The Local was the star of the show at a wet and windy Wincanton, running out an impressive winner of the Weatherbys Support The Injured Jockeys Fund Handicap Hurdle.
HRH The Princess Royal, making her first visit to the track as a guest of the Injured Jockeys Fund, was on hand to present former trainer Nick Gaselee with the trophy after the two-mile event.
Gaselee, who retired at the end of last season, was representing winning handler Charles Egerton who sent out the 6-1 shot to record a three-length win over Bishop’s Bridge.
The Local started his jumping career with Gaselee and he was delighted to see the five-year-old make all under Andrew Tinkler to deliver in style.
“He’s done it very well,” said Gaselee, who still rides out at Oliver Sherwood’s yard.
“I bought the horse at Ascot and I trained him. He won for me as a three-year-old at Plumpton. I think at some stage he will go over fences and he jumps well. He’d be a nice two-mile novice chaser.”
Favourite backers had their fingers burned in the Guinness Beginners’ Chase as 11-1 shot Preacher Boy sprung a minor surprise.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Made In Montot had been sent off the 10-11 favourite but he faded badly to leave Preacher Boy to come home unchallenged under Jim Crowley.
Trainer Ron Hodges believes the six-year-old has a bright future and is now planning to step him up in distance.
“All he does is gallop and jump. He’s a nice horse, but won’t be seen over this trip again, because he needs further than this. I think he needs at least three miles-plus,” he said.
Nicholls gained some compensation when he notched a near 12-1 double courtesy of Comanche War Paint and Twist Magic.
Promising 7lb claimer Liam Heard guided 15-8 favourite Comanche War Paint to a five-length win over Dante Citizen in the Weatherbys Bank Silver Buck Handicap Chase, but the eight-yea-old nearly missed the race altogether.
“You don’t know how close I was to pulling him out,” Nicholls explained.
“He’s never won in soft ground before, but I thought it was just about loose and sloppy enough to let him take his chance and he stays four miles.
“That was the deciding factor in the end, but Liam’s claim has obviously helped and he’s given him a very good ride.”
Three-year-old Twist Magic made up for an unexpected defeat at Wetherby with a decisive nine-length victory over Pace Shot in the AJC Caterers Juvenile Novices’ Novices Hurdle under Christian Williams.
“I just don’t know what went wrong last time,” said Nicholls. “I couldn’t have him being beaten at Wetherby, but I can’t explain why he was beaten.
“We won’t go too high with him, because he’s a chaser in the making and he just needs a bit of time to fill his frame.”
Thedreamstillalive overcame a 298-day absence to take the John Meaden ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle by seven lengths under Jason Maguire.
“We paid £40,000 for him at the Doncaster sales and to be honest, he was disappointing last year and though he didn’t show any outward signs, he had a serious breathing problem, which we operated on. It seems to have helped,” said winning trainer Jim Old.
“He will stay over hurdles for now, but he jumps a fence beautifully.”
The judge could not split Eggmount (9-4 favourite) and Taksina (16-1) as they dead-heated after a thrilling finish to the Andrew Hopkins Concrete Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase.
Taksina’s young 10lb claimer Paul Davey earned his first career win as he got his mount back up on the line, and trainer Bob Buckler was full of praise for the rider.
“He has worked very hard to get himself fit. I was a bit worried as he has appeared to lack that bit of strength for a finish, but he has strengthened up and he did very well,” said Buckler.
“The mare will be out again at Fontwell on Tuesday, because I hate to think what the handicapper is going to do to her.”