A CROWD of 5,000 fans and a competitive afternoon’s racing marked the return of the Easter Monday fixture at Market Rasen.
Chairman of Market Rasen Racecourse Colin Booth said: “It’s been eight years since we raced on an Easter Monday at Market Rasen.
“We have been pleased with the crowd, the sun shone and we have had some good racing, we are delighted.”
Someone else pleased with his afternoon’s work was Cheshire trainer Donald McCain, fresh from his Grand National triumph with Ballabriggs at Aintree two weeks ago.
The crowd and the fences may have been smaller, but wins are wins no matter what the theatre.
McCain brought his in form horses to Rasen and landed two winners out of the opening three races.
Flighty, a 3-1 shot, won the opening seller with Adrian Lane on board, though in doing so he had to see off the challenge of 13-8 favourite Diktalina.
After his mount drifted right in the closing stages the stewards cautioned Lane on his future riding. The result stood however.
McCain then produced Our Jim (15-8F) in the third race, which was the first chase of the afternoon, the Atkinson Print Handicap over three miles one furlong.
Our Jim has a reputation of being an ‘in and out’ performer with his jumping far from certain.
The nine-year-old was on song here however, though Oniz Tiptoes, a Rasen regular, looked like offering a challenge two out before blundering badly.
The second race saw the legendary Harvey Smith collect for his trainer wife Sue, who saddled Alta Rock in the Family Enclosure Novices Hurdle.
Only four went to post and 7llb claiming jockey Henry Oliver on board the winner had no trouble easing the 5-2 shot home.
Smith looked like making it a double as the front running Don Castille led much of the way in the Calverts Carpets Novices Handicap Chase.
When the business part of the race arrived however he was watching the action from too far back to have an influence.
The best finish of the afternoon ensued, and a late run from Pyracantha saw the 7-2 shot, trained by Alan Swinbank and ridden by Barry Keniry, get his nose in front of 13-8 favourite Akarshan.
Market Rasen trainer Michael Chapman saw Galley Slave finish third at Warwick last month and here he went one better, losing out in a photo to favourite Pugnacity in the Tattersalls and Rails Bookmakers Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle.
Galley Slave’s career strike rate doesn’t appeal, but he runs honest races and gets a place fairly regularly for his efforts.
The judge called for a photograph and the stewards held an enquiry after the race, but the result stood and it was once again so near yet so far for a win for the Grimsby Town director’s horse.
Pugnacity (9/4F) was ridden to challenge at the last, hung left and just held on from the local horse sent to post at 10-1.
There was also a double in the last two races on the card for Grantham trainer Chris Bealby.
First Bennynthejets, (11-4) with Tom Messenger on board, took the Lincs Tyres Handicap Chase staying on under pressure, and then Benjamin Bittern, (11-4) with 7lb claimer Edward Cookson up, took the bumper.