Little Bruce continued the fine recent run of Phil Kirby and Tommy Dowson when going one better than 12 months ago in the Watt Fences North Yorkshire Grand National Handicap Chase at Catterick.
With Sue Smith, responsible for the last four winners, not represented this year, there was space for a new name on the trophy and despite only having his first run of the season eight days ago over hurdles, Little Bruce had no trouble landing 15-8 favouritism.
His task was made a little easier when Brian Boranha tipped up at the final fence, but Little Bruce appeared to be travelling the better at the time and came clear of Sumkindofking to win by three lengths.
“I was worried this was coming too soon after Doncaster the other day, but it looked a good race for him,” said Kirby, who enjoyed good wins over Christmas with Top Ville Ben and Lady Buttons.
“I was tempted to wait for the Edinburgh National next month, but when I saw the entries I just felt he had to be in it. We’ll probably still go to Musselburgh, I don’t think he’s had a hard race there.”
He added: “He’s such a genuine horse, who jumps well. He fell the day at Haydock when the fences were massive, but he bounced back. He won’t be far off a 140 horse now, which if you’d told me that two years ago I wouldn’t have believed you.”
Following wins at Ayr, Taunton and Ludlow already this week, champion jockey Richard Johnson’s tour of Britain saw him register another success when Pileon opened his account in the EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle.
Fourth behind Chantry House on his hurdling debut at Cheltenham, the Philip Hobbs-trained six-year-old justified 4-9 favouritism by six and a half lengths.
“He ran well at Cheltenham first time and he’s done that well,” said Johnson.
“We went a good clip throughout and the second horse (Malystic) is decent.
“Basically he’s a staying chaser for the future, but Philip will probably get him out again in a few weeks.”
Tim Easterby’s Cawthorne Lad (11-4) got off the mark over obstacles at the third time of asking in the Racing To School Juvenile Hurdle for Jamie Hamilton.
Easterby said: “He’s not a bad horse this, if he gets in we’d like to run him in the Fred Winter – he’s that type.
“We could go up to Musselburgh for the Triumph Trial, I think he’d need to win again to get in (at Cheltenham) to be honest.
“He had a bad fall at Ripon one day and poor Rachel (Richardson) got a bad injury from it. He needed time off himself, but give him his due he went and won his next race.”
Rebecca Menzies recently went through the £1million mark in prize-money since taking out her licence in 2013 and the winners continue to flow.
Leading trainer at Catterick for the last National Hunt season, her mare That’s My Dubai fought off Georgian Firebird to win by a neck at 7-1 in the Biggest Ever Jumps Season On RacingTV Mares’ Handicap Hurdle.
“I’m glad the winners are coming again because we had a quiet spell before Christmas when they weren’t quite right,” said Menzies.
“To be fair to her she did run well when others weren’t, but we weren’t sure about the trip today.
“Conor (O’Farrell) gave her a fantastic ride and just crept into it. Hopefully she’ll go for one of those Northern Lights Finals.”
Ask Paddy (5-1) jumped for fun at the head of affairs to win the Meetings That Matter On RacingTV Novices’ Handicap Chase.
A three-time victor over hurdles, he was winning for the first time over fences for the husband and wife jockey/trainer team of Jonathan and Sam England.
“He’s done that nicely and hopefully he can win again, thankfully his owner has been patient,” said Sam England.