A venue below the Premier League it may be but, like Leeds United, Plumpton can punch above its weight. The little country course in the northern shadows of the South Downs provides no small test and is a regular nursery for future talent; the last three Grand National winners honed their youthful skills by winning round its tight, tricky, undulating contours.
Eleven months ago the place earned its line in the history books by providing the setting for Tony McCoy's 3,000th career winner and yesterday the gratitude of all involved in jump racing by beating the freeze. It may be the last meeting of its kind for a while, too. Confirmed losses are Lingfield and Wetherby today and Taunton tomorrow; sport at Leicester tomorrow is unlikely; of Wednesday's fixtures Hexham is snowbound and Southwell faces temperatures of minus six; prospects for frosty Ludlow on Thursday will be assessed tomorrow.
Plumpton, though, provided plenty to warm the faithful who turned up for the track's richest day of the season. Principal honours went to trainer David Pipe and rider Johnny Farrelly, who notched a double with smart-looking Notus De La Tour (7-2) in the juvenile hurdle and Master Overseer (9-2) in the day's feature, the £20,000 At The Races Sussex National.
The last-named contest was one of markedly changing fortunes in the home straight. Three fences out Master Overseer forged to the front; two out his momentum disappeared with an awkward leap; by the last 100-30 favourite Tarquinius had regained the initiative and landed clear. At that point their chances were judged, respectively, as 15-1 and 1-5 by those betting-in-running but Farrelly – in the saddle because stable first choice Tom Scudamore was suspended – never gave up and, in the final stride, claimed the prize by a head.
The jockey deflected praise for his efforts. "It wasn't a fantastic ride at all," he said. "All I had to do was keep pushing and shoving. He's very slow but he's fit as can be."
In that case, let the ride of the day nomination go to Liam Treadwell who forced Nomecheki home by a short-head in the novices' chase.
The eight-year-old, always travelling the best of the five runners, took command at the penultimate obstacle only to slip a stride after it and do the splits behind. He not only recovered but overtook the targets in front of him despite his rider having lost a stirrup in the stumble.
Nomecheki carries the colours of one of the country's leading owners, Andy Stewart, who reported that the next run for his Paul Nicholls-trained champion Big Buck's will be the defence of his World Hurdle title at the Cheltenham Festival.
Nap: Danger Mulally (4.05 Wolverhampton)
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