With Paul Nicholls’ assistant Harry Derham set to leave and set up on his own near Marlborough at the end of the season, pupil assistant Charlie Davies will step into the number two role at Ditcheat.
Davies, who previously worked for Jonjo O’Neill and Charlie Longsdon, was on hand at Taunton on Thursday to welcome in Don Alvaro (9-2), who got off the mark at the eighth attempt under rules in division two of the S Roberts & Son Handicap Hurdle, sparking a double for the yard.
Harry Cobden produced the six-year-old ahead of the last flight and held off Justshortofabubble and the staying-on 4-5 favourite Groom D’oudairies, scoring by a neck and three lengths respectively.
Davis said: “He ran quite well twice and he is finally back in handicaps, which are his level. He hasn’t run badly the first two times he’s been in handicaps and I think he’s just found a race that suited him today.
“Possibly two miles and seven furlongs at Exeter stretched him a little bit and two miles and three back here suited him more. ‘Cobby’ was brilliant on him.
“He will jump a fence in time, because he is a brilliant jumper.”
Of his promotion, Davies said: “I take over after the last day of the season. It is a big opportunity and a big job so I am looking forward to it.”
Individualiste (3-1) made all in the Hippychick Novices’ Hurdle to complete the stable’s double.
The ex-French four-year-old was a warm order on his debut for the yard at Musselburgh a couple of months ago, but disappointed.
He made no mistake here, with Cobden keeping it simple and making it four wins on his last four rides following Wednesday’s Wincanton double.
“He jumped very well and he was so straightforward,” said Cobden. “He is the sort of horse who hacks around and uses no energy and jumps economically, which makes them a lot better than they probably actually are.
“But he has done it well. We had the run of the race and he took them off the bend turning and went a few lengths clear and stayed galloping, winged the last – and I think he enjoyed having 10st 2lb on his back! He will be a nice horse next season.”
Davies added: “I think it was a combination of things last time. He is a young horse and maybe he didn’t handle the 10-hour journey. There were a few things we were unhappy with when he came back – his bloods were not quite right.
“He was very disappointing there, as he had shown us plenty at home. Today he has shown us what he can do. He has won really cosy. He will be a real fun horse for the owners.”
Jaytee (6-1) had jumped tentatively when runner-up at Leicester a month ago, but Ian Williams’ seven-year-old was a different proposition here under Will Kennedy, leaping with aplomb to take the Chetwood Wealth Management Handicap Chase by four and a half lengths.
Kennedy said: “I had a fall two days before I was supposed to ride him at Leicester. That day, he jumped a bit sticky. Every time he has done something new, he has always been a bit cautious, so wasn’t completely surprised that day.
“Our plan today was to jump a couple and get into a rhythm and it couldn’t have gone any better. That might be as soft as he wants it.
“I am probably enjoying the winners more as I am not getting them as often. I keep telling the lads to enjoy every winner, because one day it stops.”
Trixter (4-1) earned his first success in three years to give the Tim Vaughan yard a welcome winner, taking the three-mile UK Gun Repairs Handicap Hurdle in the hands of Charlie Price.
Now 23lb below his last winning mark, he had been beaten over 17 lengths at Huntingdon last time after a break.
Price said: “He kept going at the end and it is nice he has won for the owners and the syndicate.
“We have had a tough period, we’ve had a tough couple of seasons, really, but this horse has shown he has still got his winning ways.”
Tom Scudamore timed his challenge to perfection aboard 8-11 favourite Molly Carew in the mares’ handicap chase.
Neil Mulholland’s 10-year-old took time to find her second wind in the extended two-mile-five-furlong event, but Scudamore galvanised her after the last and she wore down Jubilympics in the last 100 yards to win by a neck.
Mulholland said: “She just got going at the end, she looked like she got caught for toe when she entered the home straight. The ground was tacky enough for her but she was genuine. For an older mare, she has run a great race.
He is improving and his jumping is improving. The penny is starting to drop
“I would say she will go breeding at the end of the year. She won the final last year and her last three runs here have been two wins and a third.
“She is entered at Fontwell next week and we can always have a look.”
Philip Hobbs has his string in good heart and Iberio followed up his win here last month off a 3lb higher mark with ease in division one of the handicap hurdle.
Jumping the last upsides Imperial Joe, Tom O’Brien’s mount met it on a stride and powered down the hill to draw three and three-quarter lengths clear.
Of the 5-2 joint-favourite, Hobbs said: “That was good. He stays well. He is improving and his jumping is improving. The penny is starting to drop with him and the cheekpieces in his last two runs appear to have helped him.”