by Geoff Handley

Clifton-on-Dunsmore is one of the few former National Hunt Courses still in use (Rugby Racecourse). During its history (1862-1936) it held prestigious meetings such as the Grand Military Meeting prior to its permanent move to Sandown Park as well as the National Hunt Chase which is now part and parcel of the National Hunt Festival at Chetenham. The Atherstone have raced here for over fifty years.

The weather was hot and sunny and this brought out the crowds in their thousands, despite the summer like conditions, the going was good with good to soft in places.

1. Hunt Members
Five went to post in the Members with the race being won by Catchphrase ridden by Lenny Hicks. Unfancied in the market he soon saw off his rivals to beat Preferred by 8 lengths. Favourite backers soon knew their fate when Moscow Tradition unseated Nick Docker at the cross fence on the first circuit. He was on his toes in the paddock & pulled hard before he departed. He was supported though from odds against to odds on.

2. Open Maiden for Mares
There was a big gamble in this fifteen-runner field as Welsh raider Charlestown Lass was backed down from around 8s to 5/2 fav. It was an incident packed race with the favourite looking likely to land the spoils when jockey Tim Vaughan took up the running on the final circuit to go clear only to inexplicably refuse at the last. This seven-year-old mare had not run for two years since running in a maiden hurdle at Hereford. This left the way for the second favourite Wonderful Remark and Gerry Maloney to record a fortuitous victory. Littledish was also in the process of running a big race when she departed two out.

3. Confined
They went a good clip in this fourteen-runner race with Bruan & Miss Hoity Toity setting the pace with Crackrattle behind in third. On the second circuit the two leaders faded & favourite Gillone and Joe Docker took up the running with a good jump at the cross fence four out. However Crackrattle came back for more along with Young Tomo. It was at this stage when all three were neck & neck that the commentary packed in, what a crucial time to stop working. Crackrattle with Andrew Brown on board ran on well to beat Young Tomo and deny Lennie Hicks a quick fire double. The favourite could only run on at one pace to be third.

4. Mens Open
The excellent commentary was up and running again for the Mens Open and it saw market rivals Longville Lad bidding for a four timer against Shanavogh trying to make it three wins for the season. They sent Longville Lad off favourite and it proved to be a memorable race as Shanavogh and Richard Hunnisett took up the running and stayed on well to hold the fav by a neck. The Caroline Bailey trained gelding has now won this season at Dingley & Garthorpe and was also second to the useful Omni Cosmo Touch again at Garthorpe. Bailey was also represented by Red Rebel & Rowan Cope but he struggled in the rear in this 6 runner field.

5. Ladies Open 
A disappointing field of just five runners from twenty-four entries. Victory went to Aircon ridden by Rebecca Hutsby. This moderate ex chaser had run 26 times without winning & could only finish 6th on his pointing debut at Kimble on Easter Saturday. Second was Fami 1 lenghts back & the favourite Ardmayle could only finish third. A remote fourth was the once prolific Edmond, trained by Henry Daly under rules, it was an impressive winner of the 1999 Welsh Grand National and also started 10/1 co favourite of the 2001 Grand National (when only four finished) before coming down at the Chair.

6. The Restricted 
The complexion of the race changed when the strong favourite Astley Gold was brought down at the 11th by Romanybaan. Until then he had been given a quiet ride by Joe Docker. This left the way for Cloudy Bay Boy and Quizzal to fight out the finish. Rowan Cope drove Cloudy Bay Boy to victory staying on well 2 lengths ahead of Quizzal and Richard Armsom. The winner is a lightly raced 6 year old, winning his maiden last year at Brocklesby Park and he could well go in again. It provided a double for trainer Caroline Bailey.

7. Maiden (Division 1)
At last a winning favourite wins as Briery Fox and Joe Docker make all to win easily by 15 lengths. This six year old deserved his success as he has been runner up on all four occasions this season. Highland Dancer was second for Thomas Ellis & the Sue Sharrat ridden Mr Buckle was an eye-catching third following his encouraging run at Flagg Moor. Another to run well was the Welsh raider Maiheyyun, stablemate of the gambled on Charlestown Lass, trained by J.Moore. This eight-year-old gelding was trained under rules by Peter Bowen & will have no difficulty winning a maiden as he ran well here until weakening to be fourth. It was his first run for three years.

8. Maiden (Division 2) 
Stuart Morris made all on Saint-Declan for a clear cut victory, trained by Richard Mathias in Leominster, he was having his first race in a point following his fifth in a two mile hunter chase at Hereford. This former ex Irish maiden had only run as far as 2 miles in his career, but he certainly stayed this trip well & can go on from here. Runner up was Northsprite who has now been placed 14 times and surely deserves a success. Earl Of Buckingham was the favourite, ridden by Paul Cowley. He came home an encouraging third.

An excellent days racing with 81 runners and 10 entrance fee it was certainly value for money. The race card was informative. It is well worth paying a visit to this Warwickshire venue right next to the A5. Eyecatchers were Mr Buckle & Maiheyyun.