One or two thin fields did not spoil an afternoon of competitive racing at Market Rasen.
The opening Racing UK Winter Season Ticket Juvenile Hurdle saw an impressive run from Kasak Noir and an equally impressive ride from Harry Skelton.
They registered a hard-fought win over the John Ferguson-trained Wolfcatcher, the odds-on favourite.
Previously, the duo had teamed up for a winning debut for the Dan Skelton Alcester yard at Newbury and this was a useful follow-up.
The four-year-old could now run in the Fred Winter at next month’s Cheltenham Festival which looms large on the horizon.
The second race was a Class Three qualifier for the EBF Novices Hurdle series.
Odds-on favourite Buttercup, who had Aidan Coleman on board, was looking to get off the mark after an encouraging start to his hurdle career when finishing third at Warwick.
He was off the bridle and beaten three out, however, and it was 40/1 shot Superfection, trained by Donald McCain with Will Kennedy on board, who showed them a clean pair of heals.
The winner had some very modest form in bumpers and it was hard to find a punter who had a winning betting slip for this race.
Only four runners went to post for the EBF Stallions Novices Hurdle Qualifier where Richard Johnson, runaway leader in the jockey’s championship, had the ride on favourite Onefitzall, trained by Philip Hobbs in Somerset.
But Brian Ellison’s Malton stable keeps churning out the winners and here Point the Way (4/1) and Megan Carberry did exactly that, giving the jockey her first win over hurdles.
The Eric and Lucy Papworth Hurdle was claimed by Spencer Lea (9/4) who had been off the track for more than 700 days.
Unfazed by the absence, the Henry Oliver-trained eight-year-old, ridden by James Davies, came from back to front, last to first for his win.
The game and experienced 11-year-old Ivans Back was saddled by Brigg trainer Nick Kent for the fifth race, the ROA/Racing Post Novices Chase.
With Gavin Sheehan on board, the duo led on the first circuit before fading to see the Dai Williams-trained Ballyadeen (5/2) follow up his Boxing Day victory here in style.
Before saddling Ivan, Kent said: “He is getting on a bit now, but he still loves training.
“He is a very game horse, but he burst a blood vessel last time out and we shall just have to see how he goes after that setback.”
The final race, a hunter chase, saw a win for odds-on favourite Dark Lover who also qualified for Cheltenham.
* The next meeting at Market Rasen takes place on Sunday, February 21.