Citizenship shines for Williams
Citizenship continued Venetia Williams' rich vein of form when winning the Exeter Racecourse Wishes You A Happy Christmas Handicap Hurdle.
Under Aidan Coleman, the 12-1 shot came home two and three-quarter lengths clear of Mixologist.
The seven-year-old, running without the headgear he normally sports, upped his game on his second outing since Williams purchased him for 22,000 guineas at the Doncaster May Sales.
The Ross-On-Wye trainer said: "He's a fully exposed handicap hurdler who is now running for The Fizz Fund which comprises four local lady friends of which I am one.
"He used to wear blinkers, but there was nothing I could see to suggest he needed them."
Blue Buttons caused a minor shock when flooring hot favourite Centasia in the Racing Welfare Mares' Novices' Hurdle.
In the Richard Barber colours made popular by Rock On Ruby, Blue Barber relished the ground made extremely testing by an overnight deluge.
Always travelling and jumping well under Noel Fehily, the 13-2 shot skipped away from Centasia on the approach to the final flight before going on to score by four lengths.
Her trainer Harry Fry was delighted while at the same time a shade surprised at the outcome.
He said: "Obviously I am very pleased, and Noel was taken with how much she had improved. This is a bit of payback for her first run back when she was almost knocked over and lost all chance.
"She is a nice mare, going the right way, who will now run through her engagements in mares' races. Noel had the run of things but she travelled up well in that soft ground. It will obviously hold no perils for her."
Amateur Ed Barrett found himself in hot water with the stewards after partnering Party Girls, who finished 11th of the 14 starters.
Barrett and trainer David Pipe were interviewed, with the former stating that he had been instructed to get Party Girls settled, as she is a free-going type, and to do his best. He added that the mare became tired running uphill along the back straight and jumped poorly over the last three hurdles. He therefore felt it prudent to keep a good hold of her head.
Pipe confirmed those were the instructions, adding that he felt Barrett could have made more effort in the latter stages of the race.
The stewards found Barrett to be in breach of Rule (b) 59.4 and guilty of failing to take all reasonable measures to obtain the best possible placing. They suspended him for 10 days on dates to be notified to him by the British Horseracing Authority.
Desert Cry emerged as a workmanlike winner of the Free Racing Tips Graduation Chase after long odds-on Bury Parade - in the silks of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing - planted himself when the tapes went up and refused to race.
Donald McCain's long-distance traveller jumped well throughout under Jason Maguire and stayed on better than Lidar to score by two and three-quarter lengths.
Paul Nicholls was not entirely surprised at the behaviour of Bury Parade but vowed that such antics would ever happen again
He said: "He can be a bit funny and is not the most straightforward, so it wasn't a complete surprise. Sam (Twiston-Davies) said he seemed set to go but then dug his toes in."
Maguire explained that Desert Cry is a much better horse in the mud, saying: "The reason he came down here was to get his ground, he's a much better operator when it's testing."
Nicholls experienced some consolation for the Bury Parade incident when 11-8 favourite Tagrita made all and pulled five lengths clear of his promising stablemate V Neck in the Download The Free Racing UK App Maiden Hurdle.
Tagrita saw out the three-mile trip in the manner of a thorough stayer who should pick up further success in the heart of winter.
Midnight Lira, who had looked set to score when falling two out on her previous start at Taunton, made amends for trainer Caroline Keevil in the EBF Stallions/TBA Mares' Novices' Limited Handicap Chase.
The six-year-old was foot-sure for James Best, and although challenged by both Fair Bramble and Stone Light two out, found much the best on the run in to beat the former by a length and three-quarters.
Keevil was not surprised at the outcome, even though the winner competed from 9lb out of the handicap.
She said: "It's a case of justice being done as she was rather unlucky at Taunton. I knew she would love the track and the testing conditions."
Paddy Brennan excelled on Ballinvarrig as the Tom George-trained runner wore down Ray Diamond and Hollow Blue Sky in the rewards4racing - Rewarding Your Passion Handicap Chase.
In the colours made famous by Grand National hero Lord Gyllene, the Lady Clarke-owned 6YO stayed on the best to score by a length and a half and a neck.