ALL roads lead back to the Betfred Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase at Haydock Park just before Christmas for Enqarde who left a spell in the doldrums behind him when successful in the Ignite Incentives Handicap Chase at Warwick.
After drawing a blank in five starts last season, the Dr Richard Newland trained nine-year-old made his first outing since undergoing a wind operation in the extended three miles and a furlong feature.
Produced by Charlie Hammond to challenge Docpickedme after the last the 10-1 chance got up to score by a head and set up another tilt at the Tommy Whittle, which he claimed back in 2021, on December 23rd.
Charlie Skinner, member of joint owners Off The Clock Partners, said: “He had a wind operation over the summer and he has come right again. He had not been right since winning the Tommy Whittle so that is why he had his third wind operation.
“First time out he is not normally so good so we didn’t have thousands on him! Jumping the last we thought at least he has got third, but he is a really tough horse and he was given a peach of a ride.
“Haydock Park suits him, and I think the plan will be to go back to the Tommy Whittle after that.”
Alan King was handed a boost to his jumps team re-building programme after Helnwein demonstrated plenty of potential after making a winning return in the Watch On Racing TV Novices’ Hurdle.
After describing his team of National Hunt Flat horses from last season as’ the best I’ve had for a long time’ the gelded son of Walk In The Park vindicated such comments in the two mile contest, which the 10-11 favourite secured by a length and three quarters.
King said: “He is a horse that we like, and he has done everything so easily at home. He does everything on the bridle at home and it would have been no surprise if he got beat today as a lot of mine have needed a run.
“He has done a lot of strengthening through the summer and the boys did a great job last season in only letting me run him in bumpers.
“There is a lot more to come from him and he is very much a work in progress. Hopefully he will build on that.
“I think we will stick at two miles for the time being, but he will get further in time. We could look to see if we can find one of those valuable introductory hurdles, but he will need between three and four weeks between his races.
“I needed to find some good horses, but last season’s bumper horses are the best I’ve had for a long time and he is one of the nicer ones.”
Henry Daly felt the pain of fellow trainer Kim Bailey after Rockinastorm (4-1) took full advantage of Hurlerontheditch’s final fence fall to make a winning start over fences in the Visit racingtv.com Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Victory looked to be heading the way of the 11-4 favourite, however after putting in a near exemplary round of jumping in the three mile test the gelded son of Shirocco, who held a commanding lead at the time, parted company with jockey David Bass after crumpling on landing after jumping the last.
Following Hurlerontheditch’s dramatic exit it left Rockinastorm to defeat Pachacuti by a length and three quarters to provide winning jockey Johnny Burke with compensation for treading on him at Uttoxeter last season.
Daly said: “I feel very sorry for Penny Perriss (owner of Hurlerontheditch). To have watched your horse jump around like a good thing for it to then fall at the last is gutting, but this is jump racing and it happens.
“I remember being on the end of a similar result when What’s Up Boys nutted Behrajan in what was the Hennessy (Cognac Gold Cup) at Newbury in 2001.
“As regards to Rockinastorm he has jumped well there. He has schooled well, and he always looked like he would be better over fences.
“I’m pleased for Johnny Burke as well as this horse trod on him at Uttoxeter last season when he unseated him.”
There was further victory on the card for Grade One-winning rider Burke who steered the Ben Case-trained Annie Day (7-1) to glory by a neck in the Racing TV Mares’ Handicap Hurdle.
The colours of 1998 Grand National hero Earth Summit were back in the winner’s enclosure after Supasunrise (4-1) battled his way to victory in the 100% Racing TV Profits Back To Racing Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase.
Faced with challenges on either side of him over the last the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained seven-year-old knuckled down well under Finn Lambert in the two-and-a-half-mile contest to defeat Eurkash by a neck much to the delight of the 10-strong Jump For Fun Racing syndicate.
Twiston-Davies said: “That was good as he really kept on plugging away. The last day at Southwell everything just went wrong, and he was jumping out to the right. We gave him a bit of physiotherapy and here we are.
“I think we could step him up to three miles back on better ground so we have options with him going forward.”