THOUSANDS of punters embraced the warm summer sunshine last Friday night at Stratford Racecourse as the venue hosted its annual Foxhunters’ Finals.
Putting the best among the best, the evening is one of the highlights in the amateur racing calendar – with all jockeys looking to round off the point-to-point season in winning style.
A bleak weather forecast early in the week quickly changed as more than 3,500 punters turned out to watch the seven-race card, which featured six chase races and one point-to-point flat race.
Starting at 5.35pm, the course’s first night fixture of the season started well for favourite-backers as Bay Sly won the opening Subaru Series Final Novices’ Hunters’ Chase in comfortable fashion after the leading the majority of the race.
Hot favourite Are They Your Own refused to take part in the second race on the card and David O’Brien took full advantage of the odds-on shot’s absence as the owner, trainer and jockey won at 14/1 by six lengths to outsider Exclusive Rights.
Now Ben won the third race after holding off a late challenge from Tinkers Hill Tommy while Dabinett Moon won in similar style just half an hour later when Mrs Claire Hardwick guided the nine-year-old to the Ladies’ Open Point-To-Point Championship Final.
The feature race of the evening took place at 7.50pm as ten runners took their chance in the Pertemps Network Stratford Foxhunters Champion Hunters’ Chase Final which offered a total prize fund of almost £15,000.
Cheltenham Festival runner Balnaslow looked in contention of winning when jumping the last, but it was outsider Young Hurricane at 16/1 who stole the prize by hanging on to a slender lead inside the final furlong.
Curraigflemens brought punters some respite when winning the penultimate race at 8.25pm as the David Kemp-trained chaser won by just under two lengths.
The evening’s final race then went to Pistol Shoot for trainer Nicky Martin.
Stratford also hosted a card on Saturday evening when jockey Sean Bowen was among the winners with an impressive double, while Rossetti was guided home by jockey Noel Fehily to win for an incredible 14th time under rules.