A wonderful Saturday of racing left David Ord looking both backwards and forwards as some familiar names shone on the big stage again.
It felt like a throwback Saturday.
Not that Bristol De Mai has any place in rose-tinted nostalgia for bygone days. He’s very much of the here and the now and a three-time Betfair Chase winner.
He’s deadly around Haydock and as the rain fell from late morning onwards, you sensed his rivals were in trouble.
Clan Des Obeaux did his best to hang on in there as the winner poured on the pressure from the front but having almost landed alongside two out, he was fighting a losing battle only three strides later.
Daryl Jacob was a man full of emotion afterwards, struggling to talk Luke Harvey through the race on ITV. Bristol has done an awful lot for his career – as he has the horse’s.
It’s remarkable that Nigel Twiston-Davies’ stable stalwart is only nine years old, and there’s every chance he’ll be back in 2021 to try and emulate Kauto Star by winning a fourth one.
Hopefully there’ll be a crowd there to roar him home and provide the Haydock executive with the challenge of trying to find a spot for a grey statue to sit alongside the one of Kauto.
It’s elevated company for a remarkable horse.
Whether Bristol De Mai scales these heights again this season is open to question – and didn’t matter a jot on Saturday – but it’s a brave judge who thinks Main Fact is done just yet.
He rattled off a remarkable ninth successive victory, six over timber, three on the flat, with his triumph in the Betfair Exchange Stayers' Handicap Hurdle.
He puts his connections – and backers – through the mill in his races. Turning in you had a devil of a job to find him towards the rear of the field as the mud-splattered silks of the riders were pointing towards the judge.
By the last he was rolling with clear blue water in front of him. The well-backed 6/1 favourite Third Wind never had a prayer of repelling the challenge.
A Pipe horse with a string of ones next to its name, winning a major handicap, was commonplace during Martin’s mould-breaking and record-shattering era at Pond House.
It was always going to be an impossible act for David to follow but he continues to unearth gems – few as prolific or progressive as Main Fact, though.
The handicapper will get him one day although connections might not give him the chance as they ponder a career in graded races.
Imperial Aura has made that leap himself – and leaping is what won him the Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase at Ascot. He was brilliant under David Bass, taking lengths out of his rivals at every fence and racing with real enthusiasm up front.
Trainer Kim Bailey sat alone in the stands watching him power home, standing up and heading down to greet his rising star as soon as he saw him safely over the last.
One of the most appealing aspects of jump racing over the years has been seeing the good horses shared around.
In recent times it’s a trend that has been bucked. So much of the firepower nowadays sits with Messrs Henderson, Nicholls, Tizzard, Mullins and Elliott.
Bailey once sat at the top of the tree himself. Don’t forget he remains the last trainer to send out the winner of the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup in the same season.
Those days of Alderbrook and Master Oats seemed a lifetime ago as his numbers declined and owners with big cheque books nailed their colours to other masts. But leaving Lambourn for Thorndale Farm in the Cotswolds reignited the spark.
The comeback continues to gather momentum. Imperial Aura, last season’s Northern Trust Company Novices' Handicap Chase winner, looks a big player in the Ryanair Chase this time around and was made favourite across the board.
First Flow, under another fine ride from Bass, completed a double for the yard in the Coral Hurst Park Handicap Chase.
With recent Cheltenham winner Does He Know among a host of young exciting talent waiting to breakthrough too these are exciting times for Bailey and it’s wonderful to see him back on the big stage.
They say it’s all about looking forwards in this game but Saturday felt like a good day to revel in the present as well as pause and relive some wonderful moments from years gone by too.