Portrush Ted lifted the spirits of trainer Warren Greatrex with a triumphant return to action at Sandown on Friday.
In what has been a difficult few months for the Lambourn handler, the talented but fragile eight-year-old got his career back on track in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle, to give Greatrex his first winner in 46 days.
Not sighted since suffering a fall at Haydock in February, the Grade Two bumper winner demonstrated the best of his battling abilities to rally back past eventual runner-up Storm Arising, scoring by half a length.
Greatrex said: “I’ve had a torrid time this season. It’s been the hardest time I’ve had without success as a trainer.
“Everyone knows I’ve been quiet, but if I’ve got the horses and ammunition I’ve shown I can do the job time and time again and I think a horse like this demonstrates it.
“I’ve had a lot of people say that form is temporary and you will be fine. The one thing I have is a competitive mind and that has helped me through this.”
While Portrush Ted holds an entry in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot later this month, Greatrex all but ruled out giving him a first start at Grade One level in the extended three-mile prize.
He said: “I would say that what he is has put in today, the Long Walk will be unlikely.
“He is already a Grade Two winner and in my eyes when he has his conditions he is every bit a Grade One horse.
“He does need soft ground so we will plot accordingly.”
Albi Tufnell celebrated his first winner under rules aboard the Fergal O’Brien-trained veteran Call Me Vic, who rolled back the years at the age of 13 to claim the Sandown Park Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase by six lengths.
The 18-year-old rider said of the 17-2 shot, who is owned by his mother, Jane, said: “It was almost unreal. I had a peak to my right thinking I really hoped my lad’s head was in front and crossing the line he was the only horse there.
“I always knew they would go that quick. I wasn’t sure he would be able to stay with them or have that much left in the tank, but when you are riding a horse like that around these fences on a course like this he makes me look good.”
The Dan Skelton-trained Alnadam went one better than on his debut over fences at Carlisle in the My Oddsboost On Betfair Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.
Assistant trainer Tom Messenger said: “We expected him to have come on from his last run and the form has worked out well.
“It was a competitive race, but he coped with the ground well and ended up putting it to bed nicely.”
Gary Moore saddled a one-two in the Londesborough Handicap Chase – but not in the order the betting suggested as Darebin (5-1) edged out Du Lemo (5-2), who was making his first start in 689, days by a neck.
Moore said: “I wouldn’t say I thought they would be first and second, but I thought Darebin was a fitter horse and with Jamie (Moore) back on him around here he improves 7lb.
“That’s probably what made the difference today – fitness.”