Stan Sheppard insists it would be great if he could secure trainer Sam Thomas another big race winner aboard Iwilldoit, who he believes could ‘take some stopping’ on his return to action at Warwick on Saturday (14th January) in the Wigley Group Classic Handicap Chase.
After partnering Iwiildoit to victory when last sighted in the Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow in December 2021, the 25 year old rider will bid to secure a hat-trick of wins aboard the Flying Legend gelding when taking on 13 rivals in the three miles and five furlongs feature.
Plenty has happened since Iwilldoit last appeared on the track 383 days ago with Sheppard going on to record a personal best tally of 47 winners last season and Thomas surviving a helicopter crash together with leading owner Dai Walters back in November.
Given the circumstances, Ledbury-based Sheppard believes victory aboard Iwiildoit on this occasion would mean a great deal personally and he feels that the 10 year old should have plenty in his favour on his eagerly-anticipated comeback.
Sheppard said: “To win this for Sam would be great given everything that has gone on in his life over the last few months.
“Stolen Silver hit the cross bar for him at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day and hopefully we can go one better and give him another big race winner.
“I’ve not sat him in the run up to the race. I leave it to Sam and his team with what they do with him at home but everything I’ve heard has been good and positive.
“He has had 383 days off the track but I believe Sam will get him there in the best order he can. We go there with a lively chance I would like to think.
“Three miles five around a galloping track should suit him. There is nothing in there where you think crikey that might take a bit of stopping and if anything it could be that Iwilldoit could be the one to take some stopping.”
Although over 12 months have passed since Iwilldoit stormed to glory in the Welsh Grand National it remains a day that Sheppard, who is the son of trainer Matt Sheppard, still remembers as if it happened yesterday.
He said: “It was a very good day last season winning the Welsh Grand National. It was worth getting down to 10 stone 4lbs for which I hadn’t done for a long time.
“To win the race for a Welsh trainer was great it was just a shame nobody was there to watch it but it made no difference to me once I was over the last.
“He won at the track prior to that on his first run of the season so we know he goes well fresh and the two times I’ve ridden him he has done nothing wrong.
“In races like this you need a lot of luck to go your way as more things can go right than wrong.
“I had quite a good season last term but I really felt that victory got the ball rolling. It was a massive result and definitely the biggest winner of my career but hopefully more like it will come my way.”
Sheppard could already have bagged the third Grade Two success of his career before partnering Iwilldoit when linking up with recent course and distance winnerGinny’s Destiny in the Grade Two Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle.
Beaten on his return to action at Aintree in October, the Tom Lacey left that effort behind when scoring by eight and a half lengths in a two miles and five furlongs novice contest at the track on his latest start.
Sheppard said: “He is top-rated in the race and if the handicapper has it right then he should win. One or two in there have a bit more experience than he does but he has come on a lot mentally since his first start at Aintree this season.
“He did more wrong than right that day but then he put it all together at Warwick last time. He travelled really well and though he had a good look when he got to the final hurdle he won smartly. We thought he would definitely be better than Aintree.
“I schooled him two days before he ran at Warwick last time and he was much more settled at home. He seems to have grown up a lot and Aintree just took the edge of him.
“It is definitely not a negative having that course form behind him as we know that he handles the track. The ground might be a bit softer than when he won there before but that shouldn’t be a problem either.”
Despite it only being Ginny’s Destiny third start over hurdles Sheppard is confident he is ready to tackle such a test this early on in his career.
He added: “I think this is the right route to go down as opposed to trying to win another novice with a penalty as not many achieve that. He was entered in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury but Tom decided to take him out.
“This is probably a more open race but Tom has won it before with Adrimel so he knows what is needed to win it.”
Wigley Group Classic Chase Day – Warwick, Saturday 14th January
Going: Heavy, Soft in places
12:40pm Mark Jackson & Neil Keenan Memorial Novices’ Handicap Hurdle 2m
1 Gwennie May Boy (IRE) 5 12 2 Jonjo O’Neill Ms Gwendoline M Clarke Mr A J O’Neill (7)
2 Groom de Cotte (FR) ts 7 12 0 Sean Curran Mr W. Byrne Richie McLernon
3 Angels Landing (IRE) ts 5 11 4 Ian Williams The Piranha Partnership Charlie Todd
4 Non Stop (FR) 4 11 0 Joe Tizzard Gavigan Kennedy Sharp Tom Cannon
5 Ocean Heights ts 6 10 13 David Pipe Mrs Lynne Webb and Partner Tom Scudamore
6 Waterloo Quay (IRE) p 7 10 3 David Dennis Mr A. Killoran Tom Bellamy
1:15pm Wigley Support Fund Edward Courage Cup Handicap Chase 2m 54y
1 Third Time Lucki (IRE) ts 8 11 12 Dan Skelton Mike and Eileen Newbould Harry Skelton
2 Friend Or Foe (FR) p 8 11 5 Paul Nicholls Gordon & Su Hall Bryony Frost
3 Haddex des Obeaux (FR) 6 11 1 Gary Moore Mr O. S. Harris Jamie Moore
4 Bun Doran (IRE) ts, p 12 10 9 Tom George Crossed Fingers Partnership Ciaran Gethings
5 Galop de Chasse (FR) 7 10 1 Venetia Williams The Winter Partnership Charlie Deutsch
1:50pm eventmasters.co.uk Hampton Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) 3m
1 Complete Unknown (IRE) 7 11 4 Paul Nicholls Mr C. K. Ong & Mr I. Warwick Lorcan Williams
2 Gentleman At Arms (IRE) ts 6 11 4 Stuart Edmunds D & B Racing Ciaran Gethings
3 The Goffer (IRE) 6 11 4 Gordon Elliott Ireland Mr Allan Snow Sam Ewing
4 Galia des Liteaux (FR) 7 11 2 Dan Skelton Mr Michael Ariss Harry Skelton
2:25pm Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m 5f
1 Ginny’s Destiny (IRE) 7 11 2 Tom Lacey Gordon & Su Hall Stan Sheppard
2 Givega (FR) 7 11 2 Gary Moore Mr Ashley Head Jamie Moore
3 Grey Dawning (IRE) 6 11 2 Dan Skelton Mr Robert Kirkland Harry Skelton
4 Knowsley Road (IRE) 6 11 2 Paul Nicholls Mr Charles Pelham & Mr Henry Pelham Lorcan Williams
5 Mexico (GER) 7 11 2 Stuart Edmunds The High Kites Ciaran Gethings
6 Moon Hunter 6 11 2 Henry Daly Five Go Racing A. P. Heskin
7 Snake Roll (IRE) 6 11 2 Lucinda Russell The Ormello Way Derek Fox
3:00pm Wigley Group Classic Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap) 3m 5f 54y
1 Threeunderthrufive (IRE) 8 12 0 Paul Nicholls McNeill Family A. P. Heskin
2 Dingo Dollar (IRE) ts, p 11 11 12 Sandy Thomson M Warren J Holmes R Kidner & J Wright Miss Alice Stevens (7)
3 Iwilldoit 10 11 10 Sam Thomas Diamond Racing Ltd Stan Sheppard
4 Lord du Mesnil (FR) ts, p 10 11 9 Richard Hobson Mr Paul Porter & Mike & Mandy Smith Paul O’Brien
5 Fortescue p 9 11 6 Henry Daly Mrs L Nixon Hugh Nugent (3)
6 Mr Incredible (IRE) 7 11 5 W. P. Mullins Ireland Mr P. Byrne Brian Hayes
7 Grumpy Charley 8 11 4 Chris Honour Mr G. Thompson James Bowen
8 Commodore (FR) 11 11 4 Venetia Williams Mrs C Watson & Mrs S Graham Charlie Deutsch
9 Nestor Park (FR) p 10 10 12 Ben Pauling Mrs S. P. Davis Luca Morgan
10 Notachance (IRE) p 9 10 7 Alan King David J S Sewell & Tim Leadbeater Tom Cannon
11 Wouldubewell (IRE) 9 10 7 Emma Lavelle Owners Group 063 Tom Bellamy
12 Grand Mogul (IRE) 9 10 5 Gail Haywood The Nascent Partnership Ben Poste
13 Guetapan Collonges (FR) 7 10 3 Charlie Longsdon Mr John P. McManus Richie McLernon
14 Volcano (FR) ts, p 9 9 6 Sheila Lewis Mr Brian Davies Ben Jones
3:35 pm Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (Pertemps Hurdle Series Qualifier) 3m 1f
1 Sire du Berlais (FR) bl,ts 11 12 0 Gordon Elliott Ireland Mr John P. McManus Richie McLernon
2 Ronald Pump ts, p 10 11 5 Ciaran Murphy Ireland Laois Limerick Syndicate Brian Hayes
3 On The Blind Side (IRE) p 11 11 1 Nicky Henderson Mr A. D. Spence Sean O’Briain (10)
4 Ashtown Lad (IRE) 9 10 9 Dan Skelton Darren & Annaley Yates Harry Skelton
5 Glimpse of Gala 7 10 6 Charlie Longsdon The Tweed Clad Fossils Bradley Roberts (7)
6 Lieutenant Rocco (IRE) ts 8 10 4 Syd Hosie Syd Hosie Tom Scudamore
7 Level Neverending (IRE) p 6 10 0 Gordon Elliott Ireland Bective Stud Sam Ewing
8 The Bomber Liston (IRE) 7 9 11 Nicky Henderson Mr John P. McManus
9 Paricolor (FR) bl,ts 7 9 10 David Pipe Mrs J P E Cunningham & Mr G M Cunningham Philip Armson (3)
4:10pm Wigley Community Fund ‘Newcomers’ National Hunt Flat Race 2m
1 Rascal 5 11 8 Tom George Sharon Nelson & Vicki Robinson Ciaran Gethings
2 Yonconor (FR) 6 11 8 Brian Barr Mr Michael Phillips & Partner Thomas Doggrell (7)
3 Crazy Mary 6 11 1 Ian Williams The Ferandlin Peaches Charlie Todd
4 Grangeclare North (IRE) 6 11 1 Jim & Suzi Best If only partnership Jamie Moore
5 Lily Grace 5 11 1 Venetia Williams Allen & Monica Powley Charlie Deutsch
6 Passing Kate 6 11 1 Grace Harris Mr David M. Richards Conor Ring (3)
7 The Cox Express 4 10 9 Tom Lacey D & J Newell Stan Sheppard