As storms continue to batter Britain, many trainers had called into question the wisdom of running at all right now given that even getting horses to the track in high-sided vehicles is dangerous, regardless of what conditions are like on the course.
Indeed Wincanton, who were to host their hugely popular Grade 2 race the Kingwell Hurdle, had to abandon their meeting on Saturday leaving Ascot and Haydock to star over jumps while all-weather action was led by Lingfield.
Cyrname Out as Riders Storms Ascot Chase
If we needed a reminder of how testing and brutal conditions were around the Berkshire track, then we got it in no uncertain terms on Saturday.
The top two contenders for the Reynonldstown Novices’ Chase (1.50), Pym and favourite Sam Brown, both dropped out of contention rather tamely on the second circuit and pulled-up, but things were to get worse later on.
In the highly anticipated Grade 1 Ascot Chase at 3.35, classy Graduation Chase winner Riders Onthe Storm was out to prove he is the real deal when he took on the highest rated chaser in the country and Altior’s conqueror, Cyrname.
Paul Nicholls’ star was headed three from home though and was clearly beaten before he crashed out with a bad looking fall at the last, something seemingly indicative of having been bottomed out by his performance against Altior before coming here and running on very heavy ground.
Thankfully, Cyrname is now reported as being stiff and sore but otherwise well while Riders Onthe Storm now has his connections dreaming of Cheltenham after securing victory at Ascot once again.
Emitom to Challenge for Stayers’ Crown
There was a surprise winner of the Grand National Handicap Trial over at Haydock in the shape of 33/1 shot Smooth Stepper while in the Rendlesham Hurdle Emitom simply screamed Grade 1 class in taking the race, but again all was not well on Merseyside.
Conditions here were as bad as they were at Ascot leading to the Rendlesham favourite The Worlds End stopping very quickly when pulled up, while usually sound staying types Elegant Escape, Geronimo and former Grand National Winner One For Arthur all pulled-up in the National Trial.
The latter’s participation in the Grand National at Aintree is in serious doubt after this, while Emitom is now entitled to have a crack at Paisley Park in the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival following what was a very smooth win indeed.
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One in a Million Kachy Passes
At Lingfield Park, tragedy struck in the sprint handicap at 2.35 when speed demon Kachy sprung from the gates like normal before being pulled-up by Richard Kingscote.
It has transpired that he suffered a fatal injury and had to be destroyed, leaving a huge gap in the lives of owner David Lowe, trainer Tom Dascombe and the seemingly inconsolable Kingscote.
Whether he would have won what turned out to be his final race is open to doubt, as improving all-weather star Harry’s Bar took the race in good style if in unfortunate circumstances, a performance that puts him on target for the hugely valuable All-Weather Championships back at Lingfield at Easter.
Half an hour earlier in the Novice Stakes there was a taking performance by Dublin Pharaoh, a son of Triple Crown hero American Pharoah trained by Roger Varian. On the numbers it was nothing special, but the style of the win and the way he used his huge stride was and he may now be aimed at the Road to the Kentucky Derby Conditions Stakes soon at Kempton.
It’s worth noting that those in the States watching on were suitably impressed by this, and there’s no doubt this colt will continue to improve in lumps making a trip stateside with him a real possibility.