Friday, 2 September 2016

Croco Bay makes winning return at Family Fun Day

When you wake up in the morning and the sky is already blue, a rolling mist is hovering over the fields shrouding the mares and foals in a gentle veil before the heat of the day rises, you know it’s going to be a good day.  That was the feeling I had on the morning of last week’s Family Fun raceday at Worcester and I wasn’t to be disappointed.

A sizeable crowd turned out to enjoy the activities which included pony rides for all those would-be little jockeys and out on the track, there was plenty of excitement for keen National Hunt followers to get their teeth into.

The winning distances of all 7 races in order were a neck, a head, 2 and a half lengths, a neck, one and three quarter lengths, a nose, and one and a half lengths – a reflection of the close finishes which followed one after another.

Two horses in particular caught my eye.  Stephanie Frances, a King’s Theatre mare trained at Alcester by Dan Skelton and ridden by brother, Harry was returning to Worcester having won the British Stallion Studs EBF National Hunt Novice Hurdle at the course back in October 2014.

Stephanie Frances ridden by Harry Skelton
The mare just beat Theatre Flame, a fellow King’s Theatre progeny on his chasing debut, in the opening Novice Chase.  Stephanie Frances went off 4/9 favourite, having cruised to victory at Southwell the previous Sunday.  Her outing prior to that was in the Grade 1 OLBG Mare’s Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March where she ran creditably to finish 10 lengths behind Willie Mullins’ Vroum Vroum Mag.  The plan going forward is to give her a short break before the listed novice chase for mares at Bangor in November.

One of our feature races of the season is a £20,000 Handicap Chase run over two miles, which went the way of Croco Bay trained by Ben Case and owned by Lady Jane Grosvenor.  Croco Bay was also returning to Worcester on the back of a 3rd place in a handicap chase in August 2014.

Prior to this Worcester success, Croco Bay’s previous three outings were all high profile ones.  The nine year-old ran in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual at Cheltenham in March, he was fifth behind Katachenko in the Betfred Red Rum handicap chase at the Grand National Festival at Aintree in April, and also ran in the Guinness Handicap Chase at the Punchestown Festival in April, where he finished in fourth place behind Irish Cavalier.  The next target will be a valuable handicap chase at Market Rasen where he will step up to 2 miles and 5 furlongs in September.

Tomorrow evening’s race meeting will conclude what has been another busy month of racing at Pitchcroft, and with a rare juvenile hurdle on the card, it will be interesting to think we may be witnessing more stars of the future racing on the Worcester turf.

The first race is due off at 4.25pm with gates opening from 2.25pm.