With Newbury at the mercy of the weather, Nicky Henderson might be prevented from adding to his enviable tally in the Betfair Hurdle – but he kept the Seven Barrows machine ticking over courtesy of a useful-looking prospect in Balco Coastal at Kempton’s jumpers’ bumper fixture.
Balco Coastal started a well-supported 5-4 shot as he launched a double for the trainer and jockey Nico de Boinville.
In bitterly cold conditions the former point-to-pointer took apart his rivals to gallop home unchallenged in the first division of the vbet.co.uk Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, passing the post 17 lengths clear of Get Sky High.
Henderson, who is now in a dilemma over whether to go hurdling with his winner, said. He explained: “He’s a lovely horse, but he doesn’t do that at home!
“I just got frustrated and didn’t want to run him on heavy ground. He was second in a point-to-point to Gentlemansgame, who just the other day was second in a Grade One at Leopardstown so suddenly that form looked quite smart.
“We are in a bit of a dilemma now because I was about to go novice hurdling with him, but I would suggest I might put that out of the window for now as it looks to me – I haven’t talked to his owner Mark Blandford yet – but I would be thinking he ought to stay a novice for next season.”
De Boinville said: “I haven’t ridden on the all-weather course here for a while and have learned as much as the horse. He’s sure to stay two and a half miles and will love good to soft on turf.”
On 5-2 favourite Hooper in the Gamble Responsibly With Vbet ‘Jumpers Bumper’ National Hunt Flat Race, De Boinville rode his luck behind horses until straightening for home. His mount had settled beautifully and readily picked up to grab long-time leader Confirmation Bias.
The jockey reported: “He was lovely there, the way he settled and I felt more comfortable on him as I knew he had plenty of gears from his Flat speed for the finish.”
The combination were denied a treble in the Play 5Up For Free At Vbet Jumpers Bumper when Mengli Khan was grabbed late by Earlofthecotswolds (3-1).
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained winner had been difficult to win with, and his rider Sam Twiston-Davies said: “He’s quite pacey at home, but it’s been hard to get his head in front. I’m delighted with that.”
The Emma Lavelle-trained Bricklagger had no public form and went off an unconsidered 66-1 shot, but he proved more than a match for his foes in division two of the vet.co.uk Standard Open NH Flat Race.
Under Adam Wedge the chestnut stayed on resolutely to go past the green Season In The Sun and then hold fellow outsider Grosvenor Court and Phillipstown Ellen.
Lavelle said: “He did it well and I’m very pleased. He’s bred to be a Flat horse, and what’s happened today has opened things up for him.”
As could be expected from a mare by Presenting, Aggy With It greatly enjoyed moving on the all-weather on return from a mid-season break for Dan and Harry Skelton.
A dual novice hurdle winner in October and November, the seven-year-old arrived hard on the steel approaching the final furlong of the Bet Better With Vbet Jumpers Bumper and cruised to a length-and-three-quarters triumph over the promising Timberman, who was demoted to third in favour of Fontana Ellissi following a stewards’ inquiry.
“She came here to have a leg stretch,” said Harry Skelton of the 7-1 winner.
“She wants a bit of nice ground when we take her back over hurdles. She’ll come on for this, as she’s been quiet through the winter.”
Ecco, on whom Harry Cobden replaced Lorcan Williams, was a well-supported 5-2 favourite for the Follow @vbet-uk On Twitter Jumpers Bumper and cruised into contention, although in the end the Paul Nicholls-trained six-year-old had to be ridden right out to repel the game Commanche Red.
Cobden admitted: “Turning into the straight I was right at home, but it took him longer to see off the other horse than I thought it would.”
There have been many upsets in the jumper-bumper arena and Billy’s Angel posted another at 33-1 in the Best Odds Guaranteed At Vbet National Hunt Flat Race, reeling in long-time leader Lantiern for trainer Amy Murphy and jockey Jack Quinlan.