Alarm clocks were required for the first Midlands area fixture of the season, but those who got up early for the 10.15am start were rewarded with competitive racing across the card, and some impressive winners.
It was a brave move by the Atherstone committee to plump for a pre-Christmas date, but the fixture was well supported with both entries and runners. The crowd may have been down on what would be expected for their traditional April date, but there was still a decent number in attendance as they went to post for the first, an Open Maiden.
The race was won impressively by Enfant Du Mou, a promising four-year-old trained by Tom Ellis who will now head for the sales. It was also the first leg of a double for Tom's wife, Gina, the reigning national ladies champion.
The second race was the 2m5f Maiden for four, five and six-year-olds, and this was won by the Sarah McQueen trained Haven't Time - the first leg of a double for Byron Moorcroft - although Sense Of Adventure and Jack Andrews were throwing down a serious challenge when they came to grief at the last. Thankfully both horse and rider were fine.
The Open races were next and the first of those, the Men's Open, was won by Bayley's Dream and Billy Aprahamian, while the following Skinner's Ladies Open provided the first leg of a double for trainer Joe O'Shea. The winner, Irish Anthem, was partnered by Immy Robinson, the pair making all to record their third win of the season together. Joe has made a flying start to the season and once again he has also shown that he's not afraid to travel.
Next up was the Club Members Conditions race and this went the way of Black Jack Rover, the second leg of a double for Byron Moorcroft, who almost made it a treble in the next.
That was the Intermediate, and it was a cracker, with the finish being fought out by Road To Rome (Tommie O'Brien), and Mister Robbo (Byron Moorcroft). Road To Rome prevailed by three quarters of a length, in the process becoming the second O'Shea horse on the card to notch a three-timer for the season.
The lucky last – the Restricted – was won by Cavs Girl for Maxwell Young, bringing up a double on the day for Gina Andrews. It was a second win of the season for the filly; the first had come at Eaton Hall Farm back in November.
A visit from Father Christmas (who arrived on a horse drawn sleigh), carols by the Bulkington Silver Band and Christmas jumper competitions for dogs and humans all added to the day's entertainment, and to cap it off a lot of people would have been home in daylight - a treat for pointing die hards at this time of the year!