Good to Soft, Soft in places
Against the backdrop of the beautiful English Lake District, it is possible to sample national hunt racing in its most original format.
With its party crowds and funfair, Cartmel rekindles the social gathering tradition of the original steeple to steeple chases.
Cartmel only stages National Hunt (jump) racing. There are nine fixtures in the Cartmel racing calendar, commencing on the Whit Holiday weekend in May** and running through the August Bank Holiday weekend. Cartmel’s most valuable race, the Cumbria Crystal Cup is staged during the July meeting.
The course itself is a sharp and narrow left handed oval. The big difference from other courses is Cartmel’s home straight which unusually veers off and dissects the main oval. The main circuit measures just over one mile and one furlong with the run-in (the distance from the last fence to the finish line) known to be the longest in the country at just over 4 furlongs.
The steeplechase course has 6 fences; these include an open ditch and a water jump. The hurdles course has four obstacles. However, as the course is narrow around the last hurdle, it is removed during steeplechase races, and then rebuilt for hurdle events.
The narrow track, sharp nature of the bends, stiff fences and undulating contours make it difficult to win from off the pace. The course is ideally suited to front running course specialists.
Hadwins Mares Series 2023
A slight change in format, but it made no difference to Donald McCain, who picked up the £1,000 bonus for a second successive season as the most successful trainer in the five-race series sponsored by Hadwins, the Lindale-based Lake District Audi and Volkswagen dealer.
Although his two runners failed to add to his tally in the final leg on the August Saturday, McCain had already done enough, thanks to a couple of victories by the progressive hurdler Titanium Moon, who joined the McCain yard from David Loughnane earlier in the year.
Second place, but no cigar went to Irish trainer John McConnell, who took his score to 18 points after Duleek Street proved too classy for the opposition and cantered to an easy win in the fifth and final round on the August Bank Holiday Saturday.
The only other trainers to notch a win in the series were Stella Barclay, who had her first ever Cartmel winner with Ensel Du Perche in July and Alastair Ralph, who briefly led the way after Magical Maggie won the opening race of the series on the first day of the season in May.
The final table is:-
|Jake Thomas Coulson||2|
JOCKEY’S CHALLENGE: 2023
Sean Bowen, who rode his first ever winner when Cygnet landed a selling handicap hurdle at Cartmel in 2014, completed the full circle by landing the Cartmel Jockeys’ Challenge for the first time this season.
A lot of water has gone under the bridge for Bowen since Cygnet, trained by his father Peter, comfortably swept to victory that day and now, more than 780 winners later, he is at the top of the tree and well on course to win the Jump Jockeys’ Championship for the first time.
He continues to ride Cartmel as well as anyone, a point he proved this season when from only 20 rides over the eight days of action he amassed 28 points, a tally made all the more impressive by the fact that he only rode on five of the racedays.
Fittingly, Bowen clinched the title with two winning rides for his father at the August meeting, Fairlawn Flyer in the Cengiz Sadik Memorial Handicap Chase on the Saturday and Landofsmiles in the Weatherbys Hamilton Cavendish Cup to finish seven points clear of nearest rival Richie McLernon, also successful on the final day with Marshalled in the Wicks Waste Management Handicap Chase.
Jonathan England had only 12 rides at Cartmel this season but was so consistent that he took third place on 18 points, one ahead of perennial champion Brian Hughes in fourth, while Sean Quinlan and Jonathan Bewley, who both flattered to be serious challengers came next in fifth and sixth.
A special mention must be made for Ben Harvey. The Irish jockey had only four rides all season but with three winners and a second was good enough to finish joint seventh on 11 points alongside the defending dual champion Charlotte Jones and Danny McMenamin
This year’s points were:
|Mr A J O’Neill||7|
|Miss Alice Stevens||5|
|Mr Jake Bament||3|
|Mr Huw Edwards||3|
|Miss Victoria Malzard||3|
|Miss Izzie Marshall||3|
|Miss Leah Noreci||3|
|Miss Megan Bevan||2|
|Mr Toby McCain-Mitchell||2|
|Miss Fern O’Brien||2|
|Mr Alex Harvey||1|
|Jonjo O’Neill jnr||1|
|Mr Jack Power||1|
|Miss Immy Robinson||1|
TRAINER’S CHALLENGE: 2023
After writing off his own chances following an unusually disappointing start to Cartmel’s season in May, local trainer James Moffatt came through strongly in the closing stages to retain the Andrea Robinson Trophy and win another Cartmel Trainers’ Challenge.
He had to throw everything except the kitchen sink at it, but in the end his 43 runners over the eight days of action included enough winners to see off the persistent challenge of Ben Haslam by a surprisingly comfortable margin of seven points.
It seemed rough justice for Haslam. The Middleham trainer made a cracking start to the campaign and virtually everything he ran at Cartmel seemed to win or finish second, so much so that by the middle of the summer he had set his sights on taking the prize.
It was then that things started to slow for him and though a last day winner with Marshalled took him to within a point of regaining a lead he had held for most the season, Moffatt responded with a winner of his own Secret Secret and iced the cake when Native Fighter chased home Michael Chapman’s 80-1 stunner Smart Connection.
By the time Shantou Sunset took a point for third in the last, a race which saw Sarah Hollinshead fulfil a long-standing dream by having a winner at Cartmel, the destination of the trophy had been decided.
It was another terrific campaign for Moffatt, who did a lot of the damage with a treble on the Saturday of the August meeting and showed that he can never be written off, not even by himself, when it comes to racing at Cartmel.
Sam England does brilliantly with relatively few runners and sneaked into third place ahead of Milton Harris and Irish trainer John McConnell, who also had brilliant strike-rates.
The points were:
|JJ (Joe) O’Shea||5|
|Dr Richard Newland||4|
|Cian Michael Collins||3|
|Peter John Flood||2|
|O Greenall/J Guerriero||2|
|R Mike Smith||2|
|A C Wilson||1|
|William Young jnr||1|