Hales delighted with winning start for Omar Maretti

Omar Maretti justified stable confidence when making an impressive debut over hurdles at Catterick on Friday.

A dual winner in the point-to-point field, the seven-year-old was a 15-2 chance on his first start for trainer Alex Hales in the Racing TV Profits Returned To Racing Maiden Hurdle.

With even-money favourite Ripper Roo back in third, Omar Maretti engaged in a ding-dong battle with Barrichello halfway up the straight before pulling six lengths clear in the hands of Kielan Woods.

Hales said: “He’s a lovely horse – I’m delighted with him.

“The owner has a lot of point-to-pointers with Dale Peters near Huntingdon. I’ve had him about six weeks, but Dale has done all the prep work with him. He’s a good amateur rider and has a good nursery, so he deserves a lot of credit.

“The owners very kindly sent him to me as obviously there’s no point-to-pointing at the moment and he hasn’t put a foot wrong since he arrived. I’m not saying I knew he would win today, but I knew he wouldn’t be very far away.

“We think a lot of him and hopefully he’ll be able to win under a penalty somewhere.”

Tinnahalla clears the final flight at Catterick
Tinnahalla clears the final flight at Catterick (Tim Goode/PA)

While out of luck with Ripper Roo, trainer Olly Murphy did not leave the North Yorkshire circuit empty handed, having earlier saddled Tinnahalla to win the opening Millbry Hill Juvenile Hurdle.

Fourth and second in his two previous starts over jumps, Aidan Coleman’s mount made it third time lucky with a near three-length verdict over fellow 13-8 joint-favourite Homme Public.

Murphy said: “He’s a grand horse who probably hadn’t done a lot wrong in two starts at Newbury and Kempton.

“He got the run of the race today and did it well.

“He’s a horse who can hopefully keep progressing.”

Silver In Disguise proved too much good for his rivals
Silver In Disguise proved too much good for his rivals (Tim Goode/PA)

There was a thrilling climax to the Celebrate Mary Harle’s 101st Birthday Handicap Hurdle, with Sue Smith’s 7-2 favourite Small Present responding generously to Ryan Mania’s urgings to see off Small Present by a head.

The Tim Vaughan-trained Silver In Disguise (5-1) ran out a 21-length winner of the Working With Kenny Johnson Racing Novices’ Handicap Chase under 5lb claimer Charlie Price, before Venetia Williams and Robbie Dunne teamed up to land the mares’ handicap chase with Quick Wave (4-1).

The final two races went to William Bethell’s Newberry New (13-2) and Ex S’elance (4-1) from Micky Hammond’s yard.

Blank day for British jumps cards on Wednesday

There will be no jumps racing in the UK for a second successive day after Wednesday’s meetings at Wincanton and Catterick were both abandoned.

With Kelso and Leicester’s Tuesday fixtures called off, jumping fans have been starved of action this week.

Wincanton initially inspected at 8am on Tuesday but pushed that back to 4pm as the course showed signs of improvement after a heavy covering of snow which arrived on Sunday.

However, the problem then was that thawing snow left areas of the track waterlogged.

“We held an inspection at 8am and couldn’t pass it due to a lot of snow lying, so decided to go again at 4pm,” said clerk of the course Daniel Cooper.

“We thought we’d be OK – but what has happened is the thaw has created standing water across the track, and the vulnerable areas have quite a lot. Even the areas that tend to be OK are slushy, and we can’t get through that.

“What caused the abandonment is the storing of the snow, and the snow has stayed with us a lot longer than thought. We’ve had everything thrown at us this winter.”

At Catterick, the thaw did not arrive in time – and the fixture was abandoned after a 3pm inspection.

A Tweet on the track’s official account read: “Unfortunately tomorrow’s card has been abandoned. Following 4 nights of hard frost and no improvement in conditions today the forecast slow rise in temperatures gives insufficient time for the track to be raceable.”

British jumps racing is scheduled to resume at Fakenham and Wetherby on Thursday.

But the West Yorkshire track must pass an initial inspection at 9am on Wednesday to assess the thawing of frozen areas of waterlogging in the back straight.

Huntingdon forced to abandon Friday card due to flooding

Friday’s meeting at Huntingdon is the latest fixture to fall foul of the weather due to waterlogging.

The Alconbury brook which borders the course has burst its banks. A precautionary inspection for 4pm on Thursday was initially called just before 8am, but not long after 11am it became apparent racing would not be possible.

Clerk of the course Jack Pryor said: “Unfortunately the brook has burst its banks and as a result the meeting cannot go ahead as the course is flooded.

“The brook bursting is quite a regular occurrence as we are on a flood plain.”

Pryor is also clerk of the course at Market Rasen, who are due to race on Saturday and as yet no problems are anticipated.

“It’s not too bad there. I’ve called it soft, heavy in places this (Thursday) morning, but rain is forecast so it could deteriorate a little bit,” said Pryor.

“At the minute we’ve no concerns.”

Thursday’s North Yorkshire Grand National meeting at Catterick had to be abandoned due to snow.

Officials called a precautionary inspection for 7.30am due to the threat of snow overnight, and clerk of the course Fiona Needham arrived to a wintry scene.

With snow continuing to fall, Needham had no option but to call off proceedings at around 6.30am.

She said: “The snow came in the small hours, I think. We had a covering when I got here just after 5.30am and I was thinking ‘if this turned to sleet, it might go’. Unfortunately, as I went to walk the course, the snow just got heavier and heavier.

“It became obvious the snow wasn’t going anywhere. It’s disappointing, but it is what it is.”

The are no worries at Warwick ahead of the Classic Chase meeting on Saturday.

Clerk of the course Jane Hedley said: “Based on the current forecast we’ve no concerns.

“We’re soft heavy in places at the minute and we’re expecting a bit more rain or maybe sleet, but nothing that should lie – we don’t think.

“Friday is dry, but we are due some rain on raceday, which is annoying more than anything so there’s every chance we could have heavy ground. But it’s not forecast in volumes that concern us.”

Lingfield’s National Hunt meeting on Monday has been called off following a Thursday inspection.

The situation was bleaker still ahead of Newcastle’s meeting on January 20, where the course was partially frozen, waterlogged and under snow. A noon inspection was called, with the inevitable outcome confirmed shortly afterwards.

Both meetings have been rearranged to be run as ‘Jumpers Bumpers’ cards.

Paddy delivers for returning Hogan

Denis Hogan came out of retirement to steer Paddy The Wire to victory in the concluding bumper at Catterick.

The County Tipperary handler announced he was giving up riding after enjoying Galway Festival success aboard Bua Boy at the end of July, in a bid to concentrate on his upwardly mobile training career.

However, Hogan made a surprise return to the saddle at Ayr on Monday when finishing second on Grozni, and extended his stay in Britain by 24 hours to partner Paddy The Wire in the Racing Again 28th December Intermediate Open NH Flat Race in North Yorkshire.

Fourth on his bumper debut at Limerick last month, the 4-1 shot received a patient ride from his trainer before making good headway after the home turn – and he got up late in the day to beat Risk D’Argent by half a length.

Hogan, who has made his mark in the training ranks with the likes of smart sprinters Sceptical and Make A Challenge, said: “I think a lot of people were surprised to see me jocked up at Ayr yesterday and Catterick today, and I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.

“I suppose I’ve missed riding. Since I stopped I’ve been doing a lot of running and keeping fit, and for the last couple of years riding has been more of a hobby for me than anything anyway. Training has been number one, and getting on board one or two was a bonus.

“I still have my licence and I just thought ‘you know what, they’re two bumpers and I’m riding two lots a day, why not have a go?’ If nothing else it keeps my head right, and I find it gives me an extra insight to how they’re going being able to sit on them.”

Hogan has not ruled out riding again, adding: “There’s a chance I might ride one or two over Christmas – and whether I’ll renew my licence next year or not, we’ll see.

“We have a lot more Flat horses than jumpers these days. But of the jumpers that are there, there’s a couple of new ones that could be exciting, so we’ll play it by ear.

“I wouldn’t be able to do this without having a super team around me. I only came over to ride because with a negative (Covid-19) test you now only need to isolate for five days when you go back to Ireland.”