Can't pass Arthur's at Ludlow
Arthur's Pass staked a late claim to be part of Tom George's Cheltenham Festival squad with victory at Ludlow.
The Slad handler is quietly preparing a decent team for the biggest meeting of the National Hunt season, with the likes of Mail De Bievre, Module and Olofi ready to strut their stuff next month.
A trip to Cheltenham will have seemed a mile away for connections of Arthur's Pass heading into the campaign after he missed last season with injury, but the absence appears to have done him no harm judged on his comeback results.
Following back-to-back triumphs at Leicester in January, the lightly-raced nine-year-old was the 5/4 favourite to beat two opponents in Shropshire and Paddy Brennan was happy to sit last of the trio for much of the two-and-a-half-mile journey.
The jockey made his move at the top of the home straight and he soon put the race to bed, safely negotiating the remaining obstacles to take the prize by an eased-down seven lengths from Kie, with Carrigmorna King third.
Arthur's Pass is a 20/1 shot for Cheltenham's Pulteney Land Investments Novices' Handicap Chase and could creep into that contest with a 5lb penalty for this latest win.
George said: "I'm delighted with him.
"He's done most of his racing over two miles, the step up to two and a half looks to have suited him and he looks as though he'll get a bit further as well.
"He had an injury a year or so ago and for that reason he's quite lightly raced.
"He still seems to be improving and if he gets in at Cheltenham and he comes out of this race in good form, we probably will let him take his chance."
Kellys Brow caused something of an upset when making a winning debut for the Charlie Longsdon team in the Bet At Corbettsports.com "National Hunt" Novices' Handicap Hurdle.
A dual winner for Donald McCain last summer, but pulled up on his final start for the trainer in October, Kellys Brow was a 14/1 shot on his first start for new connections.
He ran out an decisive two-and-a-quarter-length winner from George's Big Society.
Longsdon said: "I must admit I am pleasantly surprised.
"On what he has shown me at home I thought Donald had done very well to get two wins out of him.
"I thought the handicapper probably had his measure, but I was obviously wrong, and he has done it well.
"A lot of ours tend to need the run as well, so I am surprised, but over the moon at the same time.
"We'll see how he comes out of the race. Hopefully he can go on from here."
Renee Robeson's 9/1 chance Grassfinch benefited from an excellent frontrunning rider from Brendan Powell when landing the Best Odds With Corbett Sports Conditional Jockeys' Mares' Handicap Hurdle.
"She's only small but she's very game and her heart is definitely in the right place," said Powell.
"She didn't do a great deal in front, which probably helped in the end.
"I thought it was only a matter of time before one or two would quicken past her on the drying ground, but she kept finding and in the end she did it well enough."
Ballyoliver (13/2) got the better of a protracted duel with Grove Pride to take nearly £10,000 in the Forbra Gold Challenge Cup for the in-form team of Venetia Williams and Liam Treadwell.
Trainer Nicky Henderson and jockey Andrew Tinkler combined to secure the Bet Live At corbettsports.com 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle with 7/4 chance Who's Cross, while the CGA Foxhunter Trial went to 5/2 favourite The General Lee.
Winning rider Jane Williams told Racing UK: "He's a pleasure to ride, he jumps for fun and stays all day.
"I needed to make a real test of it as he needs a proper three miles."
Richard Lee's 11/10 shot Dropzone sent favourite-backers home happy after claiming the concluding @BettingBaron At Corbett Sports Juvenile Hurdle.