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Hawker makes hay at Newton Abbot on a day for lady jockeys

Richard Hawker wouldn't rank among Somerset's most fashionable trainers. In fact, given his runners under Rules have numbered just 86 since 2016, to say his ventures on to professional racecourses are select might be viewed as understatement. Yet on a day for the girls at Newton Abbot's penultimate day of a season without spectators, there was no doubting the happiest man to leave the course this afternoon after his seven year old Sastruga beat better known rivals in the afternoon's handicap hurdle, at a splendid 40-1 SP.

It's safe to say neither Hawker or his owners laid into the horse given his odds, but that little part of Somerset called Rode, just 40 minutes from Larkhill, has an additional spring in its step this morning.

Hawker is, of course, a much better known name around the Point-to-Point circuit. Whilst Richard focuses largely on Rules racing, Robert has met with success between the flags. Two seasons have won him 9 winners from 24 starts in Points, two of which he rode himself last season. Robert is no stranger to the winner's enclosure; his 30 winners to date have come from nearly 400 rides, making him among the more experienced in the Weighing Room.

Meantime, it was ladies day at Newton Abbot, with winners for Lilly Pinchin and Bryony Frost for their respective employers, Stow-based Graeme McPherson, and Barbury's Neil King. Sammylou was recording his third win this season from five runs for McPherson - all at Newton Abbot - and has improved 16lbs since July. There may still be more to come.

Bryony Frost and Neil King are a team to look out for. Only two others trainers offer Frost the same quantum of rides and those include her father Jimmy and Paul Nicholls. When it comes to winning chances, there's a one in five chance she'll ride a winner for Neil's improving yard. It reinforces the growing strength of stables in the Marlborough area. Onemorefortheroad, a graduate from a Hereford Point-to-Point, was clocking his first win under Rules in the concluding Bumper.

Further afield, Sunday saw the 130th running of the world-famous Velka Pardubice Steeplechase in the Czech Republic. Sadly, this was limited to Czech and Slovak horses, but that was to the advantage of eventual winner Hegnus, a 12 year old trained by Radek Holcak, and ridden by Lukas Matusky.

This behind closed doors racing is sadly widespread across Europe as even enlightened France, the first European nation to open up again to sport, is retrenching in the wake of the dreaded virus.

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