This was an extra meeting, helping to make up for the six days without racing due to equine flu. It was a sunny day, and the going was good to soft, soft in places.
Venetia Williams’s mare Arqalina (5/1) has been slow to come to hand, but today she showed that her close third in her penultimate race was no fluke by taking the 3m hurdle comfortably. She breezed into the lead at the third last flight, and soon after Charlie Deutsch looked behind to see there was nothing else going as well as his mount. With the minimum of fuss she came in five lengths ahead of Cornelius Socks, a nine-year-old having only his sixth race, who plugged on valiantly.
The betting was close for the 3m novices’ chase and the finish couldn’t have been any closer.
Another Venetia Williams mare, Top And Drop (9/2) sauntered into a clear lead on the bend under Charlie Deutsch and seemed to be in control up the straight. However, the Nigel Hawke-trained Alminar (4/1 jt fav) had other ideas. He was seventh, 15 lengths behind the leader at the third last fence, when starting to run on strongly. Encouraged by a never-say-die ride by Mr Kieren Buckley, he made remorseless progress and though Top And Drop rallied, they passed the post together. The judge could not separate them, and called a dead heat.
The Williams-Deutsch combination was in the winner’s enclosure yet again after the 2m hurdle. Nine months off the track had done Bonne Question (17/2) some good, as he recorded his first victory for almost three years. He moved quickly from midfield into the lead on the run to the third last, and easily drew 19 lengths clear of Global Thrill.
There was a good finish to the 2m novices hurdle. The favourite and long-time leader Khage proved difficult to pass, but at the final flight he was joined by the newcomer Yaa Salaam and Dr Sanderson (2/1). It was the latter who finished most strongly. He’d been under pressure from Harry Cobden for some time but stayed on willingly to win by three quarters of a length, extending the fine run of the Paul Nicholls yard.
Molly Carew (4/1 fav) exceeded expectations on her fencing debut at Sandown in December, only to disappoint by unseating next time out. In today’s 2m3f chase she was one of a quartet to go clear on the far turn, and she took up the running after the fourth last. Jumping soundly, she galloped on to a 10 length success for Neil Mulholland and Noel Fehily. Tara Flow, for Williams and Deutsch, was second.
The bumper went to Harry Fry’s King Roland, who had already won one very impressively. The 4/9 favourite made quite heavy weather of it, only getting to the lead with a furlong to go and having to being driven out by Noel Fehily to win by a length. The second, Stick With Bill, had won a bumper here in December, yet was unfancied at 33/1. Three lengths away in third was debutant Shakem Up’Arry, whose owner Harry Redknapp was present.