A decent crowd and a few Cheltenham Festival hopefuls were drawn to the latest County Raceday meeting at Market Rasen on a bleak mid-winter afternoon.
Unusually, all six races were won by favourites with the opening two hurdles seeing odds-on favourites in warm-up mode for greater challenges ahead at Cheltenham next month.
The second of these 2017 midweek racedays began with a Juvenile Hurdle where Domperignon Du Lys (1/4f), trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Daryl Jacob, showed his class.
Richard Johnson had I Wish You Well at the front for most of the trip, but once Jacob asked his mount for an extra gear in the straight he strode away to win while easing up.
Jacob outlined plans for the four-year-old in the parade ring.
“After his win at Newcastle, the run at Cheltenham took a bit out of him and we thought he needed a rest,” he said.
“There are plenty of options ahead. He is entered in the Fred Winter and the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham, and things are coming together nicely.”
The Triumph Hurdle may well be too great a step-up in class, and connections will probably prefer the Fred Winter race in four weeks.
Little Miss Poet (2/5f) gave champion jockey Richard Johnson an easy ride, despite pinging the second-last flight, and won the 32red Casino EBF Mares Maiden Hurdle.
She showed signs of real class in running sixth in a Grade 2 bumper at Aintree last April and, after a lay-off, she won a decent race at Fontwell on her return.
Trained by Philip Hobbs in West Somerset, the five-year-old is another with classier races ahead.
Two races were sponsored by the Trustees of the European Breeders Fund, who plough large sums into racing.
The third race on the card was a qualifier in the Novices Hurdle Series which culminates in a £60,000 final at Sandown next month.
Noel Fehily was on board for trainer Harry Fry as the 9/4 favourite Any Drama controlled the race from the back, and clearly loves soft ground.
He is another with Cheltenham in mind, but Fry will want to see his jumping improve before such a test.
Another interesting race was meet finale, the Hunter Chase, when only three went to post.
The 2016 winner Dark Lover went on to run at the Cheltenham Festival so the 2017 winner Streams of Whiskey could also be one to watch in the future.
None of the county’s trainers had runners at the meeting.
Newstead handler Nick Kent took Gonalston Cloud, winner of the Boxing Day Lincolnshire National at Rasen, to Catterick and was rewarded with a decent second place in a 14-runner chase. Adam Wedge was on board the 9/1 shot.
* The next meeting at Rasen is the Super Sunday feature this weekend.