Gloucestershire handlers filled the top 4 berths in Kempton Park's 3m Handicap Chase this afternoon, but had mixed fortunes in the day's feature event, the Silviniaco Conti Chase later the same afternoon.
Whilst there have been some notable highlights in top drawer races, the Slad stable of Tom George has not been making headlines in the bread and butter races of mid week fixtures, but it brought a smile to everyone's face to see Double Shuffle get his head in front at the course where he achieved his most memorable performance in going down a length to Might Bite in the 2017 King George. Today's race, now with a rating 26lbs below his best, is hardly in the same bracket, but was his first victory since December 2016, despite some valiant runner-up berths between times.
Graeme McPherson's Ami Desbois was 1 1/4l back in second, 3/4l ahead of the Kim Bailey-trained Two For Gold, and Richard Hobson's St Xavier further back.
In Kempton's Silviniaco Conti Chase, Imperial Aura exposed his jumping faults by tipping David Bass out of the saddle at the second, whilst Clondaw Castle was no match for the Nicholls runner Master Tommytucker - soemthing of an anticlimax of a race all in all.
The Gloucestershire haul was complemented by winners at Wincanton for Ben Pauling, and at Chepstow for Martin Keighley and David Bridgwater. It's been a hard grind for the Keighleys, clawing their way back toward the heady days of 2010-15, when prize money hauls in excess of £200k were expected. But as so many trainers will tell you, you're only as good as the horses you train, and hard work normally reaps its own reward in time. Ask Kim Bailey, who can do little wrong this season, but who was in the wilderness for many years.
Meanwhile rumours abound that Ben Pauling will either move or set up a second yard in new premises at Naunton after he and his wife recently purchased Naunton Downs Golf Club. Naunton is already a centre of excellence, dominated by the established Twiston-Davies regime. If the chemistry is anything like the friendly rivalry that exists between Kim Bailey and Fergal O'Brien, whose gallops are within hailing distance of each other, then a new yard can only accelerate the number of winners from this small part of the Cotswolds.
Fixture 2021 Cancelled
Look out for 2022 dates later in the summer
6m SE Cheltenham, nr junction of A40 and A436 (Exit 11A, M5)