Whether or not it was the change of training ground that did it, Cristal Bonus finally justified his fancy transfer fee at Chepstow yesterday. The six-year-old showed such promise as a youngster in France that his then owners would not let him go for a bid of nearly £300,000 when they sent him to auction.
He was later sold privately for – presumably – something in the same region, but was unplaced in both his runs in Britain last season, albeit being, as it proved, highly tried in races won by Grand Crus and Menorah.
The gelding, who joined Paul Nicholls from Evan Williams during the summer, made an impressive winning debut over fences in the colours of Robin Geffen who, as founder of Cheltenham sponsor Neptune Investment Management, wants runners at the Festival. Cristal Bonus, who jumped with increasing assurance in testing conditions to take a beginners' chase by 25 lengths, now has his hat in the ring for the Arkle Trophy alongside stable-mate Al Ferof and will next test his claims with a leap up in class to the Grade One Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown next month.
The racecourse stewards in Britain may not usually be for turning but further afield discretion, the buzzword in ongoing talks between the authorities and jockeys, can work. Richard Hughes' appeal yesterday against a month's riding ban in India, where he lucratively plies his trade during the winter, was successful after a video replay revealed that his action in elbowing a rival had been to prevent an accident rather than foul play.
Chris McGrath's nap
Tatenen (3.45 Ascot) Won this last year by a wide margin and has edged down the ratings slightly since produced an eye-catching effort on his return to action last month.
Halley (4.05 Haydock) Proven on bottomless ground in his native France, he can be given another chance after unseating early at Wetherby last month.
One to watch
Dream Esteem (David Pipe) Raced too enthusiastically for her own good on her third-placed comeback a week ago and should be more settled next time.
Where the money's going
In next month's Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, Soldatino has been providing the interest in most lists, cut from 20-1 to 12-1.