The 2016/17 Jump season at Newbury Racecourse came to a close on Saturday 25th March, day two of the Be Wiser Jump Season Finale.
There were two £40,000 contests on the seven-race programme, the first up being the Grade Two EBF & TBA Mares’ National Hunt Novices’ Hurdle Finale (3.00pm), a limited handicap over an extended 2 and a half miles.
It was the grey five-year-old Snow Leopardess (Charlie Longsdon/Aidan Coleman, 11st 1lb) who took the honours, wearing the colours of her owner, Marietta Fox-Pitt who is the mother-in-law of ITV Racing’s Alice Plunkett.
Taking up the running two flights from home, Snow Leopardess stayed on tenaciously to see off Copper Kay (Philip Hobbs/Richard Johnson, 11st 7lb) by four lengths. River Arrow (Tom Symonds/Jamie Moore, 10st 11lb) was another length and a half adrift in third with top-weight Tara View (Alan King/Wayne Hutchinson, 11st 10lb) a further three and three-quarter lengths back in fourth.
Charlie Longsdon commented: “Snow Leopardess has always been good. I got it totally wrong last time out (when third at Doncaster on 9th February). She had a break with her owner over Christmas before I then took her back and gave her a bit of work. I then ran her two weeks later when she was only half fit. It was totally my fault.
“She has had plenty of work since her last run and has won as I hoped she would today. She doesn’t show a lot at home as she is very laid back. I remember there were a few bets going around before she ran in her first bumper whether she would ever win a bumper (she won two). My head lad was very wrong and the lad that rode her out every day was very right.
“She keeps herself for the racecourse and has a lovely way of going. Onwards and upwards.”
Aidan Coleman added: “I got a lovely run round and she travelled brilliantly. The only bit of worry I had was three out when Noel’s horse (Lamanver Odyssey) looked to run out. To be fair to Snow Leopardess, she has courage and went on and did it well.
“She had a look around in front but is a really nice mare. To be fair to Charlie, if you look at her form, she has been campaigned brilliantly. She won a good bumper at Gowran and ran well in the mares’ race at Aintree last year.
“She loved the ground and is very versatile with everything she does. She has an amazing, laid back temperament and a great attitude.”
Devon-based trainer Nigel Hawke is enjoying his best-ever season and landed the £40,000 OCSL Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (3.35pm) with Deauville Crystal (10st 7lb), who handed jockey Sean Bowen a 54/1 double on the day following his earlier success on Warriors Tale. She was his 23rd winner of 2016/2017.
Don Bersy (Tom Symonds/Aidan Coleman, 11st 11lb) looked the likely winner two out but was passed after the last by both the winner and Timoteo (Alan King/Wayne Hutchinson, 11st 4lb). The winning distance was two and a quarter lengths with a further two and three-quarter lengths back to the third.
Nigel Hawke commented: “I am very pleased and I thought Sean gave her a peach of a ride.
“I thought they were going half a gear too quick for her early on but Sean sat on her and gave her a chance to gradually get into the race. She has done it very well.
“We bought Deauville Crystal at Ascot Sales last July. I let Tiger Roll go, so it is nice we kept hold of this one.
“It was Sean’s first time sitting on this horse today and he gave her a very cool ride.”
Sean Bowen added: “She has done it well. She stepped at the second and how she didn’t come down I don’t know, so I then gave a chance to get into the race on her own terms rather than forcing her. They went a good gallop and she stays well.
“She had form over 2 miles on heavy ground, so 2 miles and three furlongs on better ground was always going to suit and she stayed on well.”