Venetia Williams and Aidan Coleman make most of trip to Taunton with hat-trick
Taunton's opening meeting of 2013 provided another thrilling afternoon's fare of National Hunt racing action, the highlights of which were a treble for Hereford-based trainer Venetia Williams, all ridden by stable jockey Aidan Coleman, and a Ruby Walsh double for Paul Nicholls.
Walsh notched up his first victory in the opening Happy New Year Maiden Hurdle on Sound Investment, which went off the 5-6 favourite.
The Nicholls-trained horse was in the frame from the off and, going into the final bend at the top of the home straight, led by two lengths from second-placed Bladoun (9-2), ridden by Tom Scudamore for trainer David Pipe.
On the run-in, Walsh extended the lead and crossed the line 12 lengths ahead, with Best Boy Barney (2-1), trained by Jeremy Scott, third.
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Williams had her first winner in the Annual Membership Proves Great Value Beginners' Steeple Chase over half a furlong short of three miles, with Emperor's Choice the 6-4 favourite.
However, coming to the line, there were three horses in close contention and the result was only decided by photograph, after which it was the Williams horse that was declared the winner by a short head, from second-placed Shuil Royale (2-1), ridden by Daryl Jacob.
It was not all good news for Coleman, who was on board Emperor's Choice, however. He was given a two-day ban (January 21-22) for using his whip above the permitted level. Scudamore must serve a ban on the same days for careless riding on Guess Again, who was third in the same race.
The Walsh-Nicholls combination grabbed a quick double when Saphir Du Rheu (7-4 favourite) won the Castle Hotel in Taunton National Hunt Novices' Hurdle over two miles one. Walsh and champion jockey A P McCoy on God Of The Kop (2-1), trained by Rebecca Curtis, were in close contention throughout, but it was the former who pulled away to triumph in the end.
The most valuable race, the Hippychick Novices' Steeplechase, a Class Three event over two miles three, was reduced to a four-horse race which McCoy on Cantlow, the 4-9 favourite, dominated almost from the start to win by 14 lengths, with the only other runner offering any real challenge being the Williams-trained Dare Me (5-2).
Local trainer Chris Down, from Cullompton, saddled the winner of the Taunton's Richest Race Meeting On Saturday January 19 Handicap Hurdle over two miles one when Extremely So (3-1 favourite) ran on to win by 11 lengths from Tornado In Milan (4-1).
Williams and Coleman got their second winner in the BBC Stargazing Live Here on January 10 Handicap Hurdle over half a furlong short of three miles, when Bennys Mist (5-4 favourite) led from the start to win by 22 lengths from Kellystown Lad (7-2), trained by Tom George.
The Williams connections made it a hat-trick in the Come Racing for a Tenner on January 29 Handicap Hurdle, just over three miles, when 4-6 favourite Jupiter Rex won by just over three lengths from the Kevin Bishop trained Bernard (10-1).
Taunton's next meeting, its richest ever, will take place on Saturday, January 19, when the first race is off at 12.30pm.