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Cheltenham winners are elusive for our trainers

The Jumps season stepped up another gear over the weekend with the opening fixture from Cheltenham followed by the same at Aintree. This is a time of high anticipation for owners and trainers as early promise showed at home or in modest largely unpublicized races crystallizes into something more exciting with high value races that promise a slot in the big time come March or April.

Wiltshire trainers were successful over the weekend, but it was Neil Mulholland who may reflect best on the three days. His Kansas City was prominent throughout the Pertemps Network qualifier, and by the last had six lengths over his nearest pursuer. Whilst this had narrowed to three by the line, the objective of qualification is achieved, bringing with it a valuable handicap prize meantime. Kansas City will need to improve to make the cut in March, with an official rating of just 120 before Saturday, but there are plenty of other options at around 3m.

Mulholland was also successful on Sunday at Wincanton, where First Quest was pushed out to an easy win in the concluding conditional riders' handicap hurdle under Hugh Nugent.

Alan King might reasonably have expected Tritonic to be his best chance of the weekend in the Masterson Holdings Hurdle, but he was well held by the Twiston-Davies trained I Like To Move It. After Sceau Royal's win last Sunday, he maintained his Sunday success rate with five year old maiden hurdler Grosvenor Court, who had to work very hard to break his duck in Wincanton's Boden & Daughters Racing Welfare Novices Hurdle, all out to win by a neck. There comes a time when every racehorse has to work hard to be first; let's hope this hard race so early won't leave its mark.

Emma Lavelle was also keeping her end up at Wincanton, where eight year old Irish -bred Irish Prophecy was a 4 1/2l winner of the Desert Orchid Silver Cup, a handicap chase over 3m 2f.

For Pointing fans however, perhaps the most gratifying winner of the weekend was that of midlands-trained Wishing And Hoping, last a winner in a hunter chase at Worcester in May. He's owned by Peter Andrews, a huge enthusiast of the Point-to-Point scene, whom I first came across at Warwick nearly 30 years ago, when his firm stepped up to sponsor the newly inaugurated Kingmaker Chase.

Wishing And Hoping, trained by Mel Rowley, has been campaigned exclusively in Hunter chases and Point-to-Points in the past two seasons to great effect, and rider Alex Edwards, who before going pro rode him in all his Point-to-Points, took advantage of that knowledge to push clear in the Veterans Chase at Aintree, winning comfortably in the end by 8 1/2l.

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