Cox star is pure poetry
Poet made the perfect start to a new career as he impressed on his hurdling debut at Newbury.
A failed plan to send the horse to stud could have welcome consequences for National Hunt racing.
While trainer Clive Cox is now a fully established name on the Flat, he rode plenty of winners over fences and Poet's new owner and regular work-rider just happens to be John Francome, acknowledged as one of the greatest jumps jockeys in history.
So the recently-gelded seven-year-old was well drilled for his new vocation in the Coolmation Coolmation Maiden Hurdle, receiving a minor fright when fluffing the first obstacle but using his considerable cruising speed to win well.
Poet (3/1) won a 10-furlong Listed race at this course on his most recent appearance in July but encountered far different conditions here with heavy ground and a biting wind.
But he handled it without a problem, with jockey Dominic Elsworth holding him on a tight rein throughout to finish two and a quarter lengths clear in a race which has produced high-class animals like Colour Squadron, Minella Class and Oscar Whisky.
"I'm very pleased for John, who is his rightful owner and has done all of the schooling," said Cox, who has Poet registered under the name of his wife, Tina, and has Francome as his landlord.
"He used to be a major handful, which, to be honest, is why he didn't end up being a stallion.
"I'm pleased he has been able to have an alternative career, and he looked like he's good at it, too.
"He has done so well since he has been gelded and we can now look at making a more ambitious plan."
Tim Vaughan and owner Carl Hinchy are already struggling to keep a lid on their enthusiasm about Swnymor, who took the Blackmore Building Juvenile Hurdle by a wide margin.
Rated in the high 80s for William Haggas on the Flat, the stable were clearly not short of confidence as he went off the 4/6 favourite.
"I'm delighted, but relieved as well," said Vaughan.
"Where we go now, I don't know. Maybe we'll do the same job again under a penalty or we could look at Cheltenham at the end of January.
"You'd hope he would end up in the Triumph Hurdle but we'll try not to get too carried away yet."
Robin Dickin was relieved to see stable star Restless Harry (5/4 favourite) off the mark for the season in the Alice & George & Terry Peak Graduation Chase.
A class act on his day in staying hurdles, Restless Harry has still to shine as brightly over fences and will face more serious examinations of his credibility early next year.
"He jumped really well, he just took a look at the ditches," said Dickin.
"He's had problems with his muscles, it might have been that at Ascot last time, but he finished so tired on his first start this season at Wetherby, and he has never done that before.
"I think he will now run in the valuable three-mile and five handicap chase at Warwick on January 12 and then maybe the four-miler at Cheltenham, although I won't rule the World Hurdle out yet."
Handy Andy's fine third behind Rolling Aces at the Hennessy meeting set him up to claim the First Great Western Novices' Limited Handicap Chase as 9/4 favourite.
"I really fancied him today," said trainer Colin Tizzard.
"He'll go up a bit for that, and we could come back here for the Mandarin Handicap Chase."
Robbie Dunne performed perhaps the recovery of the season on Rigadin De Beauchene at the last meeting and was not required to be quite as adhesive when driving the Venetia Williams-trained stablemate Sustainability (7/2) home in the Powersolve Electronics Greatwood Charity Handicap Chase.
Uxizandre (5/1), who was third on his debut for Alan King at Market Rasen, put things right in the British Stallion Studs EBF "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle (Qualifier).
Anthony Bromley, of owners Million In Mind Partnership, said: "Alan was disappointed he got beaten last time but he's a nice horse and will be aimed towards the final of this race."
Brendan Powell's Reach The Beach (10/1) kept her unbeaten record intact in the EBF Kentford Racing bumper for junior fillies.