Cut The Mustard opened her account for champion trainer Paul Nicholls with victory under Bryony Frost at Leicester.
A Listed winner when trained in Ireland by Willie Mullins, the 10-year-old had run with consistency for the Ditcheat handler in nine prior starts without getting her head in front, but things fell into place nicely in the Visit Racingtv.com Mares’ Handicap Chase.
Having got a nice tow into the race from forward-going pair Grand Turina and Une De La Seniere, Frost made her one ride at the East Midlands venue pay when moving into contention two out aboard the 3-1 chance and staying on strongly after the last to come home two-and-a-half-lengths clear of Henry Oliver’s Reine Fee.
The winning rider was delighted to make her journey worthwhile, with Cut the Mustard – who has run at three Cheltenham Festivals – a favourite of those in Ditcheat.
“It’s a pleasure to get the win with her. It was the perfect race for her – a small field with plenty of pace on the front, so she could warm to her jumping and warm to me,” Frost said.
“She wasn’t as keen early doors as she can be and I kind of made my move a bit sooner than I wanted to. I wanted to grab the rail and I probably got there a bit too soon, but she stuck it out well for me.”
Nelson River made a successful fencing debut when causing a 20-1 upset in the 100% Profits Back To Racing Novices’ Chase.
The better-fancied Nickolson and Stepney Causeway set the early pace, but it was Tony Carroll’s seven-year-old who came home best to record an unchallenged seven-length victory.
It was a welcome return to the winner’s enclosure for the son of Mount Nelson, who last tasted success in the winter game at Cheltenham in December 2018 and went on to be fourth to Pentland Hills in the 2019 Triumph Hurdle.
Carroll said: “I don’t know how good the race will work out, but he’s always been a nice horse. He won a Triumph Hurdle trial and finished fourth in a Triumph Hurdle and then ended up with a mark he found tough.
“So, we’ve been patient with him, he’s schooled well at home and he took nicely to it there. He made a good shape and was sensible at his fences and it didn’t look like he was going to try anything silly.”
As for future targets Carroll was fairly non-committal.
“We’ll make it up as we go along. We tilted at windmills with the Triumph and it sort of spoilt him for a bit and it’s been a long time between drinks, so now it looks like he’s taken to the fences we might just swim around quietly for a while,” he added.
He was partnered by Harry Bannister, who said: “He was the outsider of the four and had a bit to find, but he’d schooled nicely and we’ve long thought he’d go nicely over a fence.
“He has plenty of ability, he’s won around Cheltenham. The handicapper probably hammered him for what he did as a juvenile, but it was great to have him back to winning ways.”
Radetzky March quickly followed up his 10-length Fakenham success with another facile victory in the opening Happy 18th Birthday Georgia Novices’ Chase.
Sent off the 10-11 favourite, Laura Morgan’s charge was given a patient ride by Adam Wedge, before cruising into contention approaching two out. The race was over in a matter of strides once Wedge asked his mount to kick on and he was pushed out for an eight-and-a-half-length victory.
The step up to an intermediate trip has been the making of the gelding, who is another Morgan recruit from the pointing field in Ireland, and the trainer was pleased to finally see her hard work with the seven-year-old paying off.
“He bled quite badly in his bumpers and we treated him for ulcers. Poor Mariane (Pepperdine, owner) has had plenty of vet’s bills, but we’ve got him right and he’s done it really nicely today, he’s jumped superb,” she said.
“He ran five times in Irish points and fell in three of them so he’s finally got his jumping together now.”
Here We Have It (16-5) made it a double on the day for the Melton Mowbray handler when breaking his duck in the Bet At racing TV.com Handicap Chase. The seven-year-old plugged on gamely and jumped bravely when it mattered most for young rider Lewis Dobb.
Morgan also gave an update on one of her stable stars, Socialist Agenda. The six-year-old won three times in bumpers and having got off the mark over timber at Musselburgh last time looks set for another trip north of the border.
“He’s got an entry for the Morebattle at Kelso, but I’d just be a bit wary of the ground there to be honest.
“I’d like to go to the Scottish Champion Hurdle with him and then maybe a trip to Ireland for Galway, so that’s hopefully the plan,” said Melton Mowbray-based Morgan.
Boughtbeforelunch (15-2) made every yard to take the Join RacingTV Now Handicap Chase for Paul Webber, while Alan Hill trained the winner of the concluding Dick Saunders Novices’ Hunter Chase when his Back Bar (7-2) held off Will Biddick’s Hotel Du Nord.