Minella Drama got back on the winning trail with an authoritative display in the Ballymore Sidney Banks Novices’ Hurdle at Market Rasen.
Transferred from its traditional home of Huntingdon following the abandonment of the track’s fixture earlier in the month, the Listed contest has an illustrious roll of honour, with last year’s winner Shishkin going on to win the Supreme at Cheltenham on his next start.
The Donald McCain-trained Minella Drama was the 13-8 favourite in a five-runner field under champion jockey Brian Hughes, having come up narrowly short in his bid for a third straight victory in the Grade Two Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock four weeks ago.
Fitted with a hood for the first time, the six-year-old travelled strongly on the heels of the pacesetting Optimise Prime for much of the two-and-a-half-mile contest, before taking over between the final two flights.
An untidy leap at the last obstacle gave the closing Stoner’s Choice a sniff of success, but Minella Drama had plenty up his sleeve as he passed the post three lengths to the good.
Hughes said: “He’s always been a nice horse, his form’s been solid, you’d have to say. Every run he’s had has stacked up well. The horses he’s beat or that have beaten him have all come out and won and have got good ratings now.
“He’s a nice horse, he’s obviously progressing with every run. He’ll make a nice chaser in time.
“It was only suiting us to run him over two miles because the right races were there. As you can see, he does stay this trip and I dare say he might get three miles in time. We’ll take one step at a time, it’s a nice stepping stone.
“The horse that beat him the first day (Llandinabo Lad) won a Listed race and then the horse that was 12 lengths behind him at Bangor (Ballybegg) has won two since, and we were giving him 7lb. His form is solid.”
Minella Drama is not entered at Cheltenham and when Hughes was asked about the possibility of running at Aintree, he replied: “You’ll have to speak to Mr McCain and the owner about that.
“I just ride them, I don’t place them.”