It was a day that tugged at the heartstrings.
There was the joy of seeing Goshen roar back to form with a breathtaking win in the Kingwell Hurdle, the Davids flooring Goliaths as Dashel Drasher won the Betfair Ascot Chase and Lord Du Mesnil fought off everything that came at him in the William Hill Grand National Trial at Haydock.
But there was also the despair of losing Sevarano and L’Ami Serge.
The former was on the up going into the Reynoldstown Chase but suffered a heart attack soon after pulling up. He was the type of horse everyone would love to own or train. His best days were ahead of him and his passing leaves a huge hole for Oliver Sherwood’s team and owner Tim Syder.
L’Ami Serge was at the other end of his career. A regular in the big races and a triple Grade One winner, he had been a flagbearer for the double green team of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede. Daryl Jacob unhesitatingly points to the win in the French Champion Hurdle as being his career highlight. His potential had been fulfilled but the sense of loss is no less acute.
It shows how much we have to celebrate the good days – and for Dashel Drasher there should be plenty more to come. He’s threatening to take Jeremy Scott and Matt Griffiths to places few visit having broken Cyrname with a powerful and relentless display.
That rival was on a retrieval mission after his King George flop and was still the joint-highest rated chaser in the country coming into this.
He won the early battle – jumping past the winner at the first – but lost every subsequent one. It always looked hard work for him to maintain the advantage. When it was unequivocally lost down the back straight he was finished. It was over in a matter of strides.
Harry Cobden pulled him up, the trainer’s representative reported a breathing issue had surfaced, and it is back to the drawing board for a horse whose defeat of the previously unbeaten Altior here last season is a fading memory.
Paul Nicholls still nearly won the race with the strong-travelling Master Tommytucker, but from the second last his main chance of success lay with Dashel Drasher’s suddenly errant sense of direction.
He went right and then left, looking for company as we all do on a late winter Saturday evening. He found it after the last – and that was the spur to send him clear again.
Quite where he’ll go now remains to be seen. Despite jumping left many feel he’ll always be best going right-handed but he’s on a roll and surely connections will chance their arm at a spring festival or two.
Richard Hobson plans to do so with Lord Du Mesnil, who looked beaten at least three times down the Haydock straight but the towel was never about to be thrown in.
The closest it came was two strides after the last when Achille found momentum and a withering run that looked set to carry him past the leader. It didn’t. Lord Du Mesnil lowered his head, found more, and won by half-a-length.
Stamina and courage are two qualities you look for in a Randox Health Grand National winner. He has both in spades.
It’s speed and brilliance that are often the magical ingredients for the Unibet Champion Hurdle and all of a sudden they were flowing through Goshen’s veins again.
To be fair we were quick to condemn him on flimsy evidence, a couple of runs on the Flat which bothered connections not a jot, and a blow-out in the Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham.
He had an excuse that day as he pulled way too hard and how he put the memory of it behind him in the Kingwell.
He proved today that he isn’t a one-dimensional tearaway, having been content to take a lead from Navajo Pass until that rival’s legs couldn’t match Brian Hughes’ ambition to maintain a ferocious gallop.
That left Goshen in front on the turn for home and try as he did Song For Someone couldn’t lay a glove on him. In fact the only danger to the leader was Jamie Moore slipping out the side door as he took lingering looks over both shoulders.
After what happened last March no-one would begrudge this team a day of days in three weeks’ time and all of a sudden they’re right back in the mix for a Champion Hurdle.
It’s been a troubled route there but Goshen is again the flagbearer for the second season hurdlers at Cheltenham. The race needed one – it needed him.