If Kempton's Christmas fixture was largely dominated by Paul Nicholls and his former pupil Dan Skelton, it was left to the in-form O'Brien and Bailey yards to fly the flag for Gloucestershire further afield at Wetherby.
After Storm Bella had left much of Wetherby looking like a tributary of the Don, remarkably the fixture survived with the omission of several fences, for which most jockeys and horses would have been thankful. In conditions all too rare nowadays, (albeit last winter was among the wettest) heavy ground specialists and dour stayers were in their element.
Fergal O'Brien was first to chalk up a winner for the royal county when four year old Lunar Sovereign took it up approaching the last and won by 3 1/4l in the Novices Hurdle. However, as the rain fell again, it was Kim Bailey's First Flow who stuck it out in what looked a gruelling feature Castleford Chase. It may only have been over 2 miles, but led by Dan Skelton's Marracudja, ridden by Bridget Andrews, the placed horses changed positions several times as Jumping and stamina came into play. First Flow lost his position 3 out, rallied and gained the lead 110 yards out before staying on gamely. It looks like a step up to graded company might be on the cards whilst the wet weather continues.
The wet weather put paid to the Harkaway fixture at Chaddesley, hoping that they might have been able to welcome spectators. Pointing looks set for a lean spell without significant travel to the South West or up north. Whilst Larkhill remains on for January 3, the nearest fixture not 150 miles or more distant thereafter is at Cocklebarrow at the end of next month.
STOP PRESS: Racing abandoned due to Virus concerns
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