Balding the Newbury King
Newbury officials had managed to cover the track in order to beat the freeze on a bone-chilling afternoon, and it was curious to see in the winner's enclosure two names far more familiar with Flat racing.
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Andrew Balding is a fleeting presence on the scene but Chiberta King's third attempt resulted in a wide-margin victory in the Betfred "The Bonus King" Novices' Hurdle.
"He is my string," Balding said of the 8/1 shot.
"We have had some good ones in the past, like Scorned, Briareus and Distant Prospect, but I think I only had a bumper winner last year.
"This horse was Group-placed on the Flat but he was finding it hard to win.
"The main thing was to run him left-handed and get him to jump straight.
"I know he has plenty of experience but I would think Cheltenham will come a year too soon."
The Flat trend continued into the Betfred Goals Galore Handicap Chase.
Loch Ba (8/1) was effectively still giving Henrietta Knight back-to-back victories in the Harwell Trophy, following Glens Boy a year ago, as she is still deeply involved with the yard of near-neighbour Mick Channon, who has taken over the string following her retirement.
"I didn't think he did anything wrong when he was second at Ascot last time. He didn't put a foot wrong here and he jumped great," said Channon.
He deferred plans to Knight, who said: "I think he might go for one of the three-mile handicap chases at Cheltenham."
The thoughtful Harry Fry had already mapped out the rest of the season for Violin Davies (7/4 favourite), who was in a league of her own in the EBF/TBA Mares' Novices' Chase.
"She'll be a very valuable broodmare one day but hopefully there are more races to be won first," said Fry.
"There are a couple more qualifiers next month, and the big mares' race back here in the spring is the target."
Seventh Sign (7/4 favourite), a useful staying handicapper for Tommy Carmody in Ireland, just survived a furious late challenge from another promising newcomer Veauce De Sivola in the Betfred Mobile Lotto Juvenile Hurdle.
New trainer Alan King said: "We gelded him in December and it has been the making of him.
"He was only just ready but I wanted to get him out with the weather that's about at the moment.
"He should be a bit sharper for the experience."
Tom Scudamore kept Vieux Lion Rouge's unbeaten record intact in the Betfred Hat Trick Heaven 'Junior' bumper, but received a four-day whip ban (January 30-31 and February 1 and 3) in the process.
Trainer David Pipe said of the 7/4 favourite: "I was worried this trip would be a bit short as he's an out-and-out galloper.
"He might get an entry at Cheltenham (Champion Bumper)."
Fry and Nicholls' mentor, Richard Barber, prepared Chapoturgeon (4/7 favourite) to take the Betfred "Bonus King Bingo" Hunters' Chase for the second consecutive season.