Swampfire stages fightback to see off Turn Over Sivola at Taunton
A bumper crowd were treated to an afternoon of National Hunt racing at its best when Taunton hosted yesterday’s opening meeting of the course’s season.
In the opener, a novices’ hurdle over two miles one furlong, the Tim Vaughan-trained Swampfire, under Richard Johnson, which went off the 11/4 favourite, took an early lead and held it until challenged by Alan King’s Turn Over Sivola (evens favourite) running down the home straight.
The King horse, ridden by Robert Thornton, looked to have the race won but, as the winning post approached, Johnson squeezed a final finish from Swampfire which was enough to steal it on the line by a neck.
In the second, another handicap hurdle which was the longest of the day, Cinevator, who went off at 6/1, trained by Caroline Keevil at Motcombe in Dorset and ridden by James Best, led the race from start to finish. At the end of the three miles and half a furlong trip, it beat second-placed Greenbank (12/1) by two and three quarter lengths and was going away.
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The novices’ steeplechase over two miles and half a furlong turned out to be very much a two-horse affair between Changing Times (11/4), the mount of Sam Twiston-Davies for his father Nigel, and Nicky Henderson’s Molotof (evens favourite) under champion jockey AP McCoy.
Changing Times looked to be jumping well and led by several lengths from Molotof but, down the back straight for the last time, he made a terrible mistake that all but unseated the young jockey, who performed miracles to stay on board.
Molotof, making his chasing debut, took the lead as a result of the mistake and just managed to cross the line one a quarter lengths ahead of Changing Times, with the Keevil trained Bally Legend third at 9/2.
Revani – with Ruby Walsh aboard – went off as the 7/2 favourite in the handicap hurdle over two miles three and a half furlongs, but it was Woolfall Treasure and Vertige Dor that made the running for much of the race.
Angles Hill (16/1) took the lead around the final bend but, as they headed up the final straight, the Venetia Williams-trained Stars Du Granits, under Aidan Coleman (5/1), went ahead and ran out the winner ahead of Jeremy Scott’s Quaddick Lane (8/1) and third-placed Angles Hill, trained by Richard Woollacott at South Molton.
Key to Milan (12/1), trained by Chris Down at Cullompton, was prominent throughout the fifth race, which was a handicap hurdle over two miles one. But it had to fight off a late challenge from the Gary Moore-trained Stentorian (10/1) under his son Joshua, a three-pound claimer, to win by a head after a photo finish. Drumlang at 5/1 was third.
The main race, a Class Three handicap steeplechase over two miles and half a furlong, saw the Nicholls-trained Shooters Wood under Walsh go to post as 7/4 favourite.
Qoubilai, trained by Vaughan under Coleman, made much of the running but going into the final bend, Shooters Wood was looking strong and still led coming into the home straight.
However, Royale’s Charter (5/2), from the Nick Willams yard at South Molton, put in a strong challenge and took the lead late on to win by half a length from the Nicholls horse. The Philip Hobbs trained Alazan (7/1) finished third.
The closing race, a national hunt flat race over two miles, saw Urubu d’Irlande, the 7/4 favourite under Walsh, run out the winner, from second-placed Oscar Rock (13/2), trained by Harry Fry at Seaborough with the Scott-trained Kilmurvy third at 16/1.
The next meeting at Taunton is on Thursday, November 15.