Thundering Star, easily the most high-profile horse on view at the meeting, provided Paul Nicholls with a good omen for The Open this weekend when landing the Morgan Ashurst Novices’ Hurdle at Taunton.
Formerly a useful performer in South Africa and carrying the popular silks of Harry Findlay, the-five-year-old overcame signs of inexperience over a trip that was too short for him.
This was a factor that both Nicholls and Findlay thought may prove a stumbling block to the 11-10 favourite, but although market rival Hot Diamond was going the better turning for home, Sam Thomas reeled in the leader before punching out Thundering Star to score by four and a half lengths.
Nicholls observed: “He was a bit green but we knew he’d be like that on his first run and the race will have done him the power of good mentally.
“It was a good starting point and hopefully he’ll go on from this.”
Heather Dalton can look forward to running four horses for One Man’s owner John Hales this winter and it will come as a surprise if Mount Cook does not go on to better things following his smooth success in the Morgan Ashurst Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Having been all the rage in the offices in the morning, the 7-2 favourite was eased on the run-in by Stephen Craine, but still scored by eight lengths from Compton Star.
Dalton said: “It wasn’t much of a race but I hope he can win again.”
Hales’ wife Pat and daughter Lisa were present and the latter revealed: “We’ve all had a good bet on this one. He’s had niggling problems, but his blood vessel trouble is hopefully behind him now.”
There was a polished riding display from amateur Paul Toole who barely moved a muscle in coaxing Flight Command (6-1) to a three-and-a-quarter-length triumph over Iris’s Prince in the Peter Jolliffe Retirement Handicap Chase.
It was a first ride in England for Toole, and a first for his new boss Charlie Mann. He had previously been with Tom Taaffe in Ireland.
It was good to see Ron Hodges in such good form after Posh Emily’s (4-1) neck success over Bethebestyoucan in the Tattersalls 3 for 2 Selling Handicap Hurdle.
Hodges underwent a quadruple heart bypass in the summer. He said: “We’ve been planning this for a long time, but had struggled to find the right seller.”
Equally good news for Hodges was that he retained his winner without a bid at the auction.
Evan Williams was in fine form with a first and last race double. First up was Mickmacmagoole (15-8 favourite) who bounced back to form in the Welcome Back To Taunton Amateur Riders’ Handicap Hurdle under the accomplished James Tudor.
Williams’ Megabill (5-1) then thwarted Ironical by two and a half lengths in the British Red Cross Maiden Open National Hunt Flat Race, thus giving Posh Emily’s jockey Christian Williams a double.
The Morgan Ashurst Handicap Hurdle went to 11-1 chance Triple Bluff, trained by Jimmy Frost and partnered by Harry Skelton.