European Racing Rewind by Steve Mullington

February 15, 2016 01:38am
Lizzie_Kelly


The racing at Newbury on the weekend was billed as a “Super Saturday” and what apt description that was, especially for two of the female names making a major impact on the sport. 

22-year-old Lizzie Kelly won one of the most competitive handicaps in the jumps calendar, the Betfair Hurdle, on Agrapart in convincing style. 

After the race Kelly said: “I love these big days. I think I respond well when there's more pressure on. I soak up the atmosphere and can be a bit more of a warrior about it.” 

Nick Williams, stepfather of the winning rider, said: "He was impressive up at Aintree (in December) and we started thinking about this race after that. We needed to give him one more run for the experience and we thought he ran well in the Tolworth. 

“He always had enough kick from the start. We knew we had to get a good position early and Lizzie was very much tuned up to that.” 

Less than two months earlier, Lizzy Kelly had become the first female rider to win a Grade One in Great Britain when partnering Tea For Two to victory in the Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. 

Nick Williams remains surprised however that his stepdaughter Lizzie Kelly is not more widely used by trainers despite her success in the saddle. 

“She won the fixed brush handicap on Aubusson at Haydock last season, a Grade One on Tea For Two at Kempton and the Lanzarote as well and now the Betfair Hurdle. That's four quite big races she's won and she was only beaten a whisker in a Grade One in Paris.” 

"She is quite accomplished yet she has not really caught on for a 22-year-old who has those big races in the bag by that age, it's funny she doesn't seem to catch on with the other trainers. I don't understand it.” 

Earlier in the afternoon at Newbury there was more “girl power” on show as trainer Kerry Lee sent out yet another big race winner. 

Lee’s Top Gamble took the major scalp of beating Dodging Bullets in the Betfair Exchange Chase. 

Dodging Bullets was having his first race since winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham last March and Richard Johnson, knowing the champion was there for the taking, cleverly made the most of Top Gamble's fitness in the Grade Two race, registered as the Game Spirit Chase. 

In fact, it was quite a masterstroke all round by trainer, jockey and owner to take their chance against a horse who always tends to need his first run of the season. With plenty of prize money on offer it was quite a payday. 

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This year’s Grand National meeting is set to be the richest ever after Aintree announced this week that prize-money for the three-day fixture has increased to just shy of £3 million. 

Andrew Tulloch, Jockey Club Racecourses' regional head of racing for the North West and clerk of the course at Aintree, said: “We continually strive to offer the very best in jump racing over the three days of the Grand National Festival and are pleased to be able to offer prize money increases for over a third of the races in 2016.” 

Weights for the Grand National will be unveiled in London on Tuesday, February 16. The Grand National is the only handicap of the year where the British Horseracing Authority's Head of Handicapping, Phil Smith, has absolute discretion to deviate from the normal handicap ratings when framing the weights.  

Smith is also noted for using a term called “the Aintree factor” – a method he uses to assess a horse which is effectively based on its “love” for the Merseyside course. 

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Darren Egan, who was considered one of the most promising apprentices when he emerged on the scene of British Flat racing in 2012, was banned from racing for 12 years this week after a disciplinary panel found him guilty of breaching rules relating to running horses on their merit and inside information.  

Announcing its penalties last Monday, the BHA said Egan and his accomplice Philip Langford had made considerable profits from their activities. By the time the latter's Betfair account was suspended, he had risked £838,870 and made an overall profit £53,560. 

The BHA said: “This was a conspiracy which struck at the heart of the sport, which both took considerable steps to conceal, which made substantial corrupt profits, and which furthermore involved on two occasions stopping rides by Egan to protect the success of Mr Langford's lay betting.” 

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Sunday saw the latest installment in the Pendleton Pointers series as the double Olympic champion was unseated from her horse in a three mile event at Barbury Castle. 

The horse called Working Title who was well-beaten at the time, got in too close to a fence in the latter stages of the race, unshipping Pendleton. 

Pendleton's next engagement will be her first ride under Rules in a hunter chase at Fakenham on Friday when she teams up with the Paul Nicholls-trained Pacha Du Polder, who she hopes to ride in Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham next month. 

Betfair, who are backing Pendleton's "switching saddles" campaign, will be hoping Pendleton has a change of luck this week. 

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Europe’s top mile races are on the radar for Jean-Claude Rouget’s horse, Hurricane, after his victory in the Listed Prix de la Californie at Cagnes-sur-Mer on Sunday. 

Rouget is looking towards Group One company following Hurricane's three-length triumph over Magnanime. 

Hurricane automatically qualifies for the All-Weather Championship Day at Lingfield on Good Friday but is now unlikely to take up the engagement. 

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Top Jump Jockey (last 14 days):  H.Skelton (6/15), N. De Boinville (6/15), J.Greenall (5/13), B.Cooper (6/16). 

Top Jump Trainer (last 14 days): J.Dreaper (4/5), W.Mullins (12/33), G.Moore (5/15), J.Ewart (3/10).

 

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