Farrelly is Masterful at plumpton
Conditional jockey makes most of Scudamore suspension to power home Pipe's Overseer
With the cold weather biting hard, racing on turf in Britain at the weekend was restricted to Plumpton's popular Sussex National fixture.
It was a welcome respite for National Hunt enthusiasts, and conditional jockey Johnny Farrelly made the most of a suspension to David Pipe's stable jockey Tom Scudamore to display his talents.
The 3lb claimer took the £20,000 feature on Master Overseer, who is now unbeaten in three handicaps this season, after a ding-ding duel with the favourite Tarquinius.
"With Tom suspended, it fills you with confidence when they give you the rides and I'm really grateful to the owners and Mr Pipe," said young Dubliner Farrelly.
"It wasn't a fantastic ride, I just had to keep pushing and shoving."
Recent French purchase Notus De La Tour sparked the brace with victory in the At The Races Sky 415 Novices' Hurdle to stake claim for the Triumph Hurdle.
Pipe said: "I was impressed with him as the second is a decent horse. We haven't had him that long, we've liked him from day one and he's confirmed it. They quickened up turning out of the back straight and I'm sure you'll see lots more of him."
Over here, Cork managed to stage their Saturday meeting after surviving an inspection, although racing was delayed while last minute work was carried out on the track to make sure it was safe and some trainers decided not to run.
The headline horse was Kauto Relko, a half-brother to Kauto Star and owned by Graham Roach of Viking Flagship fame.
He had won impressively last time out and inevitably there was plenty of talk about him prior to his run in the McCarthy Insurance Group Hurdle.
However, despite cutting out the running for most of the race he was a spent force when he came down at the second-last but lives to fight another day. The race was won by Jessica Harrington's Bostons Angel, sent off the outsider of three at 4-1.
"Bostons Angel was doing nothing the whole way around and never picked up the bit at any stage -- that's just the way he is and he won't change," said Harrington.
Cheltenham on New Year's Day was another meeting that needed to survive an inspection - not just one but three.
The last of those came after the first race but over 20,000 people gathered at Prestbury Park were relieved the decision was taken to go ahead after lengthy deliberations.
Some handlers disagreed and fields were depleted, unfortunately Punchestowns was a non-runner in the Grade Two Dipper Chase when only two eventually went to post, with Pipe's Seven Is My Number easily accounting for Pigeon Island.
Jonjo O'Neill's Can't Buy Time gave Tony McCoy a nice winner in the victorchandler.com Handicap Chase and will have the Grand National as his long-term again as the perennial champion searches for his first victory in the race.
O'Neill said: "He fell in the National last year after coming here for the four-miler, but I'd hope he could have another crack at it."
The rest of the card was dominated by Nicky Henderson who despite withdrawing Punchestowns was happy for the rest of his team to run and Radium, Tetlami and Sentry Duty completed a near 75-1 treble under Barry Geraghty
The Freedom Hurdle was supposed to be a match between Pipe's Mr Thriller and former champion Katchit but Geraghty stalked them both and picked them off cheekily in the two-mile-five contest.
"Barry wants to bring him back to two miles, but let's think about it. Where we go we'll have to think, but we really ought to try it (three miles) and we may run him in the Cleeve Hurdle at the end of the month," said Henderson.
Geraghty was just as confident in the ride he gave Tetlami to land the bumper while Radium got the ball rolling with a clear-cut victory in the Cheltenham And Three Counties Race Club "National Hunt" Novices' Handicap Hurdle.
The main talking point to come out of Punchestown's meeting on New Year's Eve was that it was the last time Hardy Eustace would be seen on a racecourse as the dual champion hurdler could only finish second to Footy Facts in the Kathleen Clarke 80th Birthday Hurdle.
"The ground was bottomless and it didn't suit him at all, but he still ran very well," said his trainer Dessie Hughes. "If the ground had been good I'm sure he would have given an unbelievable performance.
"Anyway, even in that ground the fact that he couldn't beat Footy Facts means he won't be able to compete in Grade Ones and there are no other races for him.
"He's been a good tough horse with a lot of class, and a very healthy one too."