British racing was only in its third day back after the enforced shutdown following an outbreak of equine influenza, but at Sandown on Friday it appeared it was business as usual.
A big crowd enjoyed a glorious February Friday with the Royal Artillery Gold Cup as its centrepiece.
This race began in 1862 and has been run continuously — with the exception of World War II — at Sandown since 1921. The unique nature of this race is the fact it is limited to military amateur riders.Embed from Getty Images
Well-supported favourite Carlos du Fruitier took the honours this year with Brodie Hampson in the saddle. The 7-year-old fought well up the hill to defeat Huff and Puff, ridden by Major Harry Wallace.
There was no fairytale for Rathlin Rose — ridden by double amputee Captain Guy Disney — who had won the race in the previous two years as he fell two from the finish.
It was an emotional success for Hampson though, who had spread the ashes of her late father by the winning post earlier in the day.
She said: “It was great. Dad is not here with us now, but I knew he was with me every step of the way and he would be so proud that I am taking part in a race such as this and winning it too.”
The Sandown crowd was given an unexpected bonus when the Grade 2 Kingmaker Novices’ Chase was rescheduled to form part of the card. The race was initially scheduled to be held at Warwick last weekend.
An upset was on the cards as 1-4 favourite Kalashinov jumped poorly on the way round and was beaten by the 7-2 shot Glen Forsa, who has propelled himself into Cheltenham Festival contention.Embed from Getty Images
Trainier Mick Channon was unable to be on course so his son Jack spoke to the media regarding Glen Forsa’s win.
He said: “We’ve always thought that he showed a lot of ability at home, but he had a lot of setbacks as a young horse.
“His jumping is so electric, I was sceptical about dropping down from two and a half miles to two miles but they were spot on. He was superb today.”
The other Grade 2 contest on the card was the Jane Seymour Mares Novices Hurdle. A gruelling contest was won by QueenOHearts — ridden by Ciaran Gethings — who saw off the fast finishing Danse Idol by 2 1/4 lengths.
The 6-year-old, trained by Stuart Edmonds, is set for some big entries in the coming months.Embed from Getty Images
The Milton Keynes based trainer said: “She travelled through the race lovely. We’ve got plenty of options in mind for her, there’s one or two races in Ireland we could go to if I ever work out how to use their website!”
Elsewhere on the card, another short priced favourite Elusive Belle (4-7) was beaten by the aptly named, given the military theme at Sandown, Reverse Tank (5-1) in the 2 mile Novices’ Hurdle.
It was a good day too for the father and son team of Gary and Jamie Moore.
The pair —who are Sandown specialists — combined with Not Another Muddle in the 2 mile Handicap Chase. The 6-4F never looked in doubt as he improved on his course and distance third a fortnight ago.Embed from Getty Images
The best finish of the day came in three mile Handicap Chase for the Alan Brooke Challenge Cup.
Venetia Williams-trained Achille saw off Scotchtown in a thrilling finish up the hill. Back in third was Strong Pursuit, who was racing for the first time in 463 days.
The card was started and ended by wins for favourite backers. Dorking Cock was well backed to 3-1 to win the opener while the Colin Tizzard-trained Copperhead took the finale in good style.
Sandown results — Friday 15th February
Race 1 — 12:50
1st: 8) Dorking Cock, 3-1F
2nd: 1) Maquisard, 13-2
3rd: 11) Briac, 4-1
Race 2 — 13:20
1st: 1) Not Another Muddle, 6-4F
2nd: 6) Darebin, 6-1
3rd: 8) Ardmayle, 9-1
Race 3 — 13:50
1st: 2) Glen Forsa, 7-2
2nd: 3) Kalashnikov, 1-4F
Race 4 — 14:25
1st: 1) QueenOHearts, 13-8F
2nd: 2) Danse Idol, 5-2
Race 5 — 15:00
1st: 5) Carlos du Fruitier, 7-4F
2nd: 2) Huff and Puff, 7-1
3rd: 6) Keltus, 7-1
Race 6 — 15:30
1st: 5) Reverse Tank, 5-1
2nd: 8) Elusive Belle, 4-7F
3rd: 7) Sevarano, 2-1
Race 7 — 16:05
1st: 11) Achille, 4-1
2nd: 12) Scotchtown, 7-1
3rd: 1) Strong Pursuit, 5-1
12 ran, beaten favourite- 4) Darius Des Bois, 9-4
Race 8 — 16:35
1st: 2) Copperhead, 9-4F
2nd: 4) It’s Got Legs, 100-30
3rd: 6) Fenlons Court, 20-1
Featured photograph/Rob Sutton