Champion jockey Harry Skelton wasted no time adding to his 1,000 winners as he doubled up on his next two rides at Wetherby – courtesy of Ashtown Lad and Unexpected Party.
Skelton reached his four-figure career milestone at Stratford on Thursday, and projected then that he would be getting started on his second thousand as soon as possible.
True to his word, less than 24 hours later, he struck first in division one of the bet365 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle and then in the bet365 Novices’ Chase, both for his brother Dan.
Ashtown Lad was following the example of the yard’s subsequent Grade One winner Shan Blue, who had won the same race last year.
In the absence of the highly-regarded Ahoy Senor, the field was reduced to four – and Skelton had the 6-4 winner in front and jumping well throughout.
Ashtown Lad was always moving more fluently at and between the fences than odds-on favourite and eventual third Barbados Buck’s, on the way to a decisive near five-length success from Buzz De Turcoing.
The winning trainer is already plotting future targets – with Kempton’s Kauto Star Novices’ Chase, also won by Shan Blue last season, perhaps on the agenda.
“He jumped lovely – the more jumps there are and the further he can go, the better,” he said.
“You can see why I waited until he was seven to go chasing – he needed a lot of time to get it all together. Marathon trips will be perfect for him next year.
“We always knew that he would be a three-mile chaser, and we’re delighted with him. That experience will do him the world of good – that was the first time he’s jumped fences on grass.
“I was always half in my mind thinking of the Shan Blue route. Me, Harry and (owner) Darren (Yates) had half made that plan, and I don’t see any real reason to back out at the moment.”
Unexpected Party also won in the style of a promising horse as he justified favouritism at 11-8, on just his third career start.
Skelton has a high opinion of the six-year-old grey, but explained he has not been easy to train.
“He’s a horse that’s always shown ability – it’s very frustrating that it’s taken as long as it has,” he said.
“He was a very fragile horse when he was younger.
“At Bangor (first time out last month), he must have been as fit as I was – because I thought he’d run all right, and he clearly blew up!
“The step up in trip is a big help. I think the race has fallen apart…there’s only two horses have gone away from the field, turning in. But you can’t do more than what he’s done.
“Two years ago, when he was a store horse, he looked like he might be really handy. But things haven’t quite gone his way (since) – maybe that’s the start of something more.”
The Cash Out At bet365 Handicap Chase was one of two Listed features on day one of the track’s Charlie Hall meeting, with Good Boy Bobby a determined winner under Daryl Jacob for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.
Wearing the all-green silks of Jacob’s retained owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, Good Boy Bobby was returning to winning form after seven efforts over fences and hurdles which have yielded a string of placings since his last success 12 months ago.
The eight-year-old was prominent throughout, as he often is, and saw off his rivals one by one to win by a length and a half as the 5-2 favourite, from the staying-on Cracking Destiny.
Jacob said: “He was very good today – Nigel and his team have done a great job with him over the summer.
“Since he’s come back in, he’s been big and bold and fresh.
“I suppose he disappointed us an awful lot last year – but it’s nice that he’s come out and won a really nice competitive pot like that.
“Last year, I thought his second behind Master Tommytucker (at Haydock) would lead on to a really good year – but he lost his form and confidence a bit.”
Harbour Lake made a winning debut in the closing bet365 Novices’ Hurdle, scoring in the famous colours of the late Trevor Hemmings.
Alan King’s five-year-old is just the second horse to win in the hugely successful yellow, green and white, since Hemmings died earlier this month.
Harbour Lake belied his 9-1 starting price with a stylish performance under Tom Cannon to prevail by almost five lengths from Guardino, and racing manager Mick Meagher was impressed.
He said: “We thought he was a nice horse last year. But he had a little setback, and we ended up never running him after being bought for point-to-pointing.
“Kingy’s liked him from day one. If we’d finished in the first four or five today we’d have been happy – but he’s beaten the right three, up there in the betting that finished behind him.”