THE friendly point-to-point field at Whitfield and the busy National Hunt whirl of Towcester Racecourse is split by just a short hop along the A43.
Not surprisingly, the locals turn out for both. Sometimes, just sometimes, the reward cards are even dealt kindly to the county crew.
The racing world is something of a 24/7 business for Edgcote trainer Ben Case, even if the mix involves a Sunday afternoon out with the family and the chance to assess a Tuesday evening tilt at a Towcester novices’ chase.
Confidence could hardly have been high in the mind of the local trainer as he indulged in a gentle form of networking, just as Kings Sutton handler Richard Harper also mixed a social hour at Whitfield with plotting a Towcester success.
Plan A successful, what price Plan B?
Before Tuesday, Phare Isle’s reputation for jumping fences in public was about on a par with an ageing wrestler – three falls and a submission.
Yet somehow on Tuesday, confidence restored by a sequence of solid efforts over hurdles (and perhaps a fading memory), Phare Isle earned the Case team a richly deserved victory with a hint of perhaps more to come.
Filled with an overwhelming sense of relief, Case said: “I must admit his jumping was a little bit sketchy but we knew if he could get into some sort of a rhythm over the first few fences he wouldn’t be far away.”
Phare Isle was partnered by 7lb conditional rider Killian Moore who is based with Graeme McPherson and he had some hair-raising moments before fending off Robert Thornton on board Midnight Sail by two lengths to bring the seven-year-old only his second win in 25 starts.
While Case could be represented back at Towcester tonight with Moss On The Mill in the bumper, that four-year-old may wait awhile, so the local focus might switch to Harper’s Chapel House in the 2m 3½f handicap chase, or possibly even the Renee Robeson-trained Kikos in the opening novices’ hurdle at 5.55pm.
Harper has only two horses in his yard but both are set to run on the Ladies’ Evening card.
Nine-year-old Chapel House has become the apple of Harper’s eye after an astonishing sequence of runs since last summer when he joined the Home Farm stables which Harper runs with his son Charlie.
Eleven outings have produced three victories while the Beneficial gelding has also run in the first four on half of his other appearances.
Crucially, Chapel House has now won three of his last four starts, being second on the other occasion at Hereford.
Harper withdrew the horse from a 3m contest at Towcester on Tuesday and explained: “I have spoken to the lady in Yorkshire who trained him before us. If we are going to start running over three miles we don’t want to do that first time on a stiff track such as Towcester.
“The furthest Chapel House has been over so far is 2m 6f, with his winning over 2m 5f or less while Friday’s race is over 2m 3½f. The other factor is that Friday’s race is for 0-110 rated horses and Chapel House won’t have to carry as much weight as he would have done in the Tuesday race, which was a 0-115.
“The horse is ever so well and the whole picture has been something of a fairytale for us, but we don’t want any extremes of going so I am planning to walk the course on Wednesday evening.”
Harper’s other horse is the former Kim Bailey-trained Top Benefit who is entered in the 3m handicap chase and who will be having just his second outing for the Northants yard.