Sunday, October 23, 2011

A day at the Ludlow races

It's probably the best part of ten years since I've been to Ludlow but I was there again last Thursday for their second meeting of the autumn with the feature race celebrating clerk of the course Bob Davies' Racing Welfare - Lifetime in Racing award. Bob Davies, champion jockey in 1965, 1966 and 1972, won the Grand National on Lucius in 1978 and has been clerk of the course at Ludlow for an astonishing 27 years. River Rhapsody (9/4f) collected the big race spoils, catching my selection Jim Tango (5/2) after the final flight to win three and a half lengths. After the race Bob talked with both Stan Mellor and Bob Champion over the public address system.

Personally I find Ludlow on a fine autumnal day one of the best experiences in racing. Granted, the fare on offer is low key but the setting and relaxed atmosphere combine to give a certain timeless charm. There was plenty of tweed on show, one punter spotted in a deerstalker; I overheard a comment along the lines of '..but this is so genteel!'

Mrs Tips got the day off to a flying start with 17/2 winner A Little Bit Dusty in the opening juvenile seller - the chestnut gelding came from off the pace to seal the contest with a very quick leap at the last.

Much of the talk before the novice chase centred around Evan Williams' 13/8 joint favourite Tiger O'Toole - in a dramatic race the grey got no further than the first, stumbling on landing. With that, Felix De Giles let the filly Tatispout have her head and she jumped well in the main to win as she liked; in the paddock beforehand she had shown plenty of attitude and had at one point suggested she may not go onto the course. The real drama happened on the bottom bend as the chasing pack tried to reduce the filly's lead; both Dica and That'll Do Nicely slipped up, bringing down Definite All Star and causing Matt Griffiths to be unseated from Freddy's Star. That left the only other runner, 100/1 chance Grasscutter, to come home second  (beaten 99 lengths); the exacta paid £78.30. After an enquiry, the stewards declared the chase track safe for racing.

Anonther turn-up in the next with Jane Mathias' sole horse in training Sohappyharry beating Evan Williams' 4/11 favourite Lava Lamp four and a half lengths; the writing was on the wall a fair way out.

I took 9/1 about Gunship in the three mile amateur riders' race for The Court of Hill Challenge Cup. Robbie Henderson gave the gelding a fine ride from the front; the combination jumped the last three lengths up but were done on the run-in by 33/1 chance Foreign King. Nicky Richards' 5/2 favourite Itzacliche was a big disappointment in this, dropping to last at the thirteenth and being pulled up at the fifteeenth. The one to take out of the race would be Nick Williams' unexposed Sarika who looked a big threat to leader Gunship when coming to grief four out.

Man In Black took the two mile handicap hurdle while there was a dead-heat in the finale between Esporao (even money favourite) and Sublime Talent (11/4). I'd backed the latter who appeared to have edged ahead as they raced past us but it looked desperately close on the line - it was no surprise to hear a dead-heat called. One grumble here - no names mentioned as I've seen this happen previously but in the ring beforehand one layer was continually flicking Sublime Talent's price on his digital board between 11/4 and 3/1. As he went 3/1 I struck my wager, only to find 11/4 the price quoted on my slip. Now, I must be getting old as I decided I wasn't going to argue the toss on a small stakes wager but this practice really does leave a bad taste.

Otherwise a most enjoyable day with excellent viewing from the roof of the Tatts stand. After racing a few pints followed in The Church Inn where ales from the local Ludlow Brewing Company were sampled and enjoyed.

Blessed with glorious weather, we had a marvellous day in the Shropshire countryside - I'd recommend it to anyone.

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