Nineohtwooneoh and Harry Cobden clear a fence en route to winning the opening race of the jumps season
Jump racing returned in Britain after a 106-day blank period at Southwell on Wednesday and it did not take long for some familiar names to appear in the winner’s enclosure.
The first race since the return following the coronavirus pandemic went to 11-time champion trainer Paul Nicholls, who sent out Nineohtwooneoh to win the 2m4½f novice handicap chase in the green and gold colours of leading owner JP McManus.
Harry Cobden, the principal jockey at Nicholls’ powerful Somerset operation, was on board and said: “He took a bit of time to warm into it but did it nicely in the end. He was good over the last couple of fences and is one who should go forward through the summer.”
Eleven times champion trainer @PFNicholls has six runners with us today, the opening day of the new jump season, all races Behind Closed Doors and live @SkySportsRacing… pic.twitter.com/vgrs0azf2c
— Southwell Racecourse (@Southwell_Races) July 1, 2020
Cobden added: “It’s great to be back riding and the big guns in Paul’s yard are back in next week so it’s an exciting time. There’s a bit of banter flying around the weighing room even though we are all spread out!”
Two more notable names within jump racing were celebrating after race two, which Isaac Wonder won for Michael Scudamore, whose father Peter was a multiple champion jockey, while the trainer’s grandfather Michael won the 1959 Grand National on Oxo.
Brendan Powell, whose father was also a National hero on Rhyme ‘N’ Reason in 1988, partnered Isaac Wonder, who had an outing on the Flat at Goodwood last month.
Powell, who enjoyed something of an upturn in his fortunes last season when he won the Ultima Handicap Chase on The Conditional at the Cheltenham Festival, said: “He ran well on the Flat the other day so we knew he was fit coming into this. He’s in great form and did it nicely. He’s improved a bit since last season when he had the four-year-old allowance and could go on from here.”
Punters are keen to back the big yards, with money coming for Alan King’s Dino Velvet, who is fresh from a run on the Flat last month and been shortened into 11-2 for the 3.40.
Olly Murphy is looking to start with a bang with a number of strong chances on the opening day. He runs Hunters Call in the 2m4½f handicap hurdle (3.10), making his first start since handing his trainer a first Graded winner at Ascot in December 2017.
The going at the track is good, having been watered to maintain the conditions, and the weather is too, with light clouds and sunny spells.
Richard Johnson has his temperature checked as he arrives at Southwell
Edward Whitaker / racingpost.com/photos
Clerk of the course Paul Barker said: “I’m very pleased with conditions. The weather has been nice for us this week and I’m more than happy with the ground. We may get a little shower during racing but nothing more than that.”
That is good news for the owners who will be allowed back on course at Southwell for the first time since the resumption. There will be two owners allowed per runner, with restrictions on their movements.
Barker added: “Owners will enter through the far turnstile and have a viewing area next to the parade ring, then can go through the food court area for refreshments and have another viewing area out the front in line with the winning post to watch the race.
“There’s points in the owners’ area where they can talk to a trainer or jockey at a safe two-metre distance after the race. With the current climate it’s as good as owners can get but hopefully it proves a good experience as they can be out on course and see their horse race. We have the big screen in action so they can see all that’s going on during the race.”
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