Tom Lunn reports on a busy day of racing action at Sandown, and a hugely popular win in the feature race.
The feature race of the day, the Grand Military Gold Cup, was a momentous occasion for jockey, Captain Guy Disney giving the former army officer his second Sandown victory under new rules that enable him to race with a prosthetic leg.
Princess Anne was present for the first three races presenting the trophies to Disney and trainers of Rathlin Rose.
The race has always been steeped in military tradition and this feature event in the afternoon was the 154th time it has been run.
Sandowns paves for the way for the jockeys and trainers to warm up to Cheltenham Festival. Nicky Henderson started off well and will hope to continue form with his many horses in the festival this week.
Jockeys Tom Scudamore, Nico De Boinville, and Noel Fehily, to name a few present at Sandown, had massive opportunities to gain big wins at Cheltenham on board some remarkable Grade 1 horses.
14.00 The Queen Mother Memorial Amateur Riders’ Handicap Hurdle (Military Amateur Riders)
The Queen Mother Hurdle started off a thrilling weekend of racing.
It remains the only amateur military rider hurdle race of the racing calendar, and racegoers were treated to an entertaining first race to set off the Grand Military Gold Cup Day.
Major Domenico D’Alo celebrated as he crossed the line on board Silverhow by 3¼l, with a clever ride to push toward the end and see off the challenge by Kastani Beach.
Mighty Missile led throughout the first half of race, with Kastani Beach always staying in contention.
Mighty Missile kept on in front to the home straight but Kastani Beach pushed down the back straight with Silverhow eventually making a surge forward, ultimately leaving Mighty Missile behind who finished in third.
Major D’Alo belonging to the Signal Corps of the Italian army, started off Henderson’s weekend well with a convincing win by Silverhow.
14.30: The Dumenil Champagne National Hunt Novices Hurdle, 2m.
Five to two on favourite Azzerti, ridden by Wayne Hutchinson took the race with ease albeit by only 1¾l, despite being priced by a distance.
My Boy James, ridden by Nico De Boinville at 11/2 and the second favourite, stayed on well due to the slower pace.
Legal Ok who came in third lead by 10 lengths from the offset and the favourite seemed a bit flatfooted with the pace on the ground.
My Boy James held second by eight lengths toward the first half, with all horses closing in on the gap set by Legal Ok, who kept the lead swinging on to the straight.
Azzerti started contesting on the straight, holding the pace throughout and saving an almost easy gallop in the final five furlongs and saw out the win overtaking on the final hurdles and took the victory like the price suggested he should.
Notably, Azzerti looked a bit nervy before the race in the parade ring, clearly sweating and getting too hot before going down, but the worries proved futile.
DISNEY WINS THE MILITARY GOLD CUP
Preceded by the Military Hounds parading in front of the terraces, the race built up the excitement of all the race goers.
Captain Guy Disney made it a double at Sandown, making history as the first rider to win a race with a prosthetic leg.
The former soldier, on board Rathlin Rose at 7/4 comfortably won by 12l. Princess Anne presented the winning trophy..
Disney told the Daily Mail: ‘It’s the most phenomenal sport. I loved my time in the army and the expeditions, but you don’t replicate days like this very easily.’
This testing 3m race could have been much different. Early on Ardkilly Witness fell, unseating rider Lieutenant H Wallace, but fortunately it was a small fall and both were up and okay.
These races continue to be a tantalising treat and a warm up to guide horse racing fans into Cheltenham Festival.