Adrimel continued the impressive start to his career at Haydock in the Listen To Weighed-In On Betfair “Introductory” Hurdle – but he was made to work hard for it.
Trained by Tom Lacey, the five-year-old was winning for the fourth time under Rules from just five runs, with his sole defeat coming in the Champion Bumper.
Sent off the 8-11 favourite under Richard Johnson, he had to be kept up to his work for the whole length of the Haydock straight, but with Ranch Hand and Qualismart disappointing, it was 33-1 Grumpy Charley who kept him honest.
However, Adrimel was almost five lengths clear at the line.
“I was very nervous beforehand as I wasn’t sure Haydock was his track, but when it rained in the morning, it made my mind up and it was the right race for him,” said Lacey.
“He doesn’t have to have it deep, but he handles it very well. He was never going better than he was at the line.
“The way he finished, one would think he wants a step up in trip, but if the Tolworth came up very deep ground he might get away with it and we could think about fitting cheekpieces just to help him concentrate, not because he’s ungenuine.
“There is also the Leamington Spa at Warwick he could go in, so there are options, but he’s a lovely horse to have and I’m very lucky to have him.
“Hurdles are an inconvenience to him, hopefully he’ll be a nice chaser.”
Elsewhere on the card, Venetia Williams was on the mark with Royale Pagaille in the four-runner Back And Lay On The Betfair Exchange Novices’ Chase.
Sent off the 11-1 outsider under Charlie Deutsch, he jumped impeccably until the final two fences, but he still had enough left to see off 6-5 favourite Espoir De Romay, who was conceding 5lb, by seven lengths.
Late Romantic lived up to his name in the My Odds Boost On Betfair Veterans’ Handicap Chase.
Tristan Davidson’s 2018 Peter Marsh winner The Dutchman appeared to have done everything right, only to be caught in the dying strides by Ollie Greenall’s 10-1 chance.
The race was marred by a fatal injury to the 12-year-old Whisper, winner of the 2014 Coral Cup for Nicky Henderson as well as the Liverpool Hurdle twice.
The card was one of four on Wednesday that were among the first sporting events to welcome back limited crowds.
Ben Bramley travelled from North Yorkshire to Haydock and was pleasantly surprised by what greeted him.
Since June 1, aside from two pilot events in September, courses have only been attended by key personnel.
“I don’t think they sold 1,000 tickets, which surprised me, but it’s a really good set-up, a lot less restrictive than what I thought it would be having been to a couple of other courses as an owner,” he said.
“We’re effectively in the same zone as the owners, so the entire left-hand side of the paddock is accessible with good views – all the walkway from where the bookies are to the paddock is accessible.
“All the bars are open, although not selling alcohol. However, I expected a few to have the shutters down and a few buildings closed, but pretty much all buildings are open so it doesn’t feel like you are somewhere you shouldn’t be.
“The signage is very clear, it’s one way up and one way down stairs, it’s really impressive. They’ve made us feel really welcome.
“The whole process has been very straightforward from booking the tickets, getting the QR code – they’ve all been really helpful, quick and slick. We’ve had far more freedom than I anticipated. There are regular reminders over the PA about social distancing which you would expect.
“There are four bookies on the rails and 10 in Tatts. There might not even be that many at a normal midweek meeting. There’s no segregation, so you’ve basically got Premier Stand access.
“I wasn’t sure if there’d be a big roar at the off for the first race, but it was more of a ripple! And given the first race was basically over with a circuit to run, there wasn’t much of a cheer for the winner either, but you can’t do much about that.
“There’s a quiet, sporting crowd, but there’s plenty of staff working and it’s been a really positive day. I didn’t think I’d get a ticket to be honest, but because those in Tier 3 like Manchester can’t go, that probably had an impact.
“The only surprise to me was not seeing anyone have their temperatures taken, but you did have to fill in an online Covid questionnaire to get a ticket, so they were trusting people.”