Our columnist Neil Watson attended Wednesday’s meeting at Haydock.

Eamon An Cnoic last appeared at Haydock on the 17th December 2016 and those like your intrepid reporter who were here for that actually got the chance to see him jump clearly in view unlike that afternoon when the course was completely covered in thick fog as he got off the mark over fences at the second time of asking to land the feature 2m4 1/2f Novice Chase by a rapidly diminishing neck from the game Ballydine back in second.
 Eamon An Cnoic 

The winner failed to complete on his chasing debut at Wetherby 32 days ago but clearly he thought about what he had done on that long journey back to David Pipe’s Nicholshayne stables from North Yorkshire as he jumped well and held together nicely by Tom Scudamore to go in at 18-1, A winner of two over timber he looks suited by fences and could be aimed at something bigger now like the Dipper at Cheltenham on New Years Day or a return trip back here in mid January for the Grade 2 Altcar unless connections pop down the handicapping route with him.

Two other races catered for the novice brigade during the afternoon on what was dubbed “Christmas Party Day”

First up Joke Dancer landed the 2m Novice Hurdle for Sue Smith and Danny Cook very easily in the end as the pair drew six lengths clear from hurdling debutant Niblawi who himself showed some promise that he has a reasonable future in the game, Joke Dancer looks to be getting the hang of things over timber and should make into a good type, The big disappointment in the race from Shivermetimbers who got no further than the first before getting rid of Liam Treadwell.

In the 2m3f Novice Hurdle the racegoers saw a very impressive performance from what could be a decent sort in Ravensdale as he landed a tidy little looking race very nicely, this former Irish point winner made his British debut back in October in a Southwell bumper but was quickly put over hurdles and under Daryl Jacob he had enough in hand towards the finish from the fast finishing Duke Debarry.

Three tricky looking handicaps aimed towards the middle of the road jumpers showed that you don’t need top class horses for top class finishes.

First up at the top of the card saw Jonjo O’Neill Jr show that like his father he has The X Factor as Pop Rockstar hit the right note bang on the line to bag the opening 2m7f Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, Always travelling well he was primed to challenge at the third last and he had a real scrap with Thomas Patrick, So much so that after just being given the verdict by judge Michael Roberts that a stewards was called for but the placings remained unaltered.
 Pop Rockstar

Donald McCain has his string in good form at the moment and Whiskey Chaser proved to be the ideal tonic when he began his first day of term on a winning note under Will Kennedy as he took the Northern Racing Club sponsored staying chase over 2m7f, A runner up in three of his five completed races last season he stayed on very stoutly here and finished over three lengths ahead of Back To The Thatch, In all fairness this is about his level but he might make into one for those Satellite Nationals at some point in this season.
 Whiskey Chaser

Finally the last race of the card which was almost run in near darkness (thank heavens four of the seven runners had yellow in their silks!) went up the M6 to the Nicky Richards yard in Penrith as One For Harry and Ryan Day had a real fight on their hands from the persistent tough nut Tawseef under Abbie McCain but on the run in One For Harry had enough in hand land the spoils in the concluding 2m3f hurdle.

Not the classiest Haydock jumping card in all fairness although the finishes were pretty exciting, next up on Saturday the quality takes a huge step up in class as we head down the East Lancs Road to Aintree for the famous Becher Chase Day with two races amongst others over those big green spruce fences.

Article By Neil Watson – @wattyracing