A QUARTET of horses from Findon is heading to the Cheltenham Festival in March, trainer Nick Gifford revealed at Fontwell Park. Straw Bear, Nomecheki, Dee Ee Williams and Tullamore Dew are the four, but they could be joined by one or two others from Downs Stables when final plans are confirmed.
Speaking after the rejuvenated Straw Bear had finished three lengths second to the Paul Nicholls-trained Definity in the opening chase at Fontwell Park, Nick said: “It was unfortunate that Straw Bear met such a hot-shot here today.
“But he will still win races and we are not finished with Straw Bear yet. He may even come back to Fontwell Park again. But at Cheltenham he will revert to hurdles.”
Straw Bear has returned to the track this year, having had a year off with treatment to his back, hocks and breathing.
His handler, Carol Double, was presented with the best-turned out award by Aaron Francis-Robertson of Chichester High School, who, with fellow students was visiting the racecourse under the Racing to Schools scheme. Straw Bear’s award had been decided unanimously by 12 voters.
Nick has been frustrated by five second places in a fortnight, starting with Dusky Bob and following on with Tullamore Dew, Alderluck, Digger Gets Lucky, and finally Straw Bear.
“Wins would have made such a difference,” he said.
Another second place went to The Bishops Baby, trained by Richard Rowe at Sullington in the final handicap hurdle race on the card. The bay mare, which runs under the banner of the highly successful Richard Rowe Racing Partnership, had been settled nicely into the race by jockey Tom Cannon. She was tucked in behind the leaders, making careful progress after the last, ready for a winning run to the line, when Whipperway, swerved sharply left, unseating Marc Goldstein.
The incident badly affected the Gary Moore-trained Sebastiano and startled The Bishops Baby into a premature run for the line, where she was beaten only a length by 20-1 shot Dunshine.
Her trainer said afterwards: “She is a lovely, game horse. This is her sixth time in the frame for the partnership. She needs to settle in her races and it was unfortunate that she was spooked by the loose horse today and came too soon. Otherwise we would have been looking at a win.”
The Bishops Baby went on to win at Folkestone on Tuesday (February 1), putting in an outstanding performance and gaining recompense for bad luck the previous Friday.
A good crowd braved a bitter day at Fontwell, when there were heavily subscribed races after the opener. Ground was on the sticky side and inevitably there were some unexpected results. The next fixture at the track is a family raceday this Sunday, February 6, when the first race starts at 1.20pm.