The going was heavy, soft in places, on a bright winter’s afternoon. As at the meeting a fortnight ago, the normal second last hurdle was omitted, and one fence on the far side was bypassed. The evergreen Paddy The Oscar was the star of the show.
There was a 2m novice hurdle to begin the action. Billingsley (8/1) took it up after the penultimate flight and responded well to Lee Edwards’ urgings as Don’t Ask and Marley Firth snapped at his heels all the way to the line. The three-quarter length winner, named after the Shropshire village where he is trained by Alastair Ralph, was backable at twice the odds the night before.
Quite a good field turned out for the 3m novice chase, five of the seven attracting some support. Step Back made a lot of the running and when he forged clear four out he looked all over the winner. After the penultimate fence the Tom Lacey-trained chasing debutant Thomas Patrick (6/1) started closing on him and when Richard Johnson conjured up a bold leap at the last he landed in front and stayed on well to score by four and a half lengths. The runner-up, having his first run for 11 months, often jumped a little to the right and will do better going that way round.
This Is It made most of the running in the 3m novice hurdle and had his principal rival, Rock My Style (11/10 fav), in trouble fully a mile out. Richard Johnson never gave up on the favourite and cajoled him all the way up the straight to get to within half a length. A good jump at the last took the Rock into the lead and he retained a narrow advantage at the line to continue trainer Warren Greatrex’s fine run of form. A neck was the official verdict. The champion jockey explained afterwards that the winner was lazy rather than ungenuine. He’ll go chasing next season.
The 2m4f chase was a great spectacle, with four jumping the fourth and third last virtually in line, and three of them were still together at the next. Isabel Williams had been going well on her father Evan’s Market Road (7/2 fav) for some time and was at pains to hold him up until the final fence, where they jumped into the lead. James Banks, having his last ever ride on Arquebusier, pressed them all the way to the line but went down by a length and three quarters. Banks was later presented with a bottle of bubbly, surrounded by all his weighing room colleagues. When the formalities were over they dipped him head first into a trough full of water.
Martabot led them a merry dance in the 2m4f hurdle until Daisy De Sivola (12/1), ridden by Mr Chester Williams for his father Nick, took it up on the long run to the last flight.
The dropped-in-class mare repelled the persistent Mountains of Mourne and Quiz Master to win by half a length.
There was a heart-warming climax to the 3m handicap chase. The 15 year old Paddy The Oscar (7/1) has been in great form this winter for Grace Harris and he made the running, jumping well, as usual. Four out he was joined by Alf’N’Dor, but Paddy brushed him aside in a matter of strides. He jumped the third last like a stag and scampered on to win by 11 lengths under Conor Ring, accompanied by screams of delight from connections. Thedrinkymeister plugged on to take second.
David Pipe’s Remastered (10/11 fav) led all the way in the bumper. Kateson emerged as his only possible challenger three furlongs out but the leader readily went further ahead for a three and a half length success. Wearing the Native River colours, Tom Scudamore had a pretty easy ride.