Prolific Gorta strikes again
Ballybough Gorta registered a fifth win in four months with a determined display in the Hot To Trot Racing Club 2013 Handicap Chase at Haydock.
The point-to-point graduate did not shape with much promise in five starts under Rules for Tom Symonds, but appears to have been turned inside out since joining Pembrokeshire-based Peter Bowen.
A trip to Merseyside represented his stiffest test to date, particularly in the testing conditions.
Although Jamie Moore was hard at work a long way out, 6-1 chance Ballybough Gorta responded to his urgings, staying on tenaciously in the straight to come home with seven lengths in hand over 3-1 favourite Satou.
Bowen said: "We've never run him on that sort of ground before so we were a bit worried about whether he'd handle it, but he's gone through it well.
"He's very genuine and keeps trying and he's done it well in the end.
"He's still only a five-year-old so we'll see how he comes out of the race and go from there.
"He is probably due a break but when they're in such good form, you don't like to stop with them.
"We'll just see how he is."
Caroline Bailey's Noble Legend (11-4) produced a sure-footed round of jumping to make much of the running in the Oakmere Homes Handicap Chase under Andrew Thornton.
Bailey told Racing UK: "He's always taken to the jumping, that's been his strength.
"I think he got a little bit left (in front) and he wouldn't be 100% fine-tuned.
"It's a long season, so hopefully there will be a little bit more improvement there.
"He's definitely improved from last season and I'm delighted."
Odds-on punters got their fingers burnt in the Taylormade Betting Juvenile Hurdle as classy Flat recruit Suraj (4-7) had to make do with a moderate third behind the Donald McCain-trained winner Right To Rule (11-4).
Favourite-backers did get some respite, however, as Nicky Henderson's 30-100 favourite Ma Filleule made the perfect start to her British career with a 12-length win in the bet365 Novices' Hurdle.
San Telm (7-2 favourite) and Tom O'Brien got going late to collar Yesyoucan in the Haydock Park Rio Carnival Christmas Parties Handicap Hurdle.
Tom George and Paddy Brennan combined to take the concluding Geoff Proctor Farewell Handicap Chase with strong-travelling 2-1 favourite Parsnip Pete.