MILTON Bradley’s star performer Muraaqeb resumed winning ways at Kempton on Saturday evening. After six triumphs in 2019 between February and August, the veteran handler decided it was time the horse had a break. Since returning to the track in December he hadn’t won, but he was knocking on the door with increasing vigour.

It seems the horse is still improving, as he won last weekend off his highest mark yet – 56 – but one thing that’s worked in Muraaqeb’s favour is the narrow margin he nearly always wins by. Those seven races have been won by a head, a length and a quarter, a neck, a head, a head, a head and a nose. All those narrow victories must give his owner palpitations.

Talking of close finishes, there was a remarkable number of them at Chepstow’s meeting last Friday. Punters betting before racing on the total winning distances came severely unstuck. The received wisdom when the going is heavy and the rain is still coming down is that winning distances will be large. Instead, four of the races ended with verdicts of a short head, a head, a neck and a head. It was great value for the crowd, who braved damp, dreary conditions to support National Hunt racing at its grittiest.

The leading Grand National contender, Walk In The Mill, ran a highly satisfactory second in the three mile hurdle and his best price is 20/1. That makes him joint second favourite with half a dozen others, with the dual Aintree hero Tiger Roll at 6/1.

Rectory Road, an expensive newcomer to Ron Harris’ yard near the end of last year, had his second race for them last week at Kempton. They made the running with him, tactics never used with the horse before. He led till the two furlong pole, when he started to drop back. When all chance had gone his jockey David Probert was easy on him. Despite finishing eighth of eight, he didn’t appear to be a lost cause. In time, Harris is odds on to get races out of him.

Probert had just one winner since returning from a suspension – Elham Valley at Lingfield on Friday, trained by his principal employer Andrew Balding. The stable is in good form. Trainer and jockey team are up again in tonight’s 5.40 at Wolverhampton with Never Dark, a colt owned by Jeff Smith, the owner of that popular sprinter Lochsong. He appears to have a good chance.

Grace Harris’ Karakoram is turning out to be much better over hurdles than he was on the flat. That’s fitting, seeing as the word Karakoram refers to a mountain range near the Himalayas. He’s been improving steadily this winter – his form figures are 313522 – and could run next at Warwick on Saturday.

David Evans had to say goodbye to one of his most prolific winners on Monday. It’s not often that he has a horse going for its fourth consecutive victory, but that was the situation when Bond Angel lined up for a claimer at Wolverhampton that evening. She’d won eight races in all, seven of them at Southwell, whose Fibresand surface is quite different to the other all-weather tracks. Horses with stamina and a high knee action do best – like those who prefer soft going on turf.

On official ratings she was entitled to win, but she had never previously finished better than seventh on Wolverhampton’s Tapeta surface, and after making much of the running she folded quite tamely in the last three furlongs. She came in only sixth of seven, only to be claimed by the Yorkshire-based trainer Marjorie Fife for £8,000.