Trainer Sam Thomas signalled his string has returned to form with a double of successes at Chepstow.
The trainer has not been saddling runners throughout the summer as his yard was hit by a virus, but that drought came to an end on Friday when Alfie’s Princess won well on the first day of the Welsh track’s two-day meeting.
Thomas was then in the money twice more on Saturday courtesy of Stolen Silver and Al Dancer, both wide-margin winners in their respective races.
Firstly Stolen Silver ran away with the Native River Handicap Chase over a trip just shy of three miles, carrying Sam Twiston-Davies to a six-length victory at 4-1 on his first run of the term.
Thomas told Sky Sports Racing: “We almost put the gun to his head, running him over two and a half (miles) in those nice Cheltenham races, in hindsight.
“He found things a lot easier today over three miles, the race was fairly depleted with all the non-runners but it was nice to see him enjoying himself doing things half a stride slower all the time.
“The plan was, before today, to go to the Hennessy, so he’s just put himself in the picture. He was a lunatic to ride at home but more recently he’s really relaxed, he’s getting a bit older and learning about racing a bit but he still tried to run off with Sam down to the start!”
Thomas was then triumphant again with another grey chaser in the John Ayres Memorial Handicap Chase, this time with last season’s Grand Sefton winner Al Dancer.
The gelding was ridden by Charlie Deutsch to an easy success as the 11-4 joint favourite, coming home seven and a half lengths to the good en route to another spin around the National fences in November.
Thomas said: “He’ll go back to the Sefton. Today we thought we’d left him pretty short in all honesty, the plan was to give him a nice, enjoyable time around here and see how he got on.
“He was obviously trying his best but I certainly didn’t drill him at home, so hopefully there is a bit of improvement.
“He loved it there (Aintree) last year, fingers crossed we go back sound and well and he’ll take his chance again.”
Reflecting on the satisfying form of his yard after a trying period, Thomas added: “It’s great to kick off the season like that for all the staff and for the owners, who put a lot of faith in me.
“We had no runners through the summer, so yesterday we were a bit nervous to see where we were with them.
“It’s a dream way to start. Obviously it’s a very long season, so we’ll just try to keep them all healthy and keep it going.”