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Herbiers one of the highlights as curtain comes down on Ascot’s jumps season

Oliver Greenall has a valuable race on the bet365 Gold Cup undercard in the sights of Herbiers following the four-year-old’s narrow success in the Betfred Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, as the curtain came down on Ascot’s jumps season.

The Malpas trainer felt Herbiers would prove typical of the horses that come over from France and enjoy cut in the ground, but his observation that the gelding scored on a better surface in a bumper has been borne out by the son of Waldpark proving versatile in handling all surfaces.

Under Paddy Brennan the 12-1 shot made a big move to lead between the last two flights, and stayed on in determined fashion to hold Royaume Uni by half a length.

Greenall believes his charge has improved with each run and said: “We thought he had a little bit in hand, and while it was soft when he won at Hereford he was very happy on the better going today. It was very professional the way he came up for Paddy at the last.

“He’s qualified for the final at Sandown which is worth £75,000, and that’s where he’ll go.”

Venetia Williams reached the 50-winner milestone when Funambule Sivola dominated the Age Concern Bracknell Novices’ Handicap Chase from start to finish under Charlie Deutsch.

The 11-10 favourite was already well clear of Rikoboy when that rival unseated at the last, leaving Monsieur Lecoq as the only other finisher.

“He loves his racing and is so quick over his fences,” said the jockey.

“He has a great way of going and will come up long when you ask him. I always thought he’d find more if anything came at me and I got a very good feel from him off that ground.”

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It was a double celebration for the Williams/Deutsch team as the latter bettered last season’s score of 34.

He added: “I’d been on 34 for a week or so and was itching to get to 35. I always set a target to beat my previous score, and am delighted that Venetia has reached the half-century. She has the horses in brilliant health.”

Few horses with recognised talent have frustrated as much as Singlefarmpayment, but the 11-year-old was given a fine ride from Adrian Heskin to take the Berkshire Women’s Aid Veterans’ Handicap Chase.

Well aware that he could not get to the front late enough, Heskin took a couple of tugs on the Henry Oliver-trained 9-4 favourite going down the back and waited until jumping the last to ask his mount the ultimate question.

The combination then quickly asserted to go clear of Crosspark.

Heskin said: “That is a weight off my shoulders. This horse has plenty of history and his last win was in 2015. He was beaten a short head at the Cheltenham Festival and plenty of lads have tried on him, but he’s tricky.

“Today he jumped too well going down the hill and then put in a good jump two out, and to be fair I should have waited a bit longer.

“These races give all the older chasers their turn to win again, and have to be a good thing for the sport.”

Singlefarmpayment (right) got his head in front again
Singlefarmpayment (right) got his head in front again (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Heskin, meanwhile, sees Alan King’s Tritonic as a horse to look forward to at Aintree if the gelding is given the green light to do so after his underwhelming run in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham.

He said: “I’m confident we didn’t see the real Tritonic at the Festival. Maybe three quick runs stacking up might have found him out. Aintree is a track that would really suit him, and as far as hurdling’s concerned we’ve got a real good horse going forward.”

For Nicky Henderson and owners Chelsea Thoroughbreds, Cascova responded positively to the fitting of earplugs to settle better than in his previous outing at Newbury in the Parents And Children Together (Pact) Maiden Hurdle.

The 7-4 favourite had 7lb in hand of his rivals on the book and was ridden stone cold by Nico de Boinville to cruise into contention two out and quickly put the race to bed when given the office, scoring by eight lengths from Manvers House.

Nico de Boinville scores aboard Cascova
Nico de Boinville scores aboard Cascova (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

De Boinville said: “He probably ran to his mark and so did the others. It was a nice even gallop and that set us up nicely for the finish. I think the earplugs helped relax him. He’s got the size and scope to go chasing next year, but there should first be a nice handicap awaiting him over hurdles.”

With South Terrace a late absentee after injuring a hip in the box and Ecco underperforming, Stoner’s Choice seized the advantage to take out the Sky Sports Racing Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle under Max Kendrick.

Kendrick changed his original plan to hold up his Fergal O’Brien-trained mount and made the running. One by one his rivals fell away and the 11-4 chance scored by six lengths from Bells Of Peterboro.

This was a fourth success of the campaign for Stoner’s Choice, and Kendrick observed: “When the two horses I thought might go forward didn’t I decided to press on myself and the horse soon got into a lovely rhythm.

“He’s still a novice, and was very novicey to start with (this season) but has kept on improving. Not many novices win with a double penalty.”

Defi Sacre jumped well for James Best
Defi Sacre jumped well for James Best (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The superior jumping of Defi Sacre proved crucial at the business end of the Berkshire Community Foundation Handicap Chase.

Approaching the final fence James Best’s mount was defending a diminishing lead from Marracudja, but his rival made a mistake that handed the initiative back to Defi Sacre who scored by four lengths.

Best has been a regular sight on trainer Richard Hobson’s horses over the last two and a half years and he said: “This horse has been very good to me and did very well in climbing the handicap last season. The key to him is that he pings off this better ground.”

Tritonic powers to impressive Adonis victory

Tritonic cemented his JCB Triumph Hurdle claims with a hugely impressive display in the Close Brothers Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton.

The four-year-old championship at the Festival had looked at the mercy of Gordon Elliott, who has an embarrassment of riches in the division with the first two in the betting in Zanahiyr and Quilixios, as well as the unbeaten Teahupoo, who won again at Fairyhouse on Saturday.

But Tritonic, more than useful on the Flat for Alan King and placed at Royal Ascot, has clearly taken to his new discipline very well.

A winner on his debut at Ascot when he only wore down Gary Moore’s Casa Loupi in the closing stages, the pair were first and second again – but this time Tritonic’s superiority was much greater.

Running to the last Tritonic was just a length in front, but by the time the 5-6 favourite crossed the line he had put 10 between them, with Adrian Heskin not being overly vigorous.

Betfair cut the winner to 5-1 from 8s for the Triumph – and King could hardly have been happier with the display.

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The Barbury Castle Stables trainer said: “We wanted to get a bit more experience into him for Cheltenham and he will have learned plenty down the inside (rail) today. Once or twice he goes to sleep, but as soon as Adrian gives him a squeeze, he is straight back on the bridle. I could not have been more pleased with him.

Tritonic comes well clear after the last
Tritonic comes well clear after the last (Alan Corwhurst/PA)

“We gave him a proper holiday at the end of last Flat season – he was gelded and had six weeks in the field. He was only just ready to start at Ascot and I just felt we had to try to get two runs into him if we were going to have a serious Triumph horse.

“We were going to come straight here and I thought ‘well, that’s not right’, he just needs a little bit more experience. We certainly felt he had improved since Ascot, fitness-wise, and he has built on that again today.

“He is much the best of my former Triumph Hurdle horses on Flat ratings. We have trained him differently. Katchit we started back in September, the rest had a lot more experience than Tritonic has coming into the Triumph.

“But I think the two runs over hurdles will be enough and he has experience in big handicaps on the Flat.”

He added: “He is the highest-class Flat horse I’ve ever sent jumping. He is a good mile-and-a-quarter Flat horse. He might appear to be a little bit slow, but that is because he goes to sleep on you in a race. He only just does what he is asked.

“He should be fine for Cheltenham and he has the gears to hold a position wherever you want to ride him.

“Everything impressed me. The way he came back on the bridle. He was a bit short of room once or twice and I love the way he went away from the last as well. He hit the line really well, which is always a good sign.

“From day one he has schooled lovely. I thought today his jumping was accurate and he’s good when he is in tight as well.

“I don’t think he will come on much fitness-wise, but he will just be a little bit sharper for this experience.

“I hope he’d have a very good chance at Cheltenham. He’d be the highest-rated Flat-wise and I certainly wouldn’t be one to swap him for anything. I’m very happy with my lad.”

Heskin is also looking forward to Cheltenham.

The rider said: “He is a very smart horse. I was a little bit caught for pace midways in the race, but once I switched him out when we turned in, he really came alive. He wasn’t in full flow down the straight – there is still a bit (more there) with him.

“His momentum carried him through. He was just coming alive at the second-last and he is very quick across a hurdle, no matter what stride he is on. That is big asset to him.

“The pace of the Triumph Hurdle will be ideal and that Cheltenham hill will really suit him.”

Her Indoors lifts Listed honours at Doncaster

Her Indoors was a tough winner of the Listed Sky Bet Fillies’ Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster for Alan King and Adrian Heskin.

The four-year-old got the better of three-time winner Talking About You to prevail by five and a half lengths at a price of 11-2 on her third hurdles start.

The two horses had met previously in a similar Listed event at Aintree, where the latter triumphed by a comfortable seven and a half lengths.

After another second-placed run from King’s filly at Kempton, that prior Aintree form was then overturned on Town Moor as Her Indoors gave her trainer a second victory from only three renewals of the race.

“She’s as tough as nails,” Heskin said of the ex-flat performer.

“She was a little bit keen at Kempton early on and probably got caught for pace then round a speed track.

“The ground here really suited her, it’s a stiff track.

“Once I’d got her settled early, I let her get in to the race but she probably got racing a bit too early as she missed the third last. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise as I just got behind a couple and she came home strong on the inner rail.

“We’ve done plenty of schooling with her now. She was second in a Listed race at Aintree and then we were a little bit disappointed with her at Kempton, but we had plenty of excuses. I think it was the wrong way round for her and it was too quick of a track.

“That was a fair performance and she’s all heart, she’s a real stayer. She’s a good attitude and there’s plenty of positives to take forward.”

Tritonic advertises Triumph claims

Tritonic emerged as a leading light for the JCB Triumph Hurdle with a debut success over jumps that will have taught him a great deal and elevate dreams for his owners of landing the juvenile championship at Cheltenham in March.

Good enough on the Flat to finish second to Highland Chief at the Royal meeting in June, Tritonic started a warm order at 5-4 for the bet365 Juvenile Hurdle – but looked to have plenty to do as Casa Loupi set sail for home on the homeward turn.

Happily for his supporters, the favourite gradually ate into his rival’s four-length lead and reeled him in in the final 100 yards to score by a length under Adrian Heskin.

The jockey, who had schooled his mount twice at Alan King’s Banbury Castle base, said: “Alan likes them dropped in, so I rode him to come from off the pace. He was a bit keen early and I had to sit and suffer a little going up the hill where, I let him fill up and find his feet. I thought turning in I would pick them up.”

Betfair cut Tritonic to 16-1 from 20-1 for the Triumph, with Coral unchanged at 20-1.

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Heskin added that he could envisage Tritonic developing into a contender for the race, saying: “He has stamina and gears and his jumping is good, while Mr (Max) McNeill has a dream to win the Triumph. He was brave up the straight and got the better of a very tough rival.

“I would say it was a fair race.”

Tom Cannon made the best of what he described as a “dream come true” in picking up the spare ride via his agent Dave Roberts on Craigneiche, a clear-cut winner of the Matchbook Better Way To Bet Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle.

Owing to Nico de Boinville partnering Buveur D’Air at Haydock and Jerry McGrath’s absence through injury, Cannon stepped in for a first ride for Nicky Henderson and the combination pulled seven lengths clear of Arrivederci on the run-in.

Tom Cannon enjoyed a dream spare ride on Craigneiche
Tom Cannon enjoyed a dream spare ride on Craigneiche (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Craigneiche carried bottom weight of 10st 6lb and made Cannon’s morning run to make the weight worth every second as he powered home at 14-1.

The jockey enthused: “Dave Roberts texted me on Thursday morning to tell me about the ride and my mum was so thrilled she cut it out of the paper and put it in her scrapbook on the mantel piece. And I must admit I had to pinch myself .

“I could very easily have been at another meeting riding for Alan King or Chris Gordon, and thought I would be scrabbling around for a ride so it was a good feeling to get the news.

“I chatted with Nicky, who thought he was on an appropriate mark and said he’d been working well and that he gets on his toes, but although he felt fresh he settled.”

Betfair introduced the winner at 16-1 for the Coral Cup at Cheltenham.

Charlie Hammond enjoyed a winner to remember with Enqarde
Charlie Hammond enjoyed a winner to remember with Enqarde (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Charlie Hammond notched a first career success at Ascot when Enqarde (4-1) overcame a tendency to jump left to land the Matchbook Best Odds Handicap Chase.

The former French-based gelding, trained by Dr Richard Newland, responded to hands and heels riding to score by three and a half lengths and two from Cobolobo and Crossley Tender.

Hammond said: “He got into a lovely rhythm, but I had to keep him up to his work from the bottom of the hill. I think he might have got there too soon, but he jumped super and luckily kept going all the way to the line, showing a great attitude.”

Hammond explained that his season has turned a corner since November and added: “I made a steady start but have got going in the last couple of months, especially for outside stables.”

Shearer scores late to bring up Nicholls’ century

Shearer provided trainer Paul Nicholls with his 100th winner of the season – going one better than on his debut as he took the final National Hunt race of the year at Warwick.

Named after former Newcastle and Blackburn striker Alan Shearer, the Max McNeill-owned gelding dominated in the jonjooneillracingclub.co.uk Join Today £99 Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.

Racing prominently throughout over two miles, the 8-13 favourite cleared away smartly late on to win by nine lengths from Bowtogreatness.

It is only the second time the 11-time champion trainer has reached a century of winners before the new year, having previously achieved the feat in 2016.

Nicholls, speaking away from the track, said: “That was just the job. It’s a nice milestone to reach before January 1.

“It’s credit to all the staff who have worked so hard. It reflects well on them and gives them pride in what they are doing, and is good for morale.

“It is only the second time we have reached 100 winners before the new year – and this is more of an achievement, given the circumstances.”

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The Ditcheat handler will continue taking small steps with Shearer for the remainder of the campaign, before sending him over hurdles next season.

He added :  “He is one that needs time and patience, and we wouldn’t be going to one of those speedier tracks in the spring.

“He is a real stayer and he will make a lovely novice hurdler. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is one for the Challow Hurdle next season. ”

Winning rider Adrian Heskin was recording his first success since returning from a recent spell on the sidelines with a broken arm.

Heskin said: “I’m delighted to get my first winner back on a nice young horse like him.  He has a nice future ahead of him.

“We know he has plenty of stamina, and Paul was confident he was fit, so we just wanted to get him rolling good and early.”

Nick Mitchell celebrated his first winner since resuming his training career in October, as 16-1 shot Trump Lady scored by a length and three-quarters in the LPS British Stallion Studs EBF Mares’ ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Having relinquished his licence at the end of the 2018-19 season, Mitchell – who saddled The Listener to Grade One glory in the JNWine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal in 2009 – was delighted to be back among the winners.

He said: “I stopped training, and the National Trainers Federation were very good and I did some work for them, then for the BHA – but nothing really came of it.

“I’ve known Syd Hosie, who owns Sherborne Utilities, for years – but I didn’t know he was setting up this new yard. He gave me a ring and asked if I would be interested in training them.

“We’ve been knocking on the door with a few, so to have one get its head in front is really good.”

Mitchell pointed to a change of training routine for Trump Lady after her first success under rules.

He said: “I blame myself for her pulling up at Exeter, because I was too hard on her at home and I didn’t lay off her.

“She improved markedly at Ludlow, and we just do nothing at home with her now as she is a busy little thing and she gets herself fit. ”

The Tom Symonds-trained Mr Washington made it four wins from as many starts this season in the Jonjo O’Neill Racing Club Handicap Hurdle, which the 15-8 favourite collected by three-quarters of a length.

Assistant trainer David Dennis said: “He takes a bit of time to warm to it, and I thought he was beat turning in.

“I thought he would appreciate the step up to three and a quarter miles, and he has got the job done.

“He went over fences last season but he didn’t enjoy it, so we put him back over hurdles this season to get his confidence back – which he has.”