Moulins Clermont made up for a disappointing British debut at Fontwell with an authoritative display to land the Unibet Extra Place Races Every Day Juvenile Hurdle at a rain-soaked Sandown.
Persistent rain throughout the morning had turned the official going to heavy (soft in places), yet it was not to the detriment of the winner, who appears to have plenty of scope.
Jamie Moore’s mount, sent off the 5-6 favourite, had flopped on his initial outing for Gary Moore, having arrived from France, but he had his three rivals in the two-mile heat all at sea turning in.
Under a tight rein, the four-year-old spreadeagled the field for a 13-length success over Malakahna.
His Horsham-based trainer said: “If I knew what happened at Fontwell…. God only knows – I couldn’t believe it, honestly.
“It was only a few weeks ago and whether he had not acclimatised or what, I don’t know. I couldn’t see him getting beat at Fontwell but he got well beat in an average sort of race.
“He is a good work horse – he has always worked well. I thought he would win today, but I was never over-confident because of what he did at Fontwell.
“He did it nicely, though. He is still a baby. Jamie said he was pricking his ears all the way around was still green all the way round,. He also said the ground was very, very soft.
“He is a chaser in the making – he is not a three-year-old off the Flat who hasn’t got another day in him.”
He added: “I don’t know what we’ll do with him. Whether we will look at the (Triumph Hurdle) trial at Cheltenham or not, I don’t know.
“I’d rather go somewhere small and get his confidence up, somewhere a bit more personal. He hasn’t had a race there really and he could really do with one to educate him a bit more.”
The mud-loving Farinet (5-4 favourite) had ideal conditions in the Read Nicky Henderson’s Blog Handicap Chase and made the most of them under Charlie Deutsch.
The Venetia Williams-trained seven-year-old had needed the run on his season bow when pulled up at Cheltenham, but back to the scene of his course-and-distance Listed handicap win at the back end of last season, the ex-French gelding delighted connections, including former Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond, whose wife, Mindy, is a co-owner.
The grey drew clear of Luckofthedraw and Goa Lil to score by five and a half lengths, having jumped to the front at the 13th fence.
Williams said: “I’m very pleased. We have been wanting the rain and we had messages from a friend who lives just down the back straight. From 7.30am this morning, he said, ‘It’s raining’. So, happy days.
“It was always looking like it would rain at the end of the week, so it was always going to be all right.
“It is obviously nice to being him back here to Sandown where he has been successful before.
“I’ve no idea what next.. Home. I can’t tell you.”
Gunsight Ridge made it third time lucky over fences with a hard-fought success in the Unibet Horserace Betting Operator Of The Year Handicap Chase.
Placed in both previous attempts, Olly Murphy’s seven-year-old gained his reward when toughing it out in the attritional conditions.
Bun Doran set a decent enough pace on the heavy ground and proved a hard opponent to pass, but Aidan Coleman produced Gunsight Ridge (11-4) to challenge two out and went on to score by a length and three-quarters.
Coleman was completing a double after steering home Martello Sky home in the Listed mares’ hurdle earlier on the card.
Murphy said: “I don’t really know what we will do next. I could not believe he got beaten the last day and I couldn’t work out why he got beaten. I watched the winner’s next two runs and fairly realised why we got beat.
“He is a sharp horse, but he had to stay well this day. You get drawn into them wanting a trip, but I got caught into running him over a trip and I don’t think he stays. His jumping is very good for a horse who has had just three runs against seasoned handicappers.
“He has had a hard race today and this is a good pot. Freshen him up and we will look at Grand Annual or a Red Rum Chase, or something like that. We’ll get another run into him beforehand, but I would imagine he will go up five or six (pounds) and he will get in the bottom of the weights for some of those handicaps.”
Hydroplane bounced back to form to spring a 25-1 surprise in the Unibet Casino Deposit £10 Get £40 Handicap Hurdle.
Pulled up at Doncaster in November on his first start for 204 days, the Ian Williams-trained six-year-old ploughed through the mud to land the prize by half a length from Zambezi Fix in the hands of Tom Scudamore.
“That was great as we were worried about how he would handle the ground. He answered his critics there,” said the jockey.
“He’s a good horse on the Flat. I don’t know what happened last time. This was the first time I’ve sat on him. He’s run some good races on the Flat and is rated 79.
“He jumped so well and is so tough. He needed to be tough today.”