Richard Johnson took the riding honours at Hereford today with a treble highlighted by the success of Woodenbridge Dream in the Weatherbys Bank Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Schooling horses on the morning they run is a ploy trainer Richard Lee has used successfully, and his decision to put Woodenbridge Dream over a few practice fences before taking him to the racecourse paid off.
The 6-4 favourite had only Nazimabad to worry about over the last three fences but he was already in control when his rival ploughed through the last, leaving Johnson’s mount to score by seven lengths.
Lee has had far from an easy time getting Woodenbridge Dream to where he is now.
He explained: “He had been bursting (blood vessels) in Ireland and was a handful when he joined me, but he’s gone from being a hyperactive warrior to a tough old hack and in all honesty he’d do more work at home some days than he’s done here today.
“This trip was on the short side but it was a nice little prize and I made sure he was sharp for it by getting my head girl to school him this morning.”
Johnson sparked his treble when partnering 7-4 favourite Reservoir to an eight-length triumph over Cunning Pursuit in the K W Bell Construction Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle.
Johnson, in control from the penultimate flight, said that the Philip Hobbs-trained Reservoir had hated the soft ground on his previous start at Kempton.
He added: “He’s no superstar, but this was a nice opportunity for him.”
Johnson, whose birthplace is not far from Hereford, rounded off a memorable afternoon when guiding Post It (20-1) to a length success over Zanzibar Boy in the Weatherbys Bank Maiden Open National Hunt Flat Race.
The Ron Hodges-trained winner had shown ability in both her previous bumper starts and foiled some hefty support for the second, who was Tony McCoy’s only ride of the day.
Ferdy Murphy took his seasonal tally to 50 when Dolmur and Keith Mercer scored by three lengths from Witness Time in the Weatherbys Messaging Service Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.
Dolmur, the 5-2 favourite, is another who prefers better ground.
Murphy said: “He was quite highly rated when he was trained in Ireland and ran in the Irish 2000 Guineas, but his owner sent him to me looking for firmer ground in Britain.”
Murphy had high hopes of completing a double with Be Upstanding in the Weatherbys Insurance Handicap Chase, only for the 6-4 favourite to break a blood vessel.
It was the perfect invitation for Paddy The Optimist (10-3) and Lee Stephens to end a frustrating run of near misses as they scored by three and a half lengths from Silver Samuel.
Adam Hawkins rode his first winner for seven years and first over jumps when Caper (13-2) ran out a length-and-a-half winner of the Weatherbys Insurance Novices’ Selling Hurdle from Compton Star.
Hawkins notched his only previous success on the all-weather on a horse trained by Roy Bowring.
The stewards considered the improvement in form of the winner compared to his previous run at Ludlow, but after being told by Sarah Hollinshead, daughter of winning training Reg Hollinshead, that the gelding was better suited by the faster ground, they decided not to hold an inquiry.