Willmount made a dream start under rules for Neil Mulholland with an effortless success in the Good Luck “Beep Beep Burrow” Open Maiden National Hunt Flat Race at Doncaster.
The Blue Bresil gelding won his sole point-to-point start as a four-year-old and then changed hands for £340,000 before being sent to Mulholland’s yard.
The 5-2 favourite from a field of 14, the Jamie Moore-ridden bay made light work of both the testing ground and his rivals to saunter home 13 lengths ahead without ever needing to hit top gear.
“He’s a very nice horse, whatever he did today he’ll improve from it,” Mulholland said.
“He’s only a baby but he cost a lot of money so I was a little bit harder on him, trying to get him ready first time out.
“That took the edge off him, so whatever he did today he will improve from.
“He’s a long-term prospect, he won’t be going novice hurdling this year. The owner is very relaxed, he’ll just go in bumpers because he’s just a baby.
“We’d go for one of the good bumpers – I’ll have to talk to the owners, but definitely. Why not?”
Mulholland had another victory on the card with Feel Good Inc, who built on earlier promise shown to land the Betting Better With Sky Bet Maiden Hurdle under Richie McLernon.
The gelding, a five-year-old by Westerner, fell when holding every chance in his sole Irish point-to-point start and was then third on his hurdles debut at Uttoxeter in November.
The form from that race has panned out well, and at Doncaster he was a good winner at 9-1 when finishing a length and a half ahead of Nicky Henderson’s Issuing Authority – the 4-6 favourite.
“He’s a very nice horse and we’ve always liked him, hopefully he can continue on an upward curve,” Mulholland said.
“He’s a big baby but he’s a nice horse. When he was placed last time out, the horse behind him came out and won a Listed bumper and the winner has come out and won since – the form seems pretty good.”
Henderson’s Bold Endeavour claimed another chasing success when taking the Sky Bet Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.
He was trained to bumper and hurdle wins by Laura Morgan before being pulled up on his debut over fences and subsequently moved into the care of Henderson.
His first run for Seven Barrows came in a Leicester handicap chase in early December, where he prevailed by 10 lengths against a field of six rivals.
That performance made him the 5-6 favourite on Town Moor, and under Nico de Boinville he came home seven lengths ahead despite losing ground on occasion with his jumping.
“The ground was plenty soft enough for him,” said the jockey.
“He’s probably also better going the other way round but I was pleased that he knuckled down the way he did.
“They’ve gone a nice, even gallop, everyone was happy with the pace behind me and it suited him to run like that.”
Rose Dobbin’s Aazza was an easy winner of the Taj’s Time To Design ‘Hands And Heels’ Handicap Hurdle under 3lb claimer Dylan Johnston.
The seven-year-old was a 7-2 shot when looking to better a second-placed effort at Newcastle last time out, a run that left her on the same mark of 90 when lining up for this latest assignment.
From a field of 19 the mare was a facile winner, taking an unchallenged lead and crossing line with barely a rival in sight to secure a 20-length victory.
“That was very nice, very nice indeed, she’s a lovely horse with lovely owners,” said Dobbin.
“She’s very genuine. She’s probably going up a stone for that!
“She will go back over fences in spring at Hexham, she likes Hexham and I wouldn’t run her at a big track over fences. I think we’ll stay over hurdles for the moment.”
Hidden Beauty returned to the winner’s enclosure for Fergal O’Brien when triumphing in the Betting Better With Sky Bet Novices’ Hurdle.
The six-year-old won her bumper debut at four and was well-regarded at this point in the season last year, but atrial fibrillation interrupted her progress and she was carried out when making her hurdles debut in October.
A fourth-placed run last time was a step forward and under Paddy Brennan she was a four-and-a-half-length winner at a price of 12-1.
“She’s a very, very nice mare. She was favourite for the Listed bumper at Cheltenham last year and then she suffered from the atrial fibrillation,” said Nick Brown of owners Nick Brown Racing.
“Fergal and the team have done a fantastic job to get her confidence back, that’s what she needed. The quality has always been there, it’s just that she needed the confidence.
“She also needs better ground, when he came here we were a little worried about the ground, but it was more of a confidence builder and it’s all worked out really well.”
The Questioner made his chasing debut a winning one with a hard-fought success in the Sky Bet UKs No.1 Betting App Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Trained by Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero and ridden by Craig Nichol, the chestnut has been progressive in hurdle contests and was the 7-4 favourite to retain that form when tasked with jumping a fence for the first time.
Standing in his way was Charlie Longsdon’s Lyrical Genius, who battled him all the way to the line to miss out by a short head as the rest of the field came home 31 lengths or more behind.
“He was a little bit careful, but as the race went on he built up confidence and he was very good,” said Nichol.
“Once he gets out and gets his space, he’s very good. He just had a bit of a habit of lugging right and today he’s left it behind him a little bit.
“He’s battled, the second horse wasn’t going to let me be. The two of them have had a great battle.”