Top Flat recruit Mijhaar impresses on hurdles debut.
There's many a slip twixt cup and lip just as there are plenty of obstacles between now and Cheltenham in March, but the classy Flat-raced five-year-old Mijhaar looked a genuine supreme Novices' hurdle prospect with an easy debut win in the 2m1/2f novice hurdle here.
Formerly with roger Varian and now with John Ferguson's Bloomfields operation, Mijhaar's previous run had been in Ascot's Cumberland Lodge in October and not surprisingly he found this opposition somewhat less taxing.
Not all top-class Flat performers make good jumpers, but he did little wrong and sauntered home under Denis O'regan to score by an easy seven lengths.
his rider said: "he was a Group horse on the Flat and had schooled well, but you never quite know until you run them. I was delighted with him, when I had a look round at the second-last I couldn't believe how far clear I was, he'd done it so easily."
Betfred offer Mijhaar at 25-1 for the Cheltenham race.
Levein sees Flicka fire Former scotland manager Craig Levein was on hand to see Clondaw Flicka, in whom he has a part share, get off the mark in the 3m novice handicap chase. For most of the race it looked plain sailing for him as he jumped really well for Peter Buchanan and came to the last with what looked a decisive advantage.
however, he got the fence wrong, and though headed, he rallied in fine style to go on and win by two and a quarter lengths.
Levein said: "That's my second winner, but I have to admit I was worried!" his winner is trained by Lucinda russell, whose partner Peter scudamore said: "he's only five and really he's too young to be jumping fences, but he's too big for hurdling. hopefully he'll improve as he gains experience."
Ground gamble pays off There was quite a gamble on Off The Ground in the 2m3f handicap chase, with the seven-year-old being backed into 13-8 from 3-1, and it proved inspired money as he romped home by seven lengths without coming off the bridle.
Owned by Axom, he was another winner for trainer emma Lavelle, whose team is in such good form, and he was ridden by Leighton Aspell, who said: "he did that well. The course suited him as it's a big, galloping track with plenty of fences."
Lavelle and Aspell completed a near 7-1 double with Fix It right, who also justified market support when landing the 3m1/2f handicap hurdle. he had to work much harder than his stablemate, though, being ridden out to win by a length and a quarter.
Star's jumping does job The card opened with what appeared to be an above-average novice chase, and the fluent jumping of the Paul Nichollstrained Funny star proved the key, as he always looked to have the measure of ericht, although at the line there was only half a length between them.
The winner was ridden by Nick scholfield and is owned by Barbara and John Cotton, who said: "he jumped well and he's a horse who needs good going like this."