The rejuvenated Roxholme Hat lived up to his pre-race billing with the fastest time in the heats of the National Sprint at Nottingham on Monday night.
In an event that has so far eluded the Keightley team, having gone close with Target Harris and Hiya Butt, Hat will have to overcome a semi final stage that cost him last year. He finished third behind Hiya Butt, his worst placing in 12 races over course and distance where he has 10 wins and a second.
In general there were few shocks in the opening round – Yellowstone (2-1) was the shortest priced runner to be eliminated. Defending champ Queen Anna made it through in her first race back after season, as did the 2016 winner/2017 runner-up Trapstyle Jet.