West Wizard casts winning spell
News of the action from Ffos Las where West Wizard headlined a double for Cardiff-based trainer Paul Morgan.
West Wizard was off the mark for his new trainer
Owner Dai Walters was delighted to see West Wizard return to the winner's enclosure following a smart display at Ffos Las.
The seven-year-old was the subject of extremely positive reports during his younger days with Nicky Henderson and a runaway success on his bumper debut at Kempton did little to dampen the hype.
However, he was beaten at odds of 1/6 on his hurdling debut the following season and had managed just one win since, back at Kempton in May of last year.
Having failed to fire in two starts over fences for Nigel Twiston-Davies last term, West Wizard switched yards for a second time prior to the start of the current campaign and after making an encouraging debut for Paul Morgan when runner-up at this venue last month, he was the 2/1 favourite to go one better in the Volvo Novices' Handicap Chase.
The market leader travelled strongly in the hands of Davy Russell and after moving to the front four fences from the finish, he galloped on to score by four and a half lengths from Bramble Brook.
Walters, founder and chairman of the Welsh track, said: "I was very happy with him today. He was a big talking horse a couple of years ago and hopefully he's on his way back up.
"I think he likes this soft ground. He's had a lot of trouble with his knees and I just think cut in the ground suits him a lot better.
"We don't want to rush him. We'll see where we are in a month or six weeks and then try to find a race for him."
Cardiff-based Morgan completed a double in the very next race as 5/2 favourite Limited Reserve landed the Booker Wholesale Handicap Hurdle under Denis O'Regan.
The Martin Keighley-trained Sporty Yankee was made to pull out all the stops when making a successful start to his National Hunt career in the Celtic Energy Juvenile Maiden Hurdle.
The American-bred three-year-old showed useful form on the Flat for Karl Burke, winning twice.
He was the 6/5 favourite for his hurdling debut and just denied the late charge of Boutan by a nose, with Monday Club a close-up third.
Work still had every chance when unseating his rider two flights from the finish.
"It was never in doubt!" joked Keighley.
"Nothing really went right for him today as he's a horse that really wants a good gallop and likes to come through late in his races, like he did on the Flat.
"The fact he still managed to win today, despite them going slow, is a good sign and hopefully he's a nice horse with a bright future.
"Andrew (Tinkler) was very happy with him and said he'd be a better horse in a better race."
Ben Pauling is hopeful Red Indian can go on to bigger and better things after an authoritative success in the Davies Chemists Novices' Hurdle.
The four-year-old won a Newcastle bumper for Chris Bealby last December before being sold and was third on his first start for new connections at Market Rasen in May.
Pauling said: "We didn't get him until after he won his bumper and he never really shone for us. He was still big, weak and backward.
"We gave him a summer break and he's come back looking a completely different animal.
"We were very happy with him going into today and unusually for one of ours the punters didn't latch on to him. We couldn't believe what price he was.
"We'll see how he comes out of the race, but we'll probably run him somewhere under a penalty. The way he's won today, you'd like to think he'll be capable of winning under a penalty.
"David (Bass) said he has serious gears and when he gave him a squeeze after the last he promptly took off."
Kayf Charmer was a 20/1 winner of the Llanelli Sand Dredging Handicap Hurdle, before Walk On Al obliged as the 9-4 favourite in the Trustmark Design & Print Handicap Chase.
There was a thrilling climax to the concluding bumper, with 12/1 shot I Know U Too Well edging out Tikkanbar by a nose.
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