Following 48 hours on the sidelines, champion jockey Richard Johnson returned to action with a treble at Ludlow on Thursday.
Johnson – as insatiable for winners as his predecessor Sir Anthony McCoy – was in the wars at Fontwell on Monday when he was unseated down at the start, leaving him battered and bruised.
He bypassed meetings at Newcastle on Tuesday and Newbury on Wednesday – but on his return to action it was straight back to business with an all-action effort to get Back On The Lash (4-1) home in the opening Plymouth Carvery Novices’ Hurdle.
Winner of a bumper at the track in May, the Martin Keighley-trained gelding was a promising third on his hurdling debut, but looked booked for a place at best again jumping the last.
Johnson is never one to be easily denied, though, and produced the five-year-old to win right on the line, beating Humble Hero and Ballon Onabudget by a short head, with the pair dead-heating for second.
Keighley said: “He won his bumper around there, so he obviously likes it, but his mare stayed three miles and was very tough so we’ll be stepping him up in trip.
“He’s a nice horse to look forward to. He wouldn’t want really soft ground, so we’ve been lucky at this time of year to get decent ground.”
He added: “We’ll see the best of him in the spring, hopefully, but the owner is abroad at the moment so we’ll make a plan when he gets back. He’s got a bright future.”
Keighley was full of praise for Johnson – but was not too keen on the third leg of the treble, a victory for Henry Daly’s Rapper (11-8 favourite) in the Jubilee Restaurant Maiden Hurdle, as he trained the second, Reve.
“It was a fantastic ride for Richard and then of course he went and won the next two, but I’d rather he hadn’t won on Rapper!” said Keighley.
“I thought Reve was going to get back up, but it wasn’t to be.”
Keighley was also represented in the middle leg of Johnson’s trio, the EBF/Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Mares’ Novices’ Chase, which he won on Little Miss Poet (2-1) for Philip Hobbs.
He ran the decent hurdler Brillare Momento, but she did not enjoy her experience and was pulled up.
“That was her first run over fences and she hated it, we’ll go back over hurdles and there are still nice races for her to run in,” said the Condicote handler.
More Buck’s (8-1) returned to form for James and Peter Bowen in the Phyllis Lewis 1933 Handicap Chase.
Pulled up last time out over the Grand National fences at Aintree, he was much more at home on the quick ground and was left clear by the departure of Whoshotwho at the second-last.
Bridget Andrews was rerouted from Market Rasen to ride Dan Skelton’s horses to replace brother Harry, who was laid low with illness, and she was successful on Gold Chain (2-1 favourite) in the Join Racing TV Now Mares’ Handicap Hurdle and Getariver (4-1) in the closing bumper.
Road To Rome (2-1) booked his ticket for the Cheltenham Festival when winning the Chase Meredith Memorial Trophy Open Hunters’ Chase for Joseph O’Shea.