The going was heavy, soft in places. There were just three hurdles in the home straight today, with a long run before the final flight.
The card began with a competitive 2m4f chase. Benny’s King (6/1), making his debut for Dan Skelton, took a narrow lead four out and went three lengths ahead after the next. He maintained that advantage over the gambled-on Pop Rockstar all the way to the line. The runner-up tried gamely, but to no avail. Bridget Andrews got some good bold jumps from the winner, who was making only his second appearance over fences, and after an absence of 415 days.
A 3m novice hurdle came next. Ballyart attempted to make all the running, and his determination made it very hard for Tim Vaughan’s Trixster (5/2 fav) to overtake him. The favourite only managed to do so on the long run to the last, and then veered over to the stands rail. This allowed Ballyart to come at him again, but Trixster held on by a head. This was the first winner for his jockey Charlie Price, who has had only a handful of rides over the last two years. He won’t forget this day in a hurry, especially he had to survive a stewards inquiry.
The 2m4f novice hurdle appeared in effect to be a two-horse race, and though the pair finished close together, with Smiths Cross a couple of lengths ahead of Dominateur, they were both inferior to Secret Reprieve (50/1). Evan Williams’s once-raced four-year-old was going best of the trio on the run to the last, and despite being outjumped he found more in the closing stages for Adam Wedge. The winning distance was only a length and a quarter, yet it was done cosily and there should be much more to come on similar going in future.
The resurgence of the Philip Hobbs yard after a dreadful 2017/18 continued with the victory of Steely Addition (100/30 fav) in the 3m novice chase. For most of the home straight he looked poised to pick off the long-time leader Yalltari, but the horse in front kept up the gallop and Micheal Nolan had to ask Steely a serious question before he moved ahead on the run-in. There were two and a half lengths between them at the finish, with 25 back to the rest.
A good quality renewal of the Welsh National Trial, a three mile chase, went to the dual course and distance winner Ramses De Teillee (2/1 fav). He took the lead on the turn out of the back straight. Ami Desbois drew alongside four out but Ramses pulled away again, finishing strongly. Prime Venture, who’d travelled well for a long way, took second place two and a half lengths away. Ami Desbois and Back To The Thatch weren’t far behind in third and fourth. David Pipe trained the winner and David Noonan rode him.
Truckers Lodge (9/4 fav) was always going well in the 3m handicap hurdle and won very easily indeed. He cantered into a share of the lead at the penultimate flight and gave his jockey Lorcan Williams little to do as he strolled to a ten length success over Braventara. The step up in trip has benefited this Paul Nicholls horse, though the handicapper will take a dim view of this.
The fifth winning favourite out of seven was the Harry Whittington-trained Young Bull (evens fav) in the bumper. It didn’t look likely half a mile out, when the sprint for home began. Harry Bannister was driving him along in fourth place, getting nowhere. However, the jockey’s persistence paid off and with a hundred yards to go he stayed on past the pacesetting Ask Himself to score by a length.