SHORTLY after 4.15 today a moderate gelding called Crowded Express wearily trotted past the post to signal the end of Salisbury's 2020 season, a sadly unique programme savagely truncated by the coronavirus epidemic.

No crowds, no crescendo of noise and no bookmakers led to a depressingly barren atmosphere that has pervaded all its meetings but in an age of uncertainty and tragedy, it would be churlish not to be grateful that half the schedule was completed and the twilight affair was blessed with sunshine, though the results on a card designed for late developing two-year-olds would have been met with a chilly reception by off course punters with favourite after favourite faltering.

Indeed, it was very much tales of the unexpected, initially reflected in the one-mile novice races which were virtually mirror images of each other.

Mohaafeth pinched what appeared to be an unassailable lead in the first division but he plugged on at one pace in the final furlong where he was overwhelmed by Belloccio who had been pushed along at halfway before making significant headway one out to get up in the dying strides.

Sussex trainer David Menuisier, not renowned for winning debutants, had however given jockey David Egan cause for optimism in the pre-race tactical chat. "I was impressed," said Egan. "He handled the ground well. He's a big horse and will make a better three-year-old next season when he has grown into his frame."

Moktasaab was switched off the rails to make his challenge in the second division but no sooner had he grabbed the lead, he was tackled by The Rosstafarian and veered sharply to his right. Not that it made a difference to the result as The Rosstafarian, running straight as a gun barrel, strode out an impressive four and a half length winner, not surprising jockey James Doyle who was only disappointed he could not have run through the field to give him a better education.

"Very pleased," however was his verdict. "We thought he would improve for the run, though he had been sharpened by a nice bit of work."

Locally trained Ensyaaby looked as though he would provide punters with a welcome respite when he made stealthy headway from the rear but was run out of it by Menuisier's second unraced winner of the afternoon, the trainer confessing he thought Autumn Twilight had a chance having worked alongside Belloccio.

Kevin Shoemark, who partnered the colt when he went unsold at the Newmarket breeze-up sale, looked as though he had defied convention by sticking to the far rail in soft ground but revealed the horse had been hanging to its right and he opted to stay there to cling on by a head.

"I didn't know I had won until we crossed the line and Jim Crowley (who rode the runner up) told me I had."

The colt doesn't have the best of actions but the trainer, who put down his drifting to greenness, quipped: "He's not a good walker but he's racehorse, so that doesn't bother me!"

Champagne Piaff, who had run well on his debut at Ascot, was preferred in the market by John Gosden's Fundamental but on the track the positions were reversed. The Le Havre colt evidently reserves his best for the racecourse with trainer Gary Moore admitting he doesn't do much at home.

"We'll have to step him up a grade," he said of future plans but was coy about where they lay.

Apollo One enjoyed the drop back from seven furlongs to six when he quickened well to thwart the even money favourite Dark Shift in the feature race and underline trainer Peter Charalambous's belief there is more to come.

"He is definitely a Group Three horse in the making. Martin Harley (who rode him) thinks he will stay a stiff seven furlongs. He's growing so that's it for the season."