On the face of it, this was just an ordinary midweek meeting, but there were several likeable performances. The going was soft.
There was a local-trained success straight away in the opening 2m handicap hurdle, when Bernard Llewellyn’s Shadows Girl (7/1) recorded her second course and distance victory. She gradually crept into contention under seven pound claimer Charlie Price and took the lead jumping the last, going on to beat Drewmain Legend by a length and a quarter.
The second was a 2m maiden hurdle. Paul Nicholls’s McFabulous, who won bumpers here and at the Grand National meeting, was long odds on for his debut over obstacles. However, he still seemed quite green in the home straight and didn’t really get in a blow against the impressive Silver Hallmark (7/2). This Fergal O’Brien-trained grey hit the front at the third last and came home four lengths ahead. Jockey Adam Wedge is in top form; he rode 11 winners in October, his best score in a single month.
Freshened up by a six month break, Big Meadow (5/1) led virtually all the way through the 3m chase for conditionals. A trio of opponents tried to close in on him up the straight, but a series of good jumps allowed him to maintain his advantage. The Manuscript got to within a length and a half at the post. Neil King trained the winner and Max Kendrick rode him.
Another horse proven on testing ground and returning from a long break, Perfect Man (10/1) took the 3m hurdle for Olly Murphy and Aidan Coleman. After suffering interference leaving the back straight he was struggling in seventh place, seemingly going nowhere, but eventually his stamina came into play. He was one of three in line on the long run to the final flight, which he jumped nicely. Taking the lead on the run-in, he stayed on strongly to hold off Just A Thought by a length and a quarter.
The Harry Whittington-trained Simply The Betts (5/1) has run well fresh before and was returning from eleven months off in a decent 2m novice chase. He powered into the lead three out and had the race sewn up from there, a couple of scrappy jumps afterwards proving a minor hindrance to this big horse. Daryl Jacob eased him down so that Espoir De Guye finished only four and a half lengths adrift.
Richard Johnson is a dangerous opponent when allowed to make the running and he did so to great effect for Potters Venture (9/1) in the 2m4f maiden hurdle, pictured. One by one, his rivals dropped away until only Stick With Bill was left in contention, but he started to fade on the approach to the final flight. The winner is trained by Philip Hobbs and looks certain to be a force at a higher level, as should the runner-up.
David Pipe has been doing well at Chepstow recently and his Kepagge (5/1) continued the trend in the bumper. Tom Scudamore had him in front from the outset, pressed on half a mile out and before long was 12 lengths clear. Understandably, he tired at the end and Gustavian, who had been last much of the way, reduced the deficit to four lengths. This pair will go into a lot of notebooks.