There are certain sets of colours that look just right on a certain type of horse and here yesterday there was nothing to displease the eye in the sight of Another Promise winning the Lightning Novices Chase. The eight-year-old is a massive, dark brown individual; his rider Graham Lee was clad in the green and white livery made famous by the late Geoff Hubbard and now maintained by his family.
Hubbard's most celebrated performer was another of the ilk, Strong Promise, who was placed in two Gold Cups. "Geoff always used to say to me that he liked his horses big and black," said Another Promise's trainer Ferdy Murphy, once assistant to the Suffolk-based owner-trainer, "and he'd certainly have enjoyed this one."
Strong Promise's second Cheltenham effort, his third place to Looks Like Trouble seven years ago, was shrouded in poignancy, coming as it did a week after Hubbard lost his battle with cancer. And when the horse himself was killed in a fall at Aintree the following month, the name of the big, black yearling at home was sealed.
Progressive Another Promise - 17 hands, and the rest, high - gets his looks and presence from his grandsire Strong Gale, who was Strong Promise's sire, and is likely to try to bring back memories at Cheltenham, probably in the Arkle Trophy.
Yesterday's Grade 2 contest was a step up in class and down in distance, and he coped with both perfectly competently, value for more than his length success over Rasharrow. With the fence that would have been the last omitted because of adjacent extra-boggy ground (the meeting went ahead only after overnight snow melted) Lee had to keep busy on the long run-in as the 8-11 favourite, who crossed the line with his ears pricked, began to feel that the job might be done sooner than it was.
But there was nothing dishonest about the horse's attitude. "If the last fence had been there he'd have won by two or three lengths," said Murphy. "He'll go to Cheltenham now for one of the novice races. I guess the Jewson will be out as he'll have too high a handicap mark so the Arkle will be the one.
"He's a classy horse who does stay further, and will be ideal for races like the Paddy Power next season. But he doesn't need emptying this year and the Royal & SunAlliance would be too much for a big, growing frame like his. He's inclined to tank a bit - he forgets that to get from A to Z you have to do B, C and the rest in between - and a faster pace over two miles on better ground will be perfect."
Another Promise, who faced only four rivals after the late withdrawal of Royal Shakespeare because of too-soft ground, remains among the Arkle Trophy outsiders. His stablemate Kitski, though, is likely to start favourite for this afternoon's valuable Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park after significant support yesterday.
The rest of the afternoon here belonged to Tony McCoy, who celebrated his return after treatment for a niggling neck injury with a treble on three hurdlers and the confirmation that he will renew his partnership with the king of the species, Colm Murphy-trained Brave Inca, on Sunday in the AIG Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown. "It looks like being the best two-mile hurdle run so far this season," said the Ulsterman, "and he seems to be just getting better with every run, but that's the pattern with him; he's a big- bodied horse. It's very hard to make negatives about him but if there is a little niggle it may just be the soft ground."
McCoy's trio were Buster Hyvonen, Albertas Run and Basic Fact, the last two trained by Jonjo O'Neill, who was also on the mark with Parkinson here and, at Catterick, High Calibre, for a 155-1 four-timer.
At the northern track the former smart hurdler Faasel put his own Arkle Trophy marker down with a smooth eight-length chasing debut victory. The venue was also the scene of a narrowly-averted farce as judge Alastair Stewart called the wrong winner after a tight finish to the North Yorkshire Grand National. Happily, he revised his decision before the "weighed-in" was announced and bets were paid out on horses whose names might have been horribly appropriate. Bang And Blame beat Classic Capers a short-head.
Nap: Captain Marlon