Alan King was thrilled to see Messire Des Obeaux roll back the years with a heart-warming victory on his debut over fences at Wincanton.
Winner of the Grade One Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury on New Year’s Eve of 2016, Messire Des Obeaux went on to be placed at both the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree the following spring, before injury kept him off the track for almost three years.
His return from a 1034-day hiatus at Huntingdon in February of this year was not devoid of promise, but it nevertheless looked as though his best days may perhaps be behind him.
Back from a subsequent 10-month absence for the Like Racing TV On Facebook Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase, Messire Des Obeaux was a well supported 7-2 chance under Daryl Jacob and fenced fluently throughout the two-and-a-half-mile contest.
He held a clear lead jumping the first fence in the home straight – and while 15-8 favourite Coconut Splash was closing him down on the run-in, King’s charge had enough in the tank to score by two and a quarter lengths.
“That gave me a lot of pleasure,” said the Barbury Castle handler.
“It’s been a long way back, but the team have worked really hard to get to this point, and we’ve felt for some time that he’s retained an awful lot of his ability.
“We’ll see how he is after this race – there are no plans. It was a special moment watching him win today.”
King admits there was a time when he thought Messire Des Obeaux might never return to competitive action.
He added: “He got a tendon injury at Aintree and went back to France afterwards, and it took a hell of a long time to get him back.
“At one stage he was going to be retired, but I pleaded with the owners to send him back to me to see if we could get him back. Thank goodness they did.
“We’ll enjoy today and hope all’s well in the morning.”
Sizable Sam looks a smart recruit for Jeremy Scott, judged on his all-the-way success in the Watch On Racing TV Novices’ Hurdle.
The Warwick bumper winner was runner-up on his hurdling debut at this venue last month, and comfortably went one better in the hands of Matt Griffiths as the 4-5 favourite
Scott, whose former stable star Melodic Rendezvous won an Elite Hurdle and a Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton, said: “The soft ground probably wasn’t ideal, but he’s won in spite of that and hopefully he’s an exciting prospect.
“I’m not sure how much he’ll do this season. All trainers say they’ll be better when they jump a fence, but I think in this case he probably will be.
“It’s nice to have a horse like him.”
Harry Cobden boosted his hopes of being crowned champion jockey for the first time with a treble on the card.
The rider teamed up with boss Paul Nicholls to win with Brewers Project (6-5 favourite) and Friend Or Foe (9-4 favourite) over hurdles, while the middle leg of his hat-trick came aboard Robert Walford’s Flagrant Delitiep in the Use The racingtv.com Tracker Handicap Chase.
With reigning champion Brian Hughes out of luck at Catterick on Tuesday, Cobden closes the gap to seven winners (74 to 67).