Alan King gasped with relief after Mia’s Storm continued her return to form in the feature OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at Kempton.
The 4-6 favourite took full advantage of eventual runner-up If You Say Run’s difficulty avoiding the temporary running rail after the last, keeping a much straighter line herself to score by two lengths and follow up her victory at Uttoxeter.
King said: “That’s what is called winning ugly, isn’t it? Thank God it didn’t turn into a sprint, because the other horse has probably got more toe – but we’ve won, and she has got the job done.
“I think she was pretty fortunate to win. I think the rail got in the way. It wasn’t run to suit – but she has got some more black type, and it was a good prize.
“I’d imagine we will put her away for the spring now, because she is very ground dependent. Wayne (Hutchinson) is very adamant she should stay over hurdles. I’m sure I will come up with a master plan.”
Dreams of a shot at next year’s Arkle may still be a way off for Chesterfield (4-7), but the eight-year-old took a step in the right direction with a two-length success in the Starlight Brightening Lives Beginners’ Chase.
Winning trainer Seamus Mullins said: “Ideally, we would have liked more runners today to give him a bit of company and cover.
“You always hope that when you have a 140-plus rated horse over hurdles they will progress over fences. Being an Arkle horse is the dream, but we are still not quite there.”
No Hiding Place (13-2) ensured champion trainer Nicky Henderson left the track with a winner from his only runner on a card that is close to his heart – claiming victory by three and a half lengths in the Starlight Happy Memories Handicap Hurdle.
Henderson said: “To be fair to Alan (Doyle, jockey), it was his idea to put some cheekpieces on today. I thought he might have won the other day, but he just ducked in a little bit.”
On the charity in the race titles, which grants wishes to seriously ill children, he added: “Starlight is my charity (as one of two race-day chairmen), so it is nice to have a winner on this day.
“Since I’ve been doing these days, which is about 15 years, we’ve raised over £2million. We’ve had great fun today and raised lots again.”
Only two runners went to post in the opening Coolmore EBF Stallions “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle, but they served up an entertaining finish – with the Philip Hobbs-trained Crooks Peak defeating odds-on favourite Danny Kirwan by three-quarters of a length.
Jockey Richard Johnson said of the 7-4 winner: “It was a very slowly-run race – and as it worked out, it probably suited me rather than the other horse.
“He has won two hurdles and two bumpers now, and he has done very little wrong. I hope he is a horse that will keep on progressing.”
Fairway Freddy may run again on Thursday, after backing up his Wincanton success four days ago as he gave jockey Rex Dingle his first win at the track – by four and a half lengths in the Starlight Children’s Services Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.
Trainer Nick Gifford said of his 13-8 winner: “The first run of the season, he ran with the choke out – so we have changed tactics and let him go, and the rest is history. He is in at Taunton on Thursday, and he might go there.”
Henderson completed an across-the-card double when Thomas Campbell ran out a comfortable winner of the Racing UK Members Beginners’ Chase at Ludlow.
After watching the race from Kempton, Henderson said: “I’m thrilled with him, because he is not a natural-born chaser.
“If there is chaos at home, it usually has something to do with Thomas Campbell – but I love him to bits.”
The six-year-old, a 4-7 favourite to open his account over fences at the second attempt, duly saw off Psychedelic Rock by one and a half lengths.
Henderson added: “He was entitled to go and win that. But the second horse was rated 137, so it wasn’t a formality by any stretch of the imagination.”