Richmond Lake may have earned himself a place on Donald McCain’s squad for Aintree next month following a dominant front-running display at Haydock.
The seven-year-old carried the colours of the late Trevor Hemmings to a couple of victories over hurdles last season and was runner-up to the top-class Jonbon in a Grade Two at Haydock in January.
His chasing career got off to a fairly inauspicious start at Carlisle in the autumn, but he had since won at Wetherby and finished second at Ayr and he was a 5-2 shot for his return to Merseyside in the Bob ‘Few Scoops’ Kerslake’s 70th Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.
Ridden by Theo Gillard, deputising for suspended champion jockey Brian Hughes, Richmond Lake was sent to the lead from the start of the two-and-a-half-mile contest – and while he showed a marked tendency to jump left, he was accurate enough at his obstacles to keep the pressure on the chasing pack.
Ned Tanner attempted to make a race of it in the straight, but McCain’s charge ultimately had far too many guns and was good value for the winning margin of four lengths.
“That is just him (jumping left). We went to Carlisle for his first run over fences and it was a bit of a horror show to be honest because he does go that way, but he is a talented horse,” said the Grand National-winning trainer.
“I know he went that way again today, but he jumped like a buck and picked up really well.
“He’s got an engine and it’ll be Aintree or Ayr for him now. We’ll get him home and see, but I would have thought it’ll be one or the other.”
Fourofakind provided fledgling trainer Harry Derham with the 10th winner of his debut season in the Haydock Park Welcomes Racing To School Maiden Hurdle.
Previously placed at Taunton and Newbury, the four-year-old was the 4-5 favourite to make it third time lucky on Merseyside and readily pulled 12 lengths clear of his rivals in the hands of Paul O’Brien.
Derham said: “I’m very pleased with how the season is going and I’m extremely pleased for this horse and the group of owners.
“There’s a few professional golfers in there, headed up by Ken Comboy, who is Graeme McDowell’s caddy. I met him at a Pro-Am 10 years ago, we’ve kept him in touch, he said he’d support me when I set up and he did.
“I’m going to take this horse to Ascot on April 2 now if I can. There’s a juvenile handicap hurdle worth a few quid and I feel like a competitive handicap can improve him a bit.”
The Molson Coors Juvenile Hurdle ended up being a match, with Alan King’s Tuddenham Green (evens) readily accounting for the Venetia Williams-trained Jolly Nellerie (4-5 favourite).
Winning jockey Daryl Jacob said: “He’s not a horse for making the running really and he just had a look at the first because of the nature of the race.
“We didn’t know how good Venetia’s horse was, but our horse is a nice stayer and I thought he was good over the last four hurdles.”
Dan Skelton and conditional jockey Tristan Durrell combined to land the Every Race Live On Racing TV Handicap Hurdle with 13-2 chance Alnadam.
Rated as high as 145 over fences at his peak, the 10-year-old made the most of a more lenient hurdles mark of 121 with a two-and-three-quarter-length success over the well-backed Hasty Brook.
Skelton’s assistant, Tom Messenger, said of the winner: “He had a bad fall last season at Perth and took a while to get going this season.
“We’ve gone back over hurdles and he ran much better last time and has done better again. He’s taken a bit of rebuilding this season and it’s nice to see it pay off. He’ll stick over hurdles.”
Equus Dreamer (6-1) galloped his rivals into submission in the Tim Molony Handicap Chase, making much of the running under David Bass and saving just enough to see off 13-8 favourite Your Own Story by half a length.
Kim Bailey’s assistant, Mat Nicholls, said: “He’s never run over three and a half miles before and we said to David ‘make sure he gets the trip’. He was obviously confident!
“He’s always raced behind the bridle and when the second horse came to him, you just suspected he had something up his sleeve.
“He jumps really well and ought to improve, but he does want soft ground.”
Bailey and Bass doubled up with the visored Broomfield Present (8-1) in the Old Boston Handicap Hurdle, while the concluding Haydock Park Racecourse Handicap Chase went the way of Grey Diamond (100-30).