Many of the riders in action believed that the conditions in East Sussex were as demanding as they had ever known, and many struggled in the cloying ground.
Williams and Coleman would have made it five winners together a week last Sunday had Browns Brook not slipped up on the home bend and Uhlan Bute and Toubeera were able to maintain their excellent strike-rate.
The 8-11 favourite Uhlan Bute took the opening Race Passes At timeform.com Novices’ Hurdle, thwarting the well-backed Raven’s Tower by a neck after good placed efforts at Sandown and Leicester earlier in the winter.
The stewards looked into the ride of amateur Josh Pearce on Spartilla, who was sixth, and decided he had not taken all permissible measures to obtain the best possible placing measures on Dan O’Brien’s gelding. He will be notified of the dates for a ten-day ban.
A match between 1-2 favourite Toubeera and Massannie panned out as expected in the EBF Stallions Mares’ “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle, with David Pipe’s mare missing the kick but soon getting herself back alongside.
Eventually, though, dual novice and bumper Toubeera drew nine lengths clear. “I haven’t always done well here,” said Herefordshire-based Williams. “It’s a long journey and I can remember some long drives home but they offer some very good prize money here.”
Coleman, also reflecting on the double, said: “When the yard’s in form, it’s brilliant, and you wish it lasted 12 months of the year. Venetia and I have always done well at this time of year, and long may it continue.”
Williams and Coleman had the 7-4 favourite for the SIS Live Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase but Saroque was well-held in third behind David Bridgwater’s runaway winner No Buts (11-4). Rider Tom Scudamore said: “It’s very hard to make up ground today so I kept him up front and his jumping won it.”
Meanwhile, Sire De Grugy is one of ten possible runners remaining in Saturday’s Sodexo Clarence House Chase at Ascot.
Gary Moore’s stable star will attempt to land his second Grade One of the season, having already bagged the Tingle Creek in Sprinter Sacre’s absence, while he also benefited at Kempton over Christmas when the current two-mile king was pulled up.
Sprinter Sacre’s trainer Nicky Henderson relies on the veteran French Opera and the Irish challenge is a strong one, with Shark Hanlon’s Hidden Cyclone due to travel after running out of his skin at Leopardstown over Christmas when just beaten by Benefficient in the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase, which followed a big run at Cheltenham before that.
Joining him could be Henry de Bromhead’s Special Tiara, a Grade One winner at Aintree in April, and his stablemate Days Hotel.
Mick Channon is set to saddle 2012 winner Somersby, while Emma Lavelle’s novice Fox Appeal is a fascinating possibility. Kauto Stone, Lancetto and Oiseau De Nuit complete the list.