’s trip to East Anglia was not wasted as his improving five-year-old Creep Desbois ran out a gutsy winner. He chased the leaders until the 7th, took second soon after. He led as they bypassed the last and stayed on well to win a shade cosily. He looks the type to improve for better ground and could be one to watch in March.
Two days later the Challenger Series headed to Exeter for a strong field of nine runners. Favourite Siruh Du Lac made it two wins in quick succession and put in a very impressive round of jumping for a four-year-old. The Nick Williams trained gelding made most, was narrowly headed 2 out but regained the lead approaching the last and held on well. He looks a fast improving type and is one to follow for the reminder of the season.
Staying Handicap Chase Series
The only Challenger Series race on Boxing Day was a testing stayers chase race at Wincanton. 11 went to post but the tough conditions took effect as there was only four finishers. The eventual winner Regal Flow looked held from 3 out and was three lengths down at the last. However, the Bob Buckler horse took advantage of the long run-in at Exeter and led close home to beat Krackatoa King by a head.
Mares’ Handicap Chase Series
The final Challenger Series race to get under way over Christmas, was the Mares’ Handicap Chase Series where Michael Scudamore fielded three of the five runners. He was duly rewarded as the outsider of the field Sheneededtherun took advantage of softer conditions underfoot and to pip Milly Baloo near the finish. It is doubtful she will get her ground in March but if it was to be on the soft side she would definitely be of interest.