Fusil Raffles made a winning start to his new career over fences in the SSR Congratulates Phil Bell 55 Today Novices’ Chase at Uttoxeter.
A Grade One-winning juvenile hurdler, Fusil Raffles was last seen finishing well beaten in the Champion Hurdle, when he had his major market rival for this contest, Gumball, one place behind.
Fusil Raffles jumped well throughout as Gumball, despite some hairy leaps at the head of affairs, set a brisk tempo.
Quick Grabim, winner of the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle when trained by Willie Mullins, moved up menacingly down the back straight as Fusil Raffles began to look tapped for speed.
However, on the run between the second last and final fence, Fusil Raffles got a second wind and Daryl Jacob moved him upsides.
Another safe jump sealed the deal and the 5-6 favourite pulled four lengths clear of Quick Grabim. Betfair gave the winner a 25-1 quote for the Arkle in March.
Henderson said: “He jumped very well, but took a big blow turning in. They went very hard, which they are always going to do when Gumball is around!
“Gumball has beaten Verdana Blue on the Flat and is rated higher than Fusil over hurdles, so they were always going to go fast and I thought he was good.
“It’s possible he might want two and a half miles – it’s not that he’s slow, but he stays two miles very well. I was delighted with him really.
“He is out early for one of mine. We brought him in early with the intention of running him in that Listed Hurdle at Kempton in October, but then I realised he’d be ready long before then.
“We started schooling over fences and realised he enjoyed it. I don’t know where next, but he does jump well and that’s a good start. He was just ready to run and we had to go to war today – it was a nice starting point.
“He can only do one thing and that is improve for it.”
Regarding the rest of his string, Henderson added: “A lot came in earlier, but only because they went out earlier.
“They got on some really good grass in the spring and they are bigger than normal, they were doing too well. They are not forward, but you can’t afford to be – that’s the biggest danger.
“We’re ready to press on, but you can’t because there’s no ground and no races for them yet – but we are still only in September. We’ll have a few for Chepstow in October, normally we aren’t ready for that.”
When it was suggested Altior could start his season in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham on November 15, Henderson said: “You could look at that, but then you’ve got the Tingle Creek (Sandown, December 5) as well.”