No time like the spring as Leader blossoms for Evans
Spring is a time for rebirth and renewal, and the change of season has brought a change of luck for James Evans.
The 2016-17 campaign has been "very poor" in the trainer's own words, as he struggled through autumn and winter without a single winner.
But now the sun has started to shine, the evenings are getting longer and Nobel Leader ended a barren 261 days for Stone Farm in Worcester as he defied topweight in the 1m71/2f handicap chase.
Evans said: "The horses have probably just been a little bit wrong. I've never had it before but many trainers have. They just haven't really been firing.
"It's been very frustrating but you have just got to keep buggering on, as they say."
The trainer was sending out his second winner of the season, having had nine last term, but he is optimistic for the last month of the campaign.
"I've got about a dozen horses in and most of them prefer the better ground so I hope we'll have a good spring," he said.
"It's taken a long time for Nobel Leader to get his confidence. He's been a little bit weak mentally and physically but he does need this ground."
Lad bounces back
Alan Phillips's insurance policy paid a handsome dividend as Boher Lad took the 3m handicap hurdle, 24 hours after falling at the third flight at Plumpton.
"I declared him on the way down to Plumpton yesterday and it's lucky I did!" the trainer said.
"He jumped the hurdle really well but over-jumped and came down. He was caught at the top of the hill, I rode him and schooled him this morning and he was absolutely fine."
No Scottish trip
Each race carried the title grandnational2017.com thanks to sponsor Eddison-Media, but it is the 2018 Grand National at which Michael Scudamore hopes to aim Mysteree.
His Eider Chase winner was runner-up in the Midlands Grand National earlier this month and the trainer said: "We were half toying with the idea of looking at the Scottish Grand National if the ground was soft at Ayr. But that's unlikely now and he's probably finished for the season."
Stablemate Dawnieriver took Scudamore's tally in his best ever season to 24 winners by landing the 3m chase under his brother Tom, but she was left clear by the challenging Make Me A Fortune's fall at the last.
"I think it might have been interesting if the other one hadn't fallen," the trainer admitted.
"Tom wasn't sure how much either of them had left as neither of them had gone for everything. But she's had a great season, she just keeps improving."
Make Me A Fortune's jockey Aidan Coleman had better luck when winning the 2m41/2f mares' novice hurdle on Brillare Momento.
Brillare Momento made no mistake here in the 2m41/2f mares' novice hurdle and trainer Martin Keighley said: "We've always thought the world of her and there is a mares' Listed novice hurdle at Cheltenham in April that's ideal for her."
Quite a character
Fattsota did not win the novice hurdle in the style of a 4-7 favourite but jockey Richard Johnson said: "He made hard work of it but he's a character off the Flat and the most important thing was at the right time he got his head down."
This is his race
Riddlestown repeated his 2016 victory in the hands and heels hurdle - he was 2lb higher in the handicap this time but scored by a ready two lengths.
Thought for the day
Who'd be a punter? Boher Lad's win in Class 4 company will only have twisted the knife for those who backed him into favourite for a Class 5 event at Plumpton 24 hours earlier only to see him fall at the third.