The going was soft, heavy in places on Welsh Champion Hurdle day, which was mainly sunny. Several promising types won or filled the places in the supporting card. In the chases, the open ditch in the home straight was omitted.
The new Ffos Las jumps season under way with a 3m hurdle and a locally-trained winner. Rebecca Curtis’s strike rate over the summer has been exceptional and Special Princess (11/4 jt fav) was having her first run for the stable after a career consisting of 17 unsuccessful outings under National Hunt Rules and one win from 14 point-to-points. She instantly hit the jackpot, travelling smoothly during the race and coasting into the lead three out. A mistake at the next made no difference and Adam Wedge brought her home three lengths ahead of Rosserk Abbey.
Outsiders produced a close finish to the 2m maiden hurdle for mares. Rosie And Millie took the lead approaching the second last and seemed to have the race in the bag, but her jump to the right at the final flight cost her some impetus. The staying-on Vienna Court (20/1) capitalised on this, grabbing the lead and holding off Rosie’s renewed challenge by a neck. The winner was trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and ridden by Tom Bellamy.
The third race was a claiming chase over 2m4f. Dai Burchell’s King Alfonso (6/4 fav) does well at this level and registered his sixth win in 14 months. He moved ahead at the first in the straight and, with Ennistown only a momentary threat, he galloped on to a seven length victory under his regular pilot, Mr Ben Jones.
David Pipe’s good form at Chepstow last weekend was reproduced by Poker Play (3/1), who won the inaugural Norton’s Coin Novice Chase over 2m5f. A poor jump at the third last, when he was poised to take the lead, was amply compensated by great leaps at the final two obstacles. With Tom Scudamore in the saddle, he stayed on dourly to beat Sensulano by five lengths. He has a pronounced knee action and soft ground will be vital for him to show his best. The Welsh National could be an option one day.
The Welsh Champion Hurdle went to a promising five-year-old who had the benefit of a seven pound claimer on board. Chester Williams, riding Monsieur Lecoq (7/2) for his mother Jane, had to ask his mount for everything to stay ahead of Le Prezien. At the end of the 2m trip he had a short head to spare at the line, the pair having gone clear of their opponents after the last. The runner-up is a good benchmark, having finished second in this race in 2018 to Silver Streak, and he has a Grand Annual win at the Cheltenham Festival to his credit.
Rebecca Curtis completed a double in the 2m5f conditional jockeys chase when Jack Tudor steered Joueur Bresilien (3/1) to a 12 length success. There were five almost in line at the penultimate fence, which Joueur pinged, going from third into a clear lead in half a dozen strides. He finished full of running and is one to watch out for soon under a penalty.
The Pipe-Scudamore team had their second winner of the day when Induno (11/8 fav) took the bumper. Held up until the final furlong, when asked for an effort he accelerated in great style to win by almost three lengths. Mario De Pail and Mille Sussurri ran with promise to take minor honours.