Graeme McPherson could not hide his delight with the thriving Ratfacemcdougall, who defied a career-high mark to pick up a fifth win of the season in the South West Syndicate Handicap Hurdle in determined fashion at Warwick today.
The eight year old was raised 11lbs by the handicapper for winning a final of the ‘Go North’ series at Musselburgh last month, but he is clearly thriving at the moment and showed plenty of resolve to see off the attentions of the Dan Skelton-trained Supremely Lucky in a tight finish.
And McPherson was thrilled with his charge, who was defeated off a mark 33lbs lower at Hereford at the beginning of the campaign. He said: “We look back in the autumn and he struggled in his first two or three starts, but Max (Kendrick, jockey) has found the key to him.
“He rides him really positively and he’s won here today off 133 having started on 100. That’ll definitely be him now. He’ll have his summer break and fingers crossed we can see a bit more improvement next autumn.
“He’s run over fences in the past – he’s never won over fences – but he’s run well in point to points and I think over fences is where we might have to look next year. We’ve been saying all winter that we’ll go over fences when he finally stops winning over hurdles, so that will have to be next year now!”
McPherson was also thrilled to pass a landmark of his own, explaining: “We’ve had a really good season. We’ve passed the £200,000 mark for jump prize money this year which is the first time we’ve done that so we’re really thrilled.”
Other notable performances on the card included that of Larch Hill, who built on a fine reappearance run to return to winning ways in the Bet At racingtv.com Handicap Chase over two miles.
And while the Jump racing season may draw to a close on Saturday, winning jockey Sam Twiston-Davies is now hopeful the eight year old can go on to have a productive summer.
He said: “He was a nice second last time and was quite keen throughout, so it’s nice he’s got his head back in-front.
“He’ll keep running throughout the summer – he likes a bit of better ground and probably going forward we’ll be a little bit more aggressive next time. I thought there’d be a good bit more pace on paper and he was still quite keen in behind, so we’ll probably go forward next time and hopefully he’ll keep progressing.”
Another horse who could be returning to the winners’ enclosure in the near future is Jaisalmer, who was a decisive nine and a half length winner of the Visit racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle.
His trainer Mark Bradstock is hopeful that there will be similar opportunities for the nine year old in the coming weeks and months. He said: “It was a lovely performance. Jane (Hedley, Clerk of the Course) has done a fabulous job out there and he wouldn’t want it any quicker than that – we went to Chepstow the other day and took him out.
“We’ll find a little race for him and we can always think about going further, perhaps over two and a half or even three miles at some stage, so he should be lots of fun.”
The Gary Moore-trained Sopran Thor, who justified odds-on favouritism to gain a deserved success in the opener, the Join Racing TV Now Maiden Hurdle, will now take a holiday.
Winning jockey Jamie Moore feels that he could make up into a nice chaser in time.
He said: “He’s gone and got the job done today and he can have a holiday now. I do think he’ll be a bit better over fences – we’ll see what dad (Gary Moore, trainer) wants to do but it’s definitely an option for next year. He’s a nice big horse and you’d like to think even just strengthening up over the Summer will help.”
The card was rounded off with a fine performance on debut from the Lucy Wadham-trained Revasser, who put in a professional display to prevail in a thrilling three-way photo finish in the finale, the racingtv.com Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.
Jockey Bryony Frost was delighted with her winner and said: “That was awesome and I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I was under pressure near enough the whole way so it really shows what sort of animal he is in his ability to keep finding.
“I then started to get into top gear and got a bit of a baby wobble around the home bend, but he battled really well for me and there’s loads to like. He’s taking it all in here in the winner’s enclosure and he’s a wonderful horse.”