Following a frustrating Christmas period sat on the sidelines, Daryl Jacob returned to competitive action with a win aboard Dragon D’Estruval at Ludlow on Wednesday.
It was Jacob’s only ride at the Shropshire circuit, coming in the green colours of his bosses, Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.
And if there was any doubt about Jacob’s fitness following almost a month out of action with a hand injury, it would have been found out in the Vobe Electrics Handicap Chase, as the 3-1 joint-favourite was pushed all the way to the line by Another Stowaway.
But with the prospect of getting back on his favourite horse Top Notch at Kempton on Saturday, Jacob gained a confidence-boosting success, coming home two lengths to the good.
“It’s always nice to come back with a winner and get the first one out of the way,” said Jacob.
“It’s onwards and upwards from here, hopefully. I badly missed it and I’ve been very keen to get back at it, so I’m just chuffed to be back.
“It’s the worst time of year to be out, it was very frustrating, so I just want to look forwards now – hopefully that’s all in the past.”
Trained by Nicky Henderson, Dragon D’Estruval was winning for just the second time since moving to England in May 2018.
“I don’t think we can get overly carried away with what he’s done, but it was a nice performance, still,” said Jacob.
“The track suited him, he’s a lovely jumper and I thought the cheekpieces really helped him. I think it was a great bit of race planning by Anthony Bromley (racing manager), actually.”
David Bridgwater was singing the praises of Callum McKinnes after outsider of the field Fort Gabriel (16-1) overcame a lengthy absence of 523 days in the Luke Watson Memorial Racing Excellence “Hands And Heels” Handicap Chase.
“He goes very well fresh, this horse, and he’s been in exceptionally good form the past two weeks,” said Bridgwater.
“I’ve been trying to find the best ground I possibly could and we were lucky to hit on a bad race.
“He’d be one to point and steer, perfect for a hands and heels race as he’s very genuine and jumps well. We’ll probably give him plenty of time to get over this.
“Callum gave him a great ride. He used to be with Tom George, but his dad had a share in a horse with us and mentioned on the gallops to me that his lad worked in racing.
“I told him to send him up, I’d let him ride out and I’d tell him if he was any good or not. He came up and we got him going, I think that’s his seventh winner for us.”
Paul Nicholls was on the mark with his only runner of the day as Mick Pastor (6-4 favourite) strolled home in the Join RacingTV Now Juvenile Hurdle.
Philip Hobbs fared even better with a double. Kalooki (11-8 favourite) was allowed to dominate from the front in the Jenkinsons Caterers Maiden Hurdle, while Dolphin Square (7-4 favourite) gave enthusiastic amateur David Maxwell another winner in the Annual Members 2020 Handicap Hurdle
There were two divisions of the mares’ bumper and both fell to promising types.
Venetia Williams took the first with Fontaine Collonges, who defied a penalty on her British debut. Hailing from the family of Grand National winner Neptune Collonges, three miles and fences will be her game.
The second division was won in taking style by Hughie Morrison’s Miss Austen (3-1) who sprinted clear under Tom O’Brien to give Morrison a fourth winner from just his seventh bumper runner this season.
“She’s a quality filly. She looks like a Flat horse, but is bred to be a jumper,” he said.
“You’d have to think about black type after that. It might turn out to be not much of a race, but we’ll find out.
“I’ve got some nice horses this year, so she doesn’t stand out which means you don’t come to the races brimming with confidence.”