Bumper day for Seven Barrows
A review of the jumpers' bumpers card at Kempton, where Nicky Henderson saddled three winners under different jockeys.
Last Updated: 31/01/14 6:09pm
It poured with rain relentlessly on the outskirts of London but these events have been welcomed by the National Hunt community as they provide some form of competition on an all-weather surface while the grass remains waterlogged, as well as maintaining betting turnover.
The champion trainer used the early heats to get experience into horses which will be next season's novice hurdlers, although one of his jumpers' bumper winners, Sign Of A Victory, could yet make it to Aintree.
Andrew Tinkler and the 13/8 favourite collected with plenty in hand over Supreme Present and Saint Roque.
Henderson said: "He started off finishing fourth over hurdles at Newbury on soft ground and I wasn't sure what to do with him.
"I think he's quite good. He still has his novice status so you don't want to lose that for next year by winning down in the country.
"If he's going to lose it, it wants to be in something worth losing it for."
Henderson took both divisions of the National Hunt Flat Race - conventional bumpers - starting off with David Bass and the 13/2 chance One For The Guv'nr, who foiled the giant Shout It Aloud by a neck.
Clondaw Banker (13/8 favourite), who won an Irish point in November, looked perhaps the better prospect as he was honest from the front under Nico de Boinville and eventually came two lengths away from Molly Cat, who had scored easily at Wetherby three weeks earlier and had made a long journey from Alan Swinbank's stable.
"You could have filled four of these races - there are plenty I wanted to get started.
"(One For The Guv'nr) is a horse who is bred to go jumping and should go on soft ground, but you don't want to start them off on that. He'll do that once more somewhere then we'll put him away.
"Clondaw Banker is ready to go hurdling but I said to Alan Spence (owner), 'Do you really want to win a couple and lose your novice status for next season?'.
"He'll run in one more bumper, I'd think."
"This is just like being here after winning the King George," said Paul Nicholls with a healthy dose of sarcasm as the water dripped from his cap in a deserted winner's enclosure.
At least his Domtaline (4/1) had held off Daymar Bay by a length in a jumpers' bumper for chasers only.
Nicholls said: "It's great for horses like him who are waiting for good ground. He'd go in another of these if there is one."
Gavin Sheehan caught his rivals by surprise when stealing a decisive early lead on Ellnando Queen (8/1) in another novice hurdlers' event.
Trainer Warren Greatrex said: "I really fancied her. She was basically 10lb 'well-in' with the boys. She'll go hurdling again when the ground gets better."
Caulfields Venture, a fairly modest hurdler-chaser for Andy Turnell, was immediately off the mark for Emma Lavelle at 16-1.The best was left for nearly last as Sgt Reckless had what could be his final start before the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle when winning very easily as 15-8 favourite.
Trained by Mick Channon and prepared by Henrietta Knight, Sgt Reckless failed to justify his short price in the Champion Bumper but has always been regarded highly.
"He doesn't want it too soft, as we found when he was third here on Boxing Day," said Channon's son, Michael.
"They'd like us to come back here for the Dovecote but he's an athlete who doesn't carry much condition so he could go straight for the Supreme."
Henderson's Dawalan, a possible Triumph Hurdle or Fred Winter runner and 10-11 favourite, failed by a nose to catch 16-1 shot Pass Muster in the finale.