Richard Johnson made it 100 winners for the season as Fair Kate initiated a treble for the rider in the Betway Mares’ Handicap Hurdle at Newbury.
The four-times champion jockey had to be at his strongest to galvanize the Tom Lacey-trained five-year-old home by a neck from rallying runner-up Vienna Court in the extended two-mile contest.
Johnson, who was chalking up a century for the 24th consecutive season, said: “That’s fantastic – it is always nice to get to 100 winners and hopefully there is plenty more to come for the rest of the season.
“It was close enough last season for the title and Brian Hughes is obviously having a great time, but hopefully I can have a good four months and get back in front of him again.
“Getting to 100 winners is always the first target and although I was hoping to get to it before Christmas, it has come just after.”
Johnson was given plenty of praise by Woolhope handler Lacey following the 8-1 shot’s inaugural success.
He said: “She has not set the world alight at home and she was still a maiden until today and she had plenty of goes at it. Hopefully she can progress on from here.
“Richard is different class – he is just so strong. You would rather have him on your side than against you.”
Johnson, who also claimed the Challow Hurdle with Thyme Bay, then struck with the Lacey-trained Dorking Boy (13-2), who took advantage of leader Howling Milan’s final-flight fall to claim the Betway Head Your Hunch Handicap Hurdle.
Lacey said: “Richard felt he would have won if the other had have stood up. The breathing operation may well have helped, but the tongue tie certainly has.
“The handicapper is going to have a fair old say but he loves that soft ground.”
Mister Coffey – a £340,000 purchase back in May – looked a potential star as he initiated a double for Nicky Henderson with a length-and-three-quarters success in the Betway Introductory Hurdle.
Henderson said of the 11-8 winner: “That is going to be a spectacular horse. You could see there that Nico was trying to mind him the whole way round.
“He said he didn’t know he had been in a race. It was a lovely introduction and he has got there on the bridle. He has only just had to squeeze him up and push him out.
“I don’t want to do much with him this season. This is just very small step in what I hope might be long-term thing.”
Burbank (17-2) showed what he is capable of when putting everything together as he battled back from being headed to complete Henderson’s brace with a decisive nine-length victory in the Betway Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Henderson added: “He is a character, but I love him. He has always shown plenty of ability, but I’ve always thought he has been disappointing.
“When he got headed and they went past him I thought ‘that’s the end of you mate’, then he found something else.”
Copperhead (3-1) marked himself out a future Grand National contender with a three-and-a-quarter-length win in the Betway Mandarin Handicap Chase.
Joe Tizzard, son and assistant to winning trainer Colin, said: “He is a progressive young chap that is getting better with every run and who knows where he will end up. He is filling out all the time.
“You would have thought the Grand National would be something we think of long term as he ticks all those boxes.”
Richard Hobson hinted at a trip to Scotland for Defi Sacre (9-4) after the progressive six-year-old survived a stewards’ inquiry to complete a hat-trick of wins when holding on by a short-head from Amoola Gold in the Betway Handicap Chase.
Hobson said: “He travelled with some ease and I was praying James (Best) would send him on and get the race won. His head was in the right place at the finish line.
“We will give him a break now as you can see he had a harder race than before. We might head up to Musselburgh on their trials day.”