No quick return for Cyrus as Jefferson maintains hot run
In-form Malcolm Jefferson made it four winners from his last six runners when striking with Kelka and Ryedale Racer, then revealed a potential stable star is at least a month off a comeback.
His Cyrus Darius looked a horse with enormous potential when landing a Grade 2 novice hurdle at Aintree by ten lengths in April 2015, only to be sidelined with a tendon problem after his successful chasing debut at Perth 13 months ago.
Jefferson will not be rushed into bringing the seven-year-old back to action and said: "We took him up to Richard Fahey's for a gallop yesterday, just for a change, and I'd say he's at least a month off a run.
"We couldn't school anything at home because the ground is too firm but he looks great - he'll run when I think he is ready."
Kelka took the maiden hurdle by 17 lengths, but Jefferson said: "I don't think she beat a lot, she had won her bumper well and ran a blinder in her first hurdle race."
Ryedale Racer defied a penalty to win the novice hurdle by 36 lengths, a race in which he had finished second 12 months ago, to make it ten winners in the last nine days for jockey Brian Hughes.
Moon shines bright
Catchthemoonlight is grabbing her opportunity after being given a second chance as a racehorse and won the 2m handicap hurdle under Harry Reed.
"Twelve months ago we actually retired her but Harry has ridden her every day and she has improved," said trainer Lucinda Russell, who also landed the conditional jockeys' chase with Mumgos Debut and the 2m71/2f hurdle with Bescot Springs.
"We've had a bit of a slow start, so it's good to get winning again," the trainer said.
Soft ground meant Hexham attracted more runners than either of the day's other jumps cards yet early afternoon sunshine ensured a healthy crowd.
Among those enjoying the day was Levy Board chief executive Alan Delmonte, who was making his first visit and said: "It's beautiful - as everyone told me it would be.
"They've done a fantastic job with the ground and have been rewarded with good fields, competitive racing and an excellent crowd."
Know sparkles on debut
Sue Smith was delighted to find soft ground for I Just Know, who made a winning debut over fences as he defied topweight in the novice handicap chase by ten lengths.
"It was a bit of a struggle for him over hurdles, but he was always going to be a chaser and this is a lovely place to start," the trainer said.
"I worry what the handicapper might do but I don't think he beat a lot."
Thought for the day
Hexham's propensity for wet weather at this time of year may not thrill the locals or late season holiday-makers, but the resultant soft ground is a godsend for jumps trainers who have been starved of it elsewhere in Britain.