Keiran Burke is prepared to roll the dice at Aintree with Last Royal, who scooted clear to win in style at Wincanton.
Nick Scholfield had an easy spin on the seven-year-old bumper winner, a full-brother to Champion Hurdler Honeysuckle, who got off the mark at the sixth attempt over obstacles, earning a 42-length success in the the Racing TV Profits Returned Back To Racing Novices’ Hurdle.
His rider kept things simple, making all on the 8-13 favourite to record his 50th winner of the season.
Burke is now eyeing a step up in class and trip.
He said: “Finally the penny is starting to drop. We have just been unlucky. The trainer has found the wrong races for him! He is a proper horse, but he it has just taken us time to figure him out and work everything out.
“Do we run in another one under a penalty or do we step him right up and have a go? The owners and breeders are not too scared to have a pop.
“He is probably better over three miles, so if we do go anywhere, we are going to step him right up and go to Aintree for the three-mile novice hurdle. We are tempted because he has shown us so much at home.
“I think I’ve got it wrong more than anything, and the step up to three miles is only going to be a help. Whether he is good enough for a Grade One or not, we don’t know until we try.
“Whatever he does over hurdle this year, he will make a better chaser next year… hopefully.”
Flagrant Delitief (2-1 favourite) went one better over course and distance than he did last time in similarly easy fashion under Stan Sheppard, taking the Join Racing TV Now! Handicap Chase by 12 lengths.
Though jumping left at a few of his hurdles, the seven-year-old made virtually all the running in the two-and-a-half-mile contest, defying a 2lb hike in the weights.
Trainer Robert Walford said: “He probably ran no better than last time. We were 10 lengths clear of the third when beaten by Native Robin.
“I think he has run to a similar grade. We have been toying with running him over three miles and might go that way in three or four weeks. He only stays.”
Colin and Joe Tizzard did not know a lot about Harlem Soul, a Frankel gelding who had been rated 84 for Mark Johnston on the Flat and had two subsequent unsuccessful runs in novice hurdles for Harriet Brown.
The four-year-old joined the Spurles Farm yard last week and on his first start for the Tizzards, the 11-2 shot upset the better-fancied stablemate Name In Lights (11-10 favourite), but not before almost wiping out Brendan Powell’s mount at the last when jumping violently left.
“He is obviously quite a nice horse,” said assistant trainer Joe Tizzard.
“I think a lot of the second horse and he did it nicely. He settled well. I don’t know a lot about this horse, bar what I had seen in the paper. He joined me last week and came with the entry. So we said we’d give him a run and find out.
“He is obviously quite a nice horse, but I can’t claim any of it because I have only known him for four or five days.”
Of the last-flight incident, in which Harry Cobden did well to straighten Harlem Soul after jumping it, Tizzard added: “It was only his third ever run. He didn’t go left early. He was getting tired perhaps. It was just one of those things. He didn’t do it at every hurdle and kept galloping nicely.”
Cobden recorded a double on the afternoon when Sabrina (13-2) took the Visit racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle for Paul Nicholls.
“She is still quite inexperienced and didn’t jump great. She looked a nice mare when she won her bumper and then had a problem,” said the champion trainer.
“She had a nice little mark today, so if she didn’t win off that, we could have been in trouble.
“Depending on where she ends up, she could have one more run or go to the mares’ EBF novice final at Newbury. That is where she will go if she gets in.
“Hopefully she is improving. It just took her a long time to get over her injury. She is still quite green, but she has been off for a while.
“We thought that she had the world at her feet when she won her Ascot bumper, but then she broke her pelvis and it just took a little while to get her back. To be fair, she hasn’t really liked jumping, as she has been a bit timid. There is still plenty of improvement to come from her.”
Alberic made a successful start to his chasing career with a two-and-three-quarter-length success in the Racing TV Extra Handicap Chase under Tom O’Brien.
The five-year-old, trained by Philip Hobbs, had got off the mark at the 12 attempt when running over hurdles at Huntingdon last time and it was lucky 13 as he jumped resolutely enough, despite appearing to have a few ideas of his own about the game.
O’Brien felt he had leaned plenty in the two-and-a-half-mile contest, however.
He said: “He has jumped really well for his first time over fences and showed great resolution for a five-year-old to do his job like that.
“He is only a baby. He looked to pull himself up a little bit, you could say through greenness. But that is hard-work ground for a five-year-old to slop through that. He did it well.”
No No Tonic sustained a near career-threatening injury after the corresponding race last year, yet the Mark Gillard-trained five-year-old has bounced back in style, taking the Watch Racing TV On Sky 426 Mares’ Handicap Hurdle.
Fergus Gillard decided to kick on down the back straight and held the advantage to win by 11 lengths.
Owner Neville McMullen works in the yard and was delighted with the 2-1 favourite’s success.
He said: “I never thought she would get back on a racecourse. It is absolutely unbelievable. She was badly injured, she has come back and she is a star.
“Unfortunately, she broke out of the horsebox leaving the course and had a deep cut on her back leg.
“For a long time I didn’t think she would even get back to racing. She came back and was an 50-1 Listed third (at Exeter) last time and now she is a winner. It is a great day.”