Richard Johnson, forced to give up the big-race rides on Monkerhostin and One Knight over the Christmas period, returned to winning ways at Taunton for Philip Hobbs.
Having suffered bruising to his ribs in a first-race fall at Sandown on St Stephen's Day, the rider was an observer as Monkerhostin was narrowly beaten in the King George VI Chase and as One Knight came down at the last in the Welsh National at Chepstow when looking booked for second place.
If his Sandown fall had left its mark then the wayward Private Be seemed all out to uncover it in division two of the Greenslade Taylor Hunt Charity Stakes NH Novices’ Hurdle, as he took a keen hold and without warning aimed for the car park as the field passed the stand.
But Johnson was alert to the situation and quickly steered the 4-9 favourite back into the main bunch and the combination were back in charge again three out.
Private Be came down the stands side in the straight and readily sealed his first victory under Rules, with 200-1 chance Michigan D’Isop running on in eye-catching fashion to take second, six lengths adrift.
Asked what he thought of his mount’s idiosyncrasies, Johnson said: “He was all over the shop and wants to go left.”
Hobbs confirmed his charge wants a galloping left-handed track and added: “Richard doesn’t think he’s a monkey and put it down to greenness, but that is possibly giving the horse the benefit of the doubt.”
Martin Pipe has by his standards had a lean time of things over the holiday period, but he can surely look forward to further successes from Neveesou, who was impressive in beating Vaughan by seven lengths in the totesport.com Novices’ Hurdle.
Owner David Johnson purchased the 6-4 favourite in France and Pipe said: “My only worry was whether he’d been with me long enough to have settled in.
“We haven’t had many winners this month, but there’s nothing to worry about. We will sit and wait and it will come again.”
On what proved a good day for favourite backers, Presenting Express was a smooth scorer for Emma Lavelle and Barry Fenton in the totepool Handicap Chase.
Fenton oozed confidence on the 11-4 chance and after taking it up four out, came home three and a half lengths clear of Boddidley.
Lavelle believes Presenting Express is much more adept in the jumping department these days and said: “He’s much happier now, with his own style of jumping and three miles is definitely his trip.
“Baring accidents he had this in the bag from a long way out.”
Paul Nicholls looks to have a promising conditional on his hands in Liam Heard, whose patience on Nippy Des Mottes (11-4) paid off in the Steve Logan Memorial County Contractors Handicap Hurdle.
The favourite Capitana looked to be cruising turning for home, but she possibly disliked the ground and it was left to Spike Jones to make the winner fight all the way for a short-head victory.
The totesport 0800 221 221 Novices’ Handicap Chase went to Bob Buckler’s He’s The Gaffer (9-2), who took advantage of the last-fence fall of Terrible Tenant to beat Wizard Of Edge by 17 lengths.
Hobbs and Johnson were denied a double in the second division of the novice hurdle when Loita Hills failed by four lengths to hold 7-1 chance Prestbury Knight, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and ridden by Carl Llewellyn.
There was a local victory in the toteplacepot Selling Handicap hurdle when Penny’s Crown (6-1), trained by Gerald Ham, scored by four lengths from Buz Kiri under Eamon Dehdashti.