Chantry House made his debut over fences a triumphant one in the Ascot Racecourse Supports Safer Gambling Week Novices’ Chase at Ascot.
Last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle third looked a natural on his first chasing start, running out a convincing winner of the two-mile-three-furlong contest.
Settled in behind the early pace, the Nicky Henderson-trained six-year-old had his task made easier when chief market rival Pic D’Orhy took a fall at the third-last.
Left with just outsider of the trio Up The Straight to beat, the 4-9 favourite only needed to be shaken up over the final two fences before crossing the line 26 lengths clear of his sole rival.
Henderson said: “He was having a really good blow. Nico (de Boinville) said coming out of Swinley Bottom he was taking his first blow. It’s quite tiring ground out there. I was really pleased with his jumping. It was good and tidy, but you have to be a bit careful going down that hill with one first time out.
“Once he pulled him out and said ‘come on, go for it’ he was quite relaxed and warmed to it all the way up the hill.
“You need to be fairly sure of a horse to bring them here first time.”
Assessing future plans for Chantry House – who is quoted at 12-1 for the Marsh Novices’ Chase in March with Coral and Betfair – the Seven Barrows handler hinted a return to Ascot next month for the Grade Two Jacquart Noel Novices’ Chase could be on the agenda.
He said: “He learnt a lot today and could come back here at Christmas.
“He certainly is not going to go down in trip and that was about ideal for now. One day he is almost certainly going to get further.”
Danny Kirwan got his career back on track with a front-running success in the Lexicon Recruitment “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle.
The Paul Nicholls-trained seven-year-old went two places better than on his comeback at Aintree to secure his first victory in over two years.
Although favourite Time Flies By looked a serious threat late on, the 3-1 shot found plenty from the front to claim victory by three and a half lengths.
Nicholls – out of luck with Pic D’Orhy in the opener – said: “He has had plenty of problems and needed his first run at Aintree. I thought he came on a lot for that.
“It has been stop-start with him and it was nice he improved from that and he will improve again from today.
“He is a chaser in the making, but I guess we will stay over hurdles for the immediate future. He will make a lovely chaser one day. He will definitely have one more hurdle race I’d say, probably over a bit further.”
The Ditcheat handler has not ruled out pitching Danny Kirwan into Grade One company for the first time in next month’s Challow Hurdle at Newbury.
He added: “You wouldn’t be afraid to (run in a Challow Hurdle) on very testing ground, but we have two or three for that. Some of the younger ones wouldn’t want that and if the ground was heavy you wouldn’t rule something like that out.”
Harry Fry will explore big-race options with Metier following his stylish victory in the Play The Coral ‘Racing Super Series’ Introductory Hurdle.
The former Flat racer had little trouble following up his debut victory over hurdles as he gave Fry his third success in the race.
Always looking in control out in front, the even-money favourite pulled smartly clear from the last before defeating Tile Tapper by five and a half lengths.
Fry said: “We didn’t necessarily want to make it, but he has got form on the Flat. When it was pretty apparent there was going to be no pace, there was no point sitting behind off that.
“He just showed signs of inexperience, which he is entitled to as that is only his second time over hurdles. He was just having a good look at his hurdles out in front.
“What really impressed me was turning in – when Sean (Bowen) went for him he went again and attacked the last two. He is highly exciting and there is lots to look forward to.”
Fry is weighing up two potential targets for Metier, who was introduced at 25-1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle by Coral and Betfair.
He added: “It is a nice dilemma to have where we go next. Do we come back here in a month for the Grade Two (Kennel Gate) or maybe go for a Tolworth. We will see, but it’s a nice position to be in.”
Espoir De Guye put in a fine weight-carrying performance when returning to winning ways in the Coral Handicap Chase.
Last sighted failing to complete behind Imperial Aura at the Cheltenham Festival, the six-year-old – a winner at Ascot in December – was one of three still holding a chance on the approach to the final fence, which was dolled off due to damage sustained earlier in the race.
And the 5-2 favourite duly rallied in game fashion to get the better of Earlofthecotswolds by half a length.
Winning trainer Venetia Williams said: “He had a bit of bad luck at the Festival, as he got kicked at the start and it looked like it was going to be a false start and it wasn’t. It is great to bring him back to Ascot and pick up where he left off.
“I must admit I was a bit worried at the last. The fence was damaged and the chevrons were up, but for us in the grandstand all we could see was the white back of the chevron which blended in behind the white rail. For a few moments I was worried the race was void.
“I’ll speak to the owners now and see what our options are, then make a plan together.”
Buzz provided the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity with a financial boost after completing doubles for Henderson and De Boinville with a facile victory in the Coral ‘Fail To Finish’ Free Bet Handicap Hurdle.
Henderson said: “Thurloe Thoroughbreds have several horses in training, but with Buzz and a pair of two-year-olds 25 per cent of all the prize-money they win will go to the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity which is a fantastic gesture.”
On the even-money winner, he added: “He loves that ground and he had run well at Ffos Las. With ours, it’s funny – they are taking a bit of a race to get ready and there is a horse having his second run and it makes a big difference.
“We could come back here for the big handicap before Christmas or look at something at Newbury. He looked good there, but the race was run to suit him.”
The stands may have been empty, but that could not the gloss off victory for Charlie Todd, who celebrated his first Ascot winner aboard the Ian Williams-trained Tide Times (3-1) in the Coral Supporting Prostate Cancer UK Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.
Todd said: “I can’t quite believe it really. It’s such a shame there is no crowd or no one in the stands, but hopefully we will get them back soon. Take nothing away though, it’s great to get a winner at Ascot.”