Plans for a tilt at the Betfair Hurdle are likely to be shelved for It’s Good To Laugh despite recording a runaway victory at Catterick.
Rated in the 90s on the Flat, the five-year-old made a winning hurdling debut when dead-heating at Perth in September and followed up with a 10-length success at Hexham the following month.
Having filled the runner-up spot behind Donald McCain’s Barrichello in a Listed event at Haydock, Jennie Candlish’s charge he was the 8-13 favourite stepping down in grade in North Yorkshire.
And while he ultimately got the job done comfortably in the racingtv.com/freemonth Novices’ Hurdle, there were a few scares along the way.
“He’s a fair horse and if he could jump he’d probably be a special horse,” said jockey Sean Quinlan.
The leading rider kept things simple aboard It’s Good To Laugh, sending him straight to the front at outset of the near two-and-a-half-mile contest.
Several untidy leaps kept things interesting, but is testament to his latent ability that he was still 16 lengths too good for previously unbeaten McCain runner River Walk.
Betfair cut the winner to 25-1 from 50-1 for the Betfair Hurdle on February 12, but he looks set to sidestep the prestigious Newbury handicap.
Alan O’Keeffe, Candlish’s assistant, said: “We’ve always thought a lot of him and to win with a double penalty is good.
“I thought Donald’s horse was a nice horse beforehand, so to not really jump a hurdle and win like that was impressive.
“The plan was to come here and get a 5lb penalty and go for the Betfair, but I’d say it’s unlikely the way he jumped today. You can’t jump like that in a Betfair Hurdle, maybe he’s not ready.
“We might look towards Aintree later in the season and try to get his jumping sorted out. He actually schools great at home and we’ve taken him to Warwick three or four times to school and he’s brilliant.
“For whatever reason he seems to get a bit of stage fright when he’s out there, but he’s got the engine and we can work with the rest of it.”
Mick Maestro made the most of having his sights lowered in the Baker Mcveigh & Abbott Handicap Hurdle.
In his last two starts Nick Kent’s inmate had finished down the field in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham and a Musselburgh handicap won by Champion Hurdle aspirant Tommy’s Oscar.
There was nothing of that calibre in this field and despite fluffing his lines at the final obstacle, he had enough in reserve to prevail by a length and a half from Golfe Clair under Charlie Hammond.
“We’ve dropped him back down to a class three today and this is his second win here, which is pleasing,” said Kent.
“I’d felt sorry for the horse actually the last twice as they were two tough races, but he is honest and it’s nice to have him back in the winner’s enclosure.”
Dan Skelton and Bridget Andrews teamed up to land the Free Month Of RacingTV Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase with Soyouthinksoagain.
A winner at Wetherby in October, the seven-year-old disappointed at Lingfield on his next start.
But faced with just two rivals, the 9-4 shot bounced back with a six-length verdict over Thatsy. Odds-on favourite Get Your Own was a disappointing last of three.
“We think the last day might just have come a bit quick after two quick runs,” said Andrews.
“The ground was pretty testing that day. I’m not convinced he wants proper good ground, but he definitely found it easier today to jump out of it today – and the break has definitely helped.”
Sam England’s Manwell (11-2) notched a second course victory in the Try Racing TV For Free Now Conditional Jockeys’ Veterans’ Handicap Chase under Tom Midgley.
Nathan Moscrop was delighted to get the Tim Easterby-trained Relkadam’s (9-2) head in front in the Start Your RacingTV Free Month Now Handicap Chase following successive runner-up finishes.
Moscrop, who needs only one more winner to lose his claim, said: “The last day at Wetherby I made a mistake. I put my hands up and I said to Tim I owed him a winner and thankfully it’s come today.
“The last day I got racing a bit too soon. Today they’ve gone a proper, even gallop and he’s actually snuck into it and it’s worked out, so happy days.”
Latino Fling (15-8) sent favourite backers home happy with a comfortable success in the concluding Racing TV Free For A Month Mares’ Handicap Hurdle for McCain and Brian Hughes.