Brothers Dan and Harry Skelton tasted Listed success with their smart hurdler Wilde About Oscar and David Pipe and Tom Scudamore celebrated a double as Exeter staged a reduced card of five races on Sunday.
Frost on the chase course had forced the abandonment of the three races scheduled to take place over the larger obstacles, but there were some impressive performances in the four hurdles races and concluding bumper.
In the feature race Wilde About Oscar secured the biggest success of his career by returning to winning ways with a decisive victory in the Listed Bet At racingtv.com Novices’ Hurdle.
The Dan Skelton-trained six year old was pulled up on his Grade One debut in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury but bounced back here to take the feature prize.
Sent straight into the lead by jockey Harry Skelton, the 16-5 chance maintained a healthy advantage throughout the 2m 1f to defeat even money favourite The Glancing Queen by seven and a half lengths.
The winning trainer, speaking away from the track, said: “That was lovely. He showed a good attitude on the ground and his jumping was good, even though he jumped left a little, but we always felt he was up to this grade.”
Wilde About Oscar holds an entry in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at next month’s Cheltenham Festival but Skelton added: “I don’t know what we are going to do next. We will just sit and think for a second.
“If we didn’t think he was good enough for a Cheltenham entry we wouldn’t have given him one and the race is there to have a look at. For a horse to go so well through that ground it gives us plenty of options.”
Meanwhile David Pipe and Tom Scudamore were hailing a double which included victory for another horse who could yet end up at Cheltenham next month, depending on ground conditions.
Brinkley’s win in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle was a second successive victory, after the grey had made his first start over 2m 7f a triumphant one at Wincanton last time out.
Making light work of the testing conditions, the 100-30 chance was determined after the last flight to hold off Tommy Rapper by three and a quarter lengths.
Pipe said: “He is probably a better horse in these conditions. I thought he would win first time out this season but was very disappointing, then he bounced back last time at Wincanton.
“He has always given the impression this kind of trip would suit him but until you try it you don’t know, but he has seen it out well. He will make a smashing chaser.
“He has qualified for the Pertemps Final now but I need to sit and have a chat with the owners if they want to go there or look at something else. If it was like this ground you would have to take a chance but if it was good to soft ground you might miss it.”
Earlier the trainer-jockey combination had teamed up to help Martinhal make it two wins from as many visits to Exeter, with a tenacious front-running success in the opening division of the British Stallion Studs EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle.
Despite being pressed late on by eventual runner-up Solwara One, the 4-1 chance found more when asked by Tom Scudamore to hold on by a head.
Pipe said: “It was a lovely performance and he is a horse we have always liked. He disappointed after his first two runs over hurdles as he never really finished his races but the wind operation has helped him.
“He is a horse with a lovely attitude and has a lovely way about going about things. The second is a decent horse he beat.”
Owners are still having to make do with watching from home as Coronavirus restrictions remain in place, but former Spurs and West Ham manager Harry Redknapp will have been happy with what he saw if watching his Karl Philippe run out an impressive winner of division two of the British Stallion Studs EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle.
The Fergal O’Brien-trained six year old deployed front-running tactics to land this and never saw another rival in the extended 2m 2f contest to coast home an easy 10 length winner.
O’Brien said of his winning 6-4 favourite: “He definitely deserved that. We decided to be more positive on him as well today and the step up in trip has helped him as well. Paddy (Brennan) made a man of him out there today.”
All roads for Karl Philippe will now lead to the Grade Three European Breeders’ Fund Paddy Power ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle at Sandown Park on March 13th, which O’Brien claimed in 2016 with Barney Dwan.
In the concluding bumper - the Get Daily Tips At racingtv.com Intermediate Open National Hunt Flat Race - Thunder Rock ensured the wait was worth it for jockey Adrian Heskin.
With both his other intended mounts, Tamar Bridge and Portrush Ted, declared non-runners on the day it meant the Grade One-winning rider was forced to wait until the concluding 2m 1f bumper before taking to the saddle.
Heskin’s tactic of charting a wide path throughout in search of better ground proved did the trick, with the Olly Murphy-trained five year old moving well into contention before rallying impressively to defeat No Word Of A Lie by a head.
Murphy, speaking away from the track, said: “He is a nice horse. He seemed to do everything a little backwards as he was keen early on but he stayed on well.
“I don’t think you will see a lot more of him this season as he has had a hard race today in gruelling conditions. He will make a lovely novice hurdler and I’d imagine we would start him over two miles as he is a strong traveller but I’d say he wants two and a half (miles).”