Big fields were attracted by today’s nice jumping ground, which was good to soft.
Eva’s Oskar (5/1) won his third race in a row, and the second this month for Tim Vaughan and Alan Johns. Stepping up to 3m proved no problem, as he came with a winning run to take a narrow lead after the final flight. His only challenger, Sandy Boy, wandered briefly on the run-in but it probably made no difference to the result; Oskar, driven out, won by three quarters of a length. The rest of the 16-strong field was nine lengths behind.
The 3m2f novices chase threw up a clear winner in the form of Neil Mulholland’s La Cavsa Nostra (16/1), having his first outing since February. Once he kicked on from the first in the straight, the result was in no doubt. Jumping well, he came home six lengths ahead of the running-on Christmas In April. Robbie Dunne has had a long spell off injured and it was his first winner for seven months.
A 16-runner 2m4f maiden hurdle came next, in which the first four home all showed distinct promise. Checkitout forged ahead two out and looked like a winner, but the situation changed drastically after the last. Sevarano (7/4 fav) had been gaining ground steadily and he took the lead on the run-in to score by three lengths. Eason ran on well from being a distant seventh a quarter of a mile out to deprive Checkitout of second. Firak was a close fourth. Leighton Aspell rode the winner for Oliver Sherwood.
Though seventeen lined up for the mares hurdle over 2m, few got into contention at the business end of the race. James Best steered Minnie Escape (13/2) into the lead three out, went clear after the next, and won quite easily. It was 13th time lucky for her, and Victor Dartnall managed to conjure some improvement out of her. Peltwell plugged on for second, four and a half lengths in arrears.
The highlight of the day was a good beginners chase over 3m. Johanos, who disputed the lead all the way, went for home at the first in the straight, going two lengths ahead. As a trio of challengers jostled for position he kept his lead intact until the last, when a slight mistake allowed Truckers Lodge (2/1 fav) to grab a narrow advantage. Johanos fought back bravely to get to within half a length, with Finawn Bawn and Prime Venture close behind. All four of them should be winning before long. Afterwards the successful trainer, Paul Nicholls (pictured), agreed that his horse had, like many in the yard, improved for a run. He will now go for the Welsh National.
The three-year-old filly Guardia Top (9/4 fav) made mincemeat of her opponents in the 17-runner 2m4f handicap hurdle. Getting 18 pounds for weight for age and the fillies’ allowance, she made all the running under Sean Bowen, who steered a wide course throughout. She extended her lead effortlessly at the third last and from that point Tis Fantastic was the only one who could stay within a country mile of her. Nigel Hawke’s filly won by three and a half lengths, jumping well, and connections will be looking for a similar race soon.
Winning pointer Linelee King was all the rage for the bumper, awareness of his £160,000 purchase price contributing to the weight of support. However, he was turned over by Plenty In The Tank (14/1), who lived up to his name by leading all the way. The favourite drew up to his quarters three furlongs out, going ominously well, but the front-runner refused to allow him to go past. It was a fine ride from the promising conditional Jack Tudor. The half-length winner was a rare starter under National Hunt rules for Ed de Giles.