Plumpton’s effort to stage racing after a sharp overnight frost was rewarded after three inspections just 20 minutes before the start of the first race on Monday.
Trainers and jockeys were split 70/30 in favour of the decision to go ahead. Although temperatures rose to 6C, opinion was divided about an area on the far side on the hurdles track which some felt was too bare. However, most of the riders described the going as “tacky but safe to race.”
But one trainer completely happy in more than one way was Seamus Mullins, who took Sheldon out of the opener but was comfortable to allow I See You Well (3-1) to participate in the Buy The Plumpton History Book Now Handicap Chase.
The course specialist overcame a mistake three out to rally and deny Cheque En Blanc by half a length under Kevin Jones, with Young Turk a further length and a half behind.
Mullins said: “Mark Cornford (clerk of the course) and the executive have made the right call to race. I walked the course four times and only pulled mine out of the first because he’s a nice horse and I wanted to be perfectly happy that it was OK.
“Kevin missed the third-last, otherwise it would have been more straightforward. As Kevin said it’s dead ground, as you would expect for Plumpton in January.”
Nicky Henderson’s withdrawal of Ahorsewithnoname in the opening Strong Flavours Catering Maiden Hurdle meant a total of seven scratchings for the race – six of them on account of the ground, with favourite Natural History already in the paddock when Gary Moore took him out.
Moore said: “I was quite happy to run but fully understand that the owner wasn’t, as he lost a horse here last season. As far as I’m concerned the ground is fine.”
The race went to Khan (5-1), who under Harry Reed outstayed long-time leader John Betjeman by half a length.
His trainer Milton Harris said: “He won a Group One at Cologne and was sourced by Christian Von Der Recke, who finds a few for me. He’s still an entire and this will have done him the power of good.”
But there was an unfortunate incident at the fourth flight where Glass Of Bubbles was fatally injured, with his jockey, 5lb claimer Tom Buckley, appearing to escape serious injury.
The four-year-old’s trainer Charlie Longsdon said: “It was one of those horrible things that can happen in racing.
“Luckily, Tom is all right. That’s the most important thing. He got knocked out, but he’s OK.
“They had a lot of inspections, but they obviously deemed it was fit to race. It’s one of those things, it’s horrible, but it happens.”
The Moore stable enjoyed a winner with Zhiguli, who always travelled best under Niall Houlihan in the Download The tote App Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.
The 5-4 favourite readily pulled four and a quarter lengths and a head clear of Poker Play and Northern Poet.
The West Sussex trainer said: “He’s a horse I like a lot and is improving with age. He will have to step up (in class) now as the handicapper will have his say.”
Houlihan completed a double with a poignant success on Mr Jack (3-1) in the Strong Flavours Catering Handicap Hurdle.
The nine-year-old had won over the course and distance three weeks ago the day his trainer Zoe Davison sadly died after a long illness. Her husband Andy Irvine took over the running of the East Grinstead yard and this was his first winner.
“It really is an emotional time. We buried Zoe yesterday. It was a difficult day and a lovely day at the same time,” he told Sky Sports Racing.
“We brought her home and she’s buried on the gallops where she wanted to be buried so we had a nice service up there with the family. It was really special.
“This means the world to everybody. This horse has been great for us and he’s done it well in the end.”
Houlihan’s brother, Sean, got in on the act when steering En Coeur (11-4) home to give Mullins a brace in the Visit attheraces Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Mullins said: “He has a history of wind problems, but is getting his confidence now and enjoying his racing.”
Conditional Lewis Stones had an armchair ride on 1-8 favourite African Dance in the tote.co.uk Novices’ Hurdle, in which the three runners jumped one hurdle twice, the others having been removed due to low sun.