Belfast Banter graduates to Grade One company in style

Belfast Banter handled the huge step up to Grade One company from handicaps to win the Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree.

Peter Fahey’s six-year-old only made it into the County Hurdle off bottom-weight, but he enjoyed the slightly better ground at Cheltenham and looked even better on Merseyside.

For Pleasure adopted his customary role at the head of affairs, with Nico de Boinville keen not to give him too much rope on the favourite Dusart.

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Having just his second run, Dusart made several errors and it was to his credit he still had a chance jumping the last. But by then Belfast Banter was still on the bridle.

Do Your Job emerged as the biggest threat, although Kevin Sexton had enough in reserve to see him off by a length and a quarter. Dusart was back in third, a further length and a quarter away. Houx Gris was a relatively early faller.

Fahey said: “I’m absolutely thrilled – we’re celebrating here at home!

“After Cheltenham we picked out this race and I said to the owners we were just hoping he’d go over and run a big race. To come out and win is absolutely unbelievable.

“We went into the race thinking we were riding him to be placed, just because he’s that type of horse that follows along, so to go and win has given us all a massive buzz.

Belfast Banter and Kevin Sexton in full flight
Belfast Banter and Kevin Sexton in full flight (David Davies/Jockey Club)

“I don’t think he’ll go to Punchestown, to be honest. I’ll have a chat with the owners, but he’s not in any of the graded races there.

“The plan was to go to Aintree and if he ran well and went up a couple of pounds, he’d be guaranteed to get into the Galway Hurdle.

“We’ll see what way things are now and see what the handicapper does – we might be out of handicaps now, I suppose.

“The Galway Hurdle is worth a lot of money, but I’d take a Grade One over that any day.”

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