Drum strikes for hot Williams
Venetia Williams has made an unusually swift start to the jumps season proper as Drumshambo became her eighth winner of the month in the Shukers Landrover Novices' Handicap Chase at Ludlow.
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The Herefordshire trainer is not known to be so prolific this side of Christmas, invariably hitting a hot streak in January or February and popping up at the big festivals, and she put it down to several factors.
"When they are running well you want to find some more to enter at home," said Williams of the 5-2 shot, who stayed on three and a half lengths clear of Bennys Quest.
"The wet summer and autumn has helped, as we haven't had to worry about the ground going quick.
"It's also been something of a changing of the guard at home.
"We've got a lot to go novice chasing this season who were always going to be better over fences."
Traditionally a more frequent sighting in the winner's enclosure during November is Nicky Henderson, whose Karazhan (5-2) turned over Charlie Longsdon's 4-6 favourite Spirit Of Shankly in the Bet With The Ludlow On Course Bookmakers Maiden Hurdle.
The recent Bangor scorer was ridden by David Bass, and Henderson's assistant Ben Pauling said: "He was knocked about a bit and forced wide but he has shown plenty of speed there.
"It wasn't a mugs' race with Spirit Of Shankly coming third, and the second (Zarzal) looks a nice horse, too."
Longsdon had been inspecting horses at the sales in Cheltenham and had not arrived in time to see Tidal Way continue his winning education under a penalty in the Stourport High School Juvenile Hurdle.
Sent off the 10-11 favourite after a recent success at Bangor, the grey was never far away from the pace but was kept honest by the attentions of hurdling newcomer and market rival Vasco D'Ycy, eventually proving two lengths too strong.
"He's a tough little horse and Charlie has done well to place him to win a couple of times now," said jockey Noel Fehily.
"He just had a look at the last couple in the home straight but he did it well.
"He has won two, and things will get tougher from now on, but hopefully Charlie can find him another one somewhere."
Evan Williams and Paul Moloney were on song as they claimed a double, starting when Firebird Flyer (9-2) crept through virtually unnoticed in the Weatherbys 2013 Point-To-Point Annual Handicap Chase.
The grey Satou had always been at the head of affairs but had been joined by Ballyoliver turning for home and the pair looked set to settle the feature race between them.
However, Moloney had been sneaking ever closer on the Irish recruit and was in front by the last to march three and a half lengths away from the inseparable other two, who dead-heated for second.
"I got it wrong at Chepstow last time (when second in a handicap hurdle)," Williams said.
"I thought he was a bit slow so I told the jockey to make the most of him, and he told me I was wrong.
"He doesn't have any secrets from the handicapper and I'll give him a few weeks off now."
Moloney later drove out Hold Court (11-4) for a half-length verdict over Enter Paradise in the Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance Introductory Hurdle.
Peter Pritchard hopes Tisfreetdream (28-1) will not be his only horse to have turned a corner as Nico de Boinville helped the veteran gelding to hand the Shipston-on-Stour trainer his first winner in 184 days in the AJA Amateur Riders' Handicap Hurdle.
"We went to Stratford last time with a similar sort of anticipation as today but the ground turned into a bog and it didn't suit him," Pritchard said.
"There wasn't another horse in this field who had finished 13 lengths behind Big Buck's either.
"We've had a virus for two years but they are just starting to show me something now.
"We've only half a dozen these days anyway."
Keiran Burke warmed up for Hunt Ball's run in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday by winning the concluding bumper courtesy of 33-1 chance Big Casino.