Winning the Grade Two bet365 December Novices’ Chase was then straightforward by comparison – Kim Bailey’s horse had 17 lengths in hand after setting a new course record for three miles on Town Moor.
The seven-year-old’s fourth win from five starts over fences; connections have taken advantage of favourable good ground and this, in time, could be a Grand National contender.
Yet, seven days previously, Bass was down and out – literally – at Wetherby. Two winners had been followed by a shuddering fall that left him concussed and stood down by medics for at least six days.
His headache – and disposition – was not helped 24 hours later when Bailey’s stable star Charbel, a horse long associated with the jockey, won the prestigious Grade Two Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon.
However, as the 30-year-old’s condition improved following close monitoring at the Injured Jockey Fund’s (IJF) Oaksey House, he was allowed to take a concussion test at 3.30pm on Friday after Rocky’s Treasure had been declared for Doncaster with substitute rider Jonathan Burke in the saddle.
Given the all clear, he then saw a consultant neurologist at a hospital in Swindon at 6pm before an anxious wait until he got the all clear at 10pm after the intervention of Dr Jerry Hill, the British Horseracing Authority’s medical chief, and the IJF’s Emma Edwards.
A relieved Bass then rode one horse on Bailey’s Gloucestershire gallops at daybreak before dashing to South Yorkshire in time to run round the track to assess near freezing conditions, and his fitness, ahead of Rocky’s Treasure race. In the pink and blue colours of John and Penny Perriss, Rocky’s Treasure simply jumped – and travelled – better the further he went as he surged clear of Theclockisticking in second.
The only pre-race doubt of Bass was if this race was too soon after his mount had put up a gutsy performance at Newbury when, in his only reverse over fences, he was narrowly defeated by champion trainer Nicky Henderson’s Santini – ante-post favourite for the Cheltenham Festival.
“Didn’t he jump up the straight?” an elated Bass told connections in the post-race debrief.
“It’s brilliant. He’s a very tough horse. He’s just improved for fences so much.
“He ran a cracker behind Santini. Fair play to everyone at home. They’ve got the horses in such good form. He was impressive. He jumps really well.
“We schooled him over fences last year and he wasn’t impressive. He’s come back this year and jumped brilliantly. Onwards and upwards with him.”
Rocky’s Treasure is likely to have a lay-off before a rematch with Santini in the RSA Chase. “David said there was a big one in him. I thought today was the big one,” remarked Bailey’s assistant trainer Mat Nicholls who had been tasked with driving his jockey home from Wetherby seven days earlier.
Bass told The Yorkshire Post that he would have been on the sidelines until the New Year if he had failed his concussion test and, in doing so, missed jump racing’s busiest period of the year.
Grateful to the IJF and BHA for getting him the all clear, he said of Rocky’s Treasure: “He is a horse with a great future.”
The Paul Nicholls-trained and Harry Cobden-ridden Quel Destin, meanwhile, came out on top in the bet365 Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster.
The team were completing a double after Amour De Nuit’s chase success.
Cheltenham’s Triumph Hurdle next March will be the target for Quel Destin.
Cheltenham was the scene of one of the great weight-carrying performances when the Nicholls-trained Frodon defied top weight to land the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup under an inspired Bryony Frost.
This was followed by Nigel Twiston-Davies retiring his stable favourite The New One after the ever popular horse failed to shine in the International Hurdle that 0he used to dominate. The race was won by Brain Power.
Earlier Harry Bannister, who was born in North Yorkshire, won the opening juvenile hurdle on Nelson River after appearing to have too much to do in the home straight.