There were no fairy tale season endings at the last grand hurrah of the Hunter chase season at Stratford on Friday evening. The racing was highly competitive with some close finishes, none of which sadly included runners from Gloucestershire stables.
The closest we came to success was in the Pertemps Network Stratford Foxhunter, where the Fergal O'Brien-trained Captain Cattistock reached a distant 31l fifth under Albi Tufnell. Wick Green under Pete Mason was pulled up two out when out of contention, and Barney Dwan unshipped his rider, Georgie Benson at the ninth in the opener, when leading the field.
Good performances from Vaucelet in the point-to-point.co.uk Champion Novices Hunters Chase, and Law of Gold in the Foxhunter, earned plenty of promise for next season's top rank. And whilst Vaucelet is trained in Ulster, Law of Gold is a thoroughly British affair, trained by Norfolk farmer David Kemp.
Spare a thought for leading amateur rider David Maxwell, who had targetted the evening with three choice rides from his portfolio of owner-ridden mounts. David is fiercely keen and well-mounted, but the best of the night was a 5 1/2l second to LAw of Gold in the feature event. I don't imagine it'll dim his enthusiasm however.
Meanwhile, under Rules, it was a busy Bank Holiday weekend of fixtures. This is not a time of year for high quality Jumps action, more's the pity, but what lacks in quality is made up in quantity. With spectators once again allowed, albeit with some restrictions, this is as normal as we have achieved in 15 months, and most welcome with it.
There were winners for Tom George at Ffos Llas, where 6 year old Irish-bred mare Mosambo got her head in front for the forst time at the eighth attempt, and yesterday at Huntingdon, where French-bred Valseur du Granval won his seventh race in the handicap chase since joining Tom in October 2013.
The Fergal O'Brien winner machine continues to whirr steadily despite the change of seasons. "Have horsebox, will travel" seems to be a motto, judged from the team sent to Kelso for their final meeting on Sunday. A near full horsebox brought back a first place for Valentino Dancer in the handicap hurdle, but also a second and third from Trailboss and Oski in their respective races, which will help pay their way.
Also on the scoresheet on Sunday was Martin Keighley, with Back On The Lash, a third winner of the term at Uttoxeter, and already a third of the way to beating last season's total, which by and large was a season to forget.
There was more success for Jason Warner between the flags, with no less than 3 winners at Bratton Down on Saturday, taking his season's tally to 12 in piursuit of a leading owner trophy. Los Alamos, trained by Luke Price, and the first leg of a double for him, was followed by Blair's Cove in the Conditions race, whilst Jason reserved Best To Come for himself in the concluding Maiden.
Not to be outdone, Jake Slatter got on the winner's board at Chaddesley yesterday when Rose Iland won the Jockey Club mares race under James King by 4l, in which seven of the 12 runners pulled up.
Going for Sunday April 3 - Good (Thursday)
6m SE Cheltenham, nr junction of A40 and A436 (Exit 11A, M5)