Another mostly fine Monday afternoon heralded Windsor's last fixture of 2016. Recent rain had made the going soft, good to soft in places, which led to several non-runners.
The first race was a 5f maiden for two-year-olds. Foxcatcher (4/7 fav), trained by Clive Cox, had the only obvious form claims. Settled in third place till halfway, Adam Kirby pulled her out for a run and though the response wasn't immediate, she was in command by the final furlong and romped clear to win by two and a half lengths. The 33/1 shot Mercers came second.
A 6f claimer went to the northern stable of Richard Fahey. Flowing Clarets (7/1) had shown form on soft ground before and battled on best of the quartet at the head of affairs in the final furlong. Patrick Mathers, a rare visitor to Windsor, came down for just this one ride. A length and a quarter behind, Dynamic Girl shaded Racquet for second place. The winner was claimed for £6,000.
Only four went to post for the mile nursery and in an exciting finish the 12/1 outsider finished a neck, a nose and a head in front of his three much more fancied opponents. The Brendan Powell-trained Phoenix Dawn, on his first run since being gelded and with first-time cheekpieces, set a slow pace under Martin Dwyer. Despite running wide coming out of the loop and being given reminders half a mile out, he was still in there fighting a furlong out, when the other three were momentarily ahead of him. He fought back gamely to regain the lead from Muirsheen Durkin in the last few strides.
The next was run over the same distance, but took five seconds less due to a fast pace being set. Clever Bob took over from the front leaders over a furlong out, only to be tackled by Dane O'Neill on the patiently-ridden Zlatan (5/1jt fav). After a good scrap, during which this pair pulled well clear, Zlatan ran on to win by half a length to allow trainer Ed de Giles to equal his best annual total.
In the first division of the 1m2f handicap the Charlie Hills-trained three-year-old Exoteric (9/4 fav) was seeking a hat-trick of handicap wins. His jockey Richard Kingscote had to get to work fully two out, but he made good progress one off the rail to take the lead with 150 yards to go. From there he was in no danger, scoring by three lengths in a manner suggesting that he could defy the handicapper again. Cordite grabbed second place from Panko in the last few strides.
Inniscastle Lad (10/1) had changed hands and stables since a mid-season hat-trick and today his current trainer Stuart Williams was able to celebrate his all-the-way win in the second division. Adam Kirby stepped up the pace at the intersection, he kept on valiantly, and the others couldn't catch him. Rotherwick ran on, but only got to within three quarters of a length.
Having dropped to a fraction below his last winning mark, Dreams Of Glory (8/1) enjoyed the eleventh victory of his career and his third over course and distance in the 5f handicap. Prominent nearest the stands side, he was one of several spread across the course with a chance until proving the strongest inside the last half furlong, although Stormflower and Flying Bear were just a neck and the same behind as they passed the post. Ed Greatrex rode the winner for Ron Hodges.
The season ended with an entertaining amateur riders' handicap over a mile and a half. Bob's Boy, lit up by first-time blinkers, set a scorching pace yet kept going remarkably well and led till the last 75 yards. Just over half a mile out Fast Play (10/1) was last, about 20 lengths behind the leader, yet her rider James Perrett was unperturbed. She made steady progress under hands and heels to take second place with a furlong and a half left, but then under the whip she veered all the way over to the far side. She was still running on well, and beat Bob's Boy by two and a quarter lengths. It was another triumph for first-time blinkers, and for trainer Richard Hughes.
Windsor's next meeting is on the afternoon of Monday 10 April.