A bumper 8,000 crowd in festive mood packed into Market Rasen Racecourse for the traditional Boxing Day meeting.
Highlight on the card was the Clugston Lincolnshire National Handicap Chase run over three miles five furlongs, a true test of stamina in the good to soft ground.
The progressive Merlin’s Wish went to post the hotly tipped favourite in a race for which there were only six runners, and in what was not the most competitive of staying handicaps, he romped home to victory by being an emphatic 25 lengths.
It was a big win for jockey Tom Siddall who got married on Monday.
“He made one blunder, but never anything too horrendous. He stays so well he would get to five miles,” said Siddall.
The opener on the six race card was the 32Red.com Selling Handicap Hurdle with Market Rasen trainer and Grimsby Town Director Michael Chapman bringing his nine-year-old Vogarth across the road from his Willingham Road stables.
The horse was well out of sorts when last seen on the flat and never figured. The winner was 14/1 shot Walter De La Mare with Tom Messenger on board. The six-year-old has been racing on the flat on the all weather tracks and was on a decent mark to start back over hurdles.
Trainer Nick Kent is seeing his stables, off the Cadney Road near Brigg, develop nicely and he had three runners on the afternoon’s card.
Combustible Kate, a seven-year-old, likes better ground, but always runs gamely. So it proved in the Lincs Turkeys Novices Handicap Chase, as with Shaun Dobbin on board, she ran a gutsy race to finish fourth, her fourth such placing in her last four races. The winner though was the impressive top weight Cookstown, (11/1) who had Kielan Woods up.
Woods had his second win of the day in the third race, the Casino Novices Limited Handicap Chase, the first race of the afternoon over the bigger obstacles. There was a pile up on the first circuit with three horses of the five runners falling, including favourite Dreams of Milan.
It left Shockingtimes and Spanish Arch (11/4) as the only two left. The former has had some off days, unseating his rider before falling at Wincanton last time out. He likes soft ground though and followed Spanish Arch home here.
The Garthwest Novices Handicap Chase saw Kent saddle Around a Pound, who has relished trips here at his local course over hurdles in the past. Charlie Deutsch had the ride and Kent decided not to apply cheek pieces after several runs without reward.
This was not a competitive event, but Barenger, (4/1) who had Sam Thomas on board, had the edge. Around a Pound blundered at a fence on the second circuit and never quite recovered.
The final race on the card before the crowd exodus began was the 32Red Handicap Hurdle and with 12 runners it was a very open affair.
Kent sent out his stable star Bowie, a very consistent sort and a course winner, who likes soft ground. Bowie was backed down to 4/1 and gave a good account of himself again behind 14/1 shot Kilflora, ridden by Gerald Quinn.
Kent was pleased with his effort. He said: ”He ran a very game race given that the ground was not quite to his liking, I was really pleased with his effort.”