TEMPERATURES at Bangor-on-Dee race-course plummeted to -6ºC overnight last Thursday, resulting in a series of four inspections taking place prior as the course thawed.
General Manager Jeannie Chantler said: 'We're delighted with the attendance of 2,908 considering the late decision to go ahead, it's always a fine line in these conditions and the skill of the ground staff helped today.'
Leading trainer Paul Nicholls endorsed the decision to race following the 17-length victory of Denman, the 1-12 favourite in the JPCS Novices' Hurdle.
Nicholls said: 'It's beautiful ground, he's wanted a day out and needs some experience, the job's done and he's having a good blow. It's five weeks to Cheltenham, perfect.'
Jockey Christian Williams allowed Denman to gallop into the lead five flights from home and the field was well strung out with second placed, One Sniff, finishing 16-lengths in front of the remainder. Denman is quoted the 3-1 favourite for the Royal & Sun Alliance Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival next month.
Call Oscar provided favourite backers with a quick return when sent off at 85-40 and recording a one-and-a-half length success in the first division of the EBF Fund Novices' Hurdle. Tom Scudamore always had his mount handy, tracking Bumper in the early stages before landing in the lead three flights from home and held the late challenge mounted by Unjust Law.
Despite trainer Tom George being concerned about the ground, Lord Ryeford, ridden by Jason Maguire and sent off at 8-1, ran prominently throughout division two of the EBF Fund Novices Hurdle. The partnership won by one length from Freddie Ed - trained at Threapwood by Richard Bevis.
There was a dramatic finish to the Gredington Novices' Handicap Steeplechase when the two leaders lost their footing at the second last leaving 33-1 outsider Haile Selassie in front. Winning jockey Mark Bradburne, who had diverted from the abandoned meeting at Ayr, said: 'I've done all the schooling on him but I could have done with some company, he idled when left in front.'
The marathon three-mile-six-furlong Cazenove Capital Management Handicap Steeplechase provided excitement in the closing stages. Precious Bane had set the pace and was briefly headed by Chabrimal Minister, who faded from the last bend. Four horses were in contention over the last and Paul Moloney drove the 5-1 favourite Calvic to snatch the race by half a length in the final strides.
Rose Davidson brought the 5-2 joint-favourite Telemoss with a well-timed run to win the Gilbert Cotton Memorial Hunters' Steeplechase by six lengths from Gielgud. Racing closed with the Middleton & Co. Solicitors Handicap Hurdle and a success on the line for 6-1 shot Speed Venture who just touched off Kayceecee by half a length.
The weights for the 2006 John Smith's Aintree Grand National were announced earlier this week. Three Cheshire trained horses appear in the handicap headed by Forest Gunner - fifth last year when ridden by Carrie Ford of Little Budworth - who is set to carry 10st 8lbs. The two entries representing trainer Ginger McCain, who already has four National wins to his name, are Ebony Light also with 10st 8lbs and the hero in 2004, Amberleigh House has 10st 7lbs. The first forfeit stage for the £700,000 race takes place on February 28.