Richards leads Cumbrian Challenge on Finals Day
There will be a distinctly North West feel to Challenger Series Finals Day at Haydock Park tomorrow with no fewer than five Cumbrian trainers making the short trip south to try and scoop the outstanding prize money on offer.
Leading that Cumbrian charge is Eden-based Nicky Richards with two runners across the card. Richards has spoken out in support of the Challenger Series as an excellent way of bolstering the middle-tier of Jump racing.
Nicky Richards said: "I take my hat off to them as the middle tier needs a real lift across the board so this is a good start. You've got to keep your eye on the races through the season as it's a great opportunity for that kind of horse. There's excellent prize money across the board and it would be great if we could win one. Conquer Gold should have a real good chance in the Mares Chase and I like Caius Marcius in the Two Mile Hurdle Final as well. I had a couple more lined up (including Bernardelli) who were ground dependent and it's just a bit quick but hopefully we'll have a chance of landing one of the Finals."
Nicky Richards runners
Two Mile Handicap Hurdle 3.15pm
Caius Marcius will line up in the Two Mile Handicap Hurdle with Craig Nichol booked to ride. Nichol was on board the five-year-old when he qualified for the Final by finishing second at Kelso in December and he has since won at Wetherby last month.
Mares Handicap Chase 4.55pm
Craig Nichol will also take the ride on Conquer Gold in the Mares Handicap Chase who finished second in a qualifier at Catterick in February before going one better in a qualifier at Bangor last time out in March.
Siblings set to do battle in Two Mile Hurdle Final
Also representing Cumbria will be the brother and sister pairing Kenneth Slack and Dianne Sayer who will go head to head in the Two Mile Hurdle Final.
Hilton-based Slack has the exciting Tonto's Spirit with three pound claimer Colm McCormack taking the ride. The five-year-old has won his last two starts, including a qualifier at Carlisle. Formerly on the Flat with Michael Dods his record over hurdles is three wins from five starts and he is a well fancied 7/1 chance.
Attempting to beat him to the prize money pot will be his sister Dianne Sayer - who is based in Hackthorpe, Cumbria and saddles Weapon Of Choice who will have the services of seven pound claimer Lorcan Murtagh on board.
Sayer also has Cooking Fat in the Stayers Hurdle Final. The six-year-old has enjoyed an excellent season - winning at Wetherby and Catterick, the later of which was a qualifier for the Final. Will Kennedy is booked to ride.
Moffatt and Haynes complete Cumbrian charge
Cartmel based James Moffatt will also have a runner on the card for Cumbria with bottom weight Boruma in the Stayers Hurdle Final. The seven year old will be conditional jockey Charlotte Jones' sixth ever ride under rules and secured his place in the Final by finishing sixth in a qualifier at Musselburgh on New Year's Day.
Jonathan Haynes is another Cumbrian seeking the riches at Haydock Park and the Low Row based train has Beyondtemptation in the Mares Hurdle Final, who will have Dale Irving on board. Beyondtempation was the winner of a Newcastle qualifier in February and also finished third in another qualifier at Sedgefield in November.
A total of 115 entries were received for the culmination of the Challenger Series with 83 confirmed runners across the six Finals set to provide a competitive, exciting day of racing covered live on ITV4.
More than 40 trainers made entries across the six Finals helping the Series to achieve one of its key aims of offering Jumps trainers and owners with mid-tier horses across the country the chance to win excellent prize money.
Tom George has made good on his promise to run all eight of his entries and he is the trainer with the most representatives.
John Baker, Regional Director of the Jockey Club Racecourses North West, said: “We are delighted to, once again, host the Challenger Series Final Day at Haydock Park. With 83 confirmed runners across six Series Finals, including the first ever Mares Handicap Chase Series Final, it looks set to be a fantastic day’s racing. While the Series is a great nationwide initiative, it has certainly been a major boost to Jump Racing in the North and quite rightly supporting an important level of our sport by giving more meaningful targets for the middle-tier jumps population – it is important we do whatever we can to offer good value prizes to connections competing at this level."