Robert and Sally Alner’s string continues to go great guns this season and the Dorset couple provided their first winner for a new and high-profile owner at Taunton.
Peter Partridge moved Farmer’s Lad from Philip Hobbs to the Alners this year and after fair efforts in hurdles and a novice chase, the gelding registered a smooth victory on his handicap debut over fences.
Carrying Partridge’s famous light blue and red ’Farmer Jack’ silks, the 7-4 favourite jumped tidily in the main under Daryl Jacob.
He eventually brushed off Et Maintenant by a length and three-quarters in the I Have Him 21st Birthday Novices’ Handicap Chase, named after the two-mile track-record holder, who paraded before the race.
“He only made one mistake and hopefully we can find another little race like this,” said Sally Alner.
Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh experienced an afternoon of fluctuating fortunes.
The champion trainer had several anxious moments en-route to a hat-trick and dashed down the track to attend to Pride Of Dulcote after the gelding collapsed at the final flight of the Royal Bath & West Novices’ Hurdle.
Walsh had looked to be cantering all over Liam Heard and his stablemate Lamanver Homerun (5-1) but crumpled heavily on landing to leave his rival to come home in his own time.
Walsh remained with the winded Pride Of Dulcote, who eventually rose to his feet.
“He was tanking along and he has such an engine,” said Nicholls of the faller.
“He didn’t really make a mistake and I think he’ll be fine.”
Walsh took the mount on 10-11 market leader Ocean Du Moulin in the Horserace Betting Levy Board Novices’ Hurdle but this time was a clear second best to Sam Thomas and Pacha d’Oudairies (2-1).
Nicholls added: “Ocean Du Moulin was beaten only by the ground – he wants it quicker and will go over fences fairly soon.
“The other horse has been a tearaway at home but we’ve stepped him up in trip and he’s just learning to relax.”
There was a sad postscript to the Royal Bath & West Beginners’ Chase when Nicholls’ Mister Knight (6-5) finished lame after his victory and had to be taken away in the horse ambulance.
Thomas and the chestnut had more determination than his market rival Nobody Tells Me, who made one bad mistake but was held by half a length at the line.
Nick’s Choice (11-2 joint-favourite) reaped the benefit of a strong drive from Sam Jones to claim the southwest-racing.com Selling Hurdle.
Paul Keane collected his second victory in as many days as I’m A Legend ran out a convincing winner of the Racing Post “Hands And Heels” Handicap Hurdle under Josh Guerriero
The tongue-tied Tegucigalpa (12-1) ran up a 16-length margin in the Pontispool Equine Sports Centre Hunters’ Chase for owner-trainer David Brace and jockey Lucy Rowsell.