Ahoy Senor team working back from March

Lucinda Russell will map out a plan towards the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase for impressive Newbury winner Ahoy Senor, with Warwick or Lingfield pencilled in for his next run.

The six-year-old scorched to a 31-length victory in a Grade Two on Saturday and has been handed an official rating of 157  by the assessor.

Eight-time champion jockey Peter Scudamore, Russell’s partner and assistant, says Ahoy Senor – known as ‘Hank’ in the Kinross yard, has taken his race well.

“He exercised on Tuesday morning and seems pleased with himself,” said Scudamore.

“Looking at the race objectively, you could argue that none of his three rivals gave their true running, the favourite (Mr Incredible) making mistakes, but you can argue that reflects favourably on ‘Hank’, who had them in trouble from some way out.

“I hope the others did perform to their level, but he is still an inexperienced horse and he should continue to learn with racing. He produced a visually stunning performance to run out a wide-margin winner on only his second start over fences.

“His jumping is still a work in progress and ‘Hank’ is inclined to go out to his right and got in tight at a couple, notably the water, but when he meets a fence on a stride, his scope is something to behold and his fencing did improve as the race went on.

“Perhaps one or, ideally, two more starts should hopefully provide the perfect preparation for Cheltenham. The Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase is what we can start working back from.”

The Grade Two McCoy Contractors Hampton Novices’ Chase at Warwick on January 15 has been pencilled in for Ahoy Senor’s next start, although a trip to Lingfield is also a possibility.

Scudamore added: “He will have an entry at Kempton (Kauto Star Novices’ Chase), but I think our preference is probably Warwick or Lingfield. We will probably have to keep an eye on the ground.

“I didn’t run him at Hexham because the ground was probably on the quicker side. It was lovely ground at Aintree and the rain helped at Newbury. I was worried that he might be better on good to soft, and obviously the welfare of the horse is paramount.

“We will probably go to Warwick or Lingfield and then go to Cheltenham. With Warwick, the timing is perfect – two months from Cheltenham. But we will have to look at the weather forecast.

“It makes you realise how well the likes of Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson make things look so easy and silky to get their big horses ready for Cheltenham. It is an art.

“The decision-making and the timing is important with these horses and I take my hat off to them.”

Scudamore’s immediate reaction that the horse would be rated around 171 after his victory was tempered by the assessor, who handed Ahoy Senor a mark of 157.

He added: “We are hopefully at the beginning of a exciting journey. His rating seems of little importance at the moment and there is nothing I can do about others’ thoughts of his performance.”

Scudamore bowled over by Ahoy Senor’s super display

There are moments in racing that can seem significant and it is rare to see as seasoned a jockey and trainer as Peter Scudamore so enthused about a horse as he was over Newbury victor Ahoy Senor.

The six-year-old is just starting to climb the ladder and eight-times champion jockey Scudamore, who is assistant to partner Lucinda Russell, could not hide his excitement after Derek Fox had brought him home 31 lengths clear of his three rivals in the Grade Two Ladbrokes John Francome Novices’ Chase.

A shock winner of an Aintree Grade One over hurdles in the spring, Ahoy Senor had fluffed his lines when set a stiff task on his chasing bow, unseating Fox in an intermediate chase at Carlisle won by Fiddlerontheroof.

Scudamore’s faith remained unshaken though and he has no doubts Ahoy Senor is destined for the top.

Ahoy Senor was not foot perfect at the water the first time
Ahoy Senor was not foot perfect at the water the first time (Steven Paston/PA)

He said: “You are (training) in Scotland and you seem a little bit of an underdog. And then, when I was watching him work, I said to the owners ‘this horse is as good as I have dealt with’, but then, when you get close to the time, I thought ‘I wish I hadn’t opened my mouth’!

“I wish I just said ‘he’s OK’, but you say it with belief at the time and you get nervous. He has got far bigger mountains to climb, but I have never seen a horse or any athlete with as much enthusiasm about his business.

“He just loves it. You watch him walk, he has a presence about him, he has his ears pricked. He is not stupid, he just wants to get on with it. How far he can go, I don’t know, but today was a nice marker to lay down in what looks a competitive division.

“I have been through all this before. After all these years in the game, it’s amazing how this can get you so wound up and so excited about a horse. They are very humbling.

“We took him to Aintree last season and he won and that could have been a fluke, but his jumping was obviously there. There is no fuss when he goes up the gallops, nothing can lay up with him. Either mine are all useless or he is just on a different level.”

Peter Scudamore and Lucinda Russell pictured at Aintree in April
Peter Scudamore and Lucinda Russell pictured at Aintree in April (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Scudamore partnered 1,678 winners in his riding days, counting two Champion Hurdles, a Queen Mother Champion Chase, four Welsh Grand Nationals and two Scottish Nationals among his haul, before going to start his training spell as assistant to Nigel Twiston-Davies.

The team enjoyed two Grand National winners with Earth Summit (1998) and Bindaree (2002) during his spell in Naunton, so Scudamore certainly has some solid points of reference in assessing Ahoy Senor’s ability.

Thistlecrack famously bolted up as a 1-8 favourite in this race in 2016 before landing the King George VI Chase and while Scudamore is uncertain how Ahoy Senor would compare to that particular star, he outlined his regard in no uncertain terms.

He said: “Whether he’s a Thistlecrack or not, I don’t know, but he is the best we’ve dealt with, including Earth Summit and Bindaree.

“It is what the game needs. He did it at Carlisle and I hadn’t really noticed it before, but the crowd gasps when he jumps and they did it here. Maybe he’s better on these flat tracks, but it was good.

“I suppose it is my stupidity to be in this game after so many years, but I said to Lucinda this morning, ‘this is the most important day of our lives’!

“She told me not to be so stupid, but that is what they make you feel. You are in awe of them, just to see what they can do, but he is in a hot division, so it is wonderful for us poor little people up in Scotland.”

Ahoy Senor strides on at Newbury
Ahoy Senor strides on at Newbury (Steven Paston/PA)

Russell nominated the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day as a possible next port of call, but Scudamore fully expects a Cheltenham Festival run to be on the cards sooner rather than later.

He added: “At the beginning of the season, we thought we might try to get him to something like the Towton Chase (at Wetherby), because I think that is a good step. Where he goes, I don’t know, but she’ll want to go to Kempton.

“I suppose he will go to Cheltenham one day. How we get him to Cheltenham one day, I don’t know. It will probably be this season. What has he run to today – 171? So, that’s big things.

“I’m not Paul Nicholls – I don’t have the experience to take these horses down that line.

“I thought he was better left than right and he has jumped to his right today. He jumped fantastic at Carlisle and he wouldn’t have won, but who cares?

“Luce (Russell) always wanted to go to Carlisle because of the ground and I want him to have horses upsides, otherwise we will get to Cheltenham and he will never see another horse. He does go up and down a hill and handled Carlisle perfectly well.

“It is a nice problem to have – it is dream. I’ll ring Mr Nicholls to see what I should do!”

Ahoy Senor makes all for impressive Newbury verdict

Ahoy Senor galloped his rivals into the ground with a dominating front-running display in the Ladbrokes John Francome Novices’ Chase at Newbury.

The Lucinda Russell-trained six-year-old unseated his rider on his chasing debut at Kelso four weeks ago and while he made the odd mistake here, he stuck to his task honourably to put his three rivals to the sword.

Mr Incredible, the 11-10 favourite for Irish trainer Henry de Bromhead, got with a length of Ahoy Senor in the home straight with four fences left, but that was as close as he got.

He was quickly brushed aside as the 5-2 shot bounded clear to score by 31 lengths in the hands of Derek Fox.

Ahoy Senor clears the Newbury water jump
Ahoy Senor clears the Newbury water jump (Steven Paston/PA)

Coral offer 6-1 from 20s about Ahoy Senor’s chance in next year’s Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase and his trainer is no doubt about the quality of her charge, who won a Grade One over hurdles at Aintree last term.

She said: “When you start talking about equality, your lady trainer unfortunately started crying there. I am not sure if male trainers do that.

“I started crying up the home straight. Coming back in, to actually think you have a horse like that – it is just amazing to be connected to a horse like this.

“We have won a Grand National and that was very special, but this is a young horse who is just starting off.

“I was watching him through the race and he is still a novice. That is his sixth race. He has no experience and he jumped around there with such ability. It is phenomenal to be involved with a horse like this.

“We knew he was a good horse at home – you just have to look at his stride and the way he gallops.

“It is nice for the owners, Karen and Bruce Wymer. They have made such an effort – they drove down from Aberdeen. They were meant to get a flight and that was cancelled. It was a good effort from them – we are made tough in Scotland.

“I could not have dreamed he would win by 31 lengths, but I’d hope that he’d win – but not like that.”

A trip to Kempton at Christmas could now be on the cards.

Russell added: “I don’t know what we’ll do, but it is probably easier to plan things with good horses.

“He was entitled to win on his handicap mark. The Kauto Star at Kempton is on the radar and that is right-handed so that will probably suit him. He is not the finished article yet and we have to get his jumping a little tighter, but he seemed to improve up the home straight.

“He is just an amazing horse – phenomenal!”

Senor and Incredible chase Grade Two honours at Newbury

Ahoy Senor and Mr Incredible engage in an intriguing Anglo-Irish clash for the Ladbrokes John Francome Novices’ Chase at Newbury on Saturday.

The Grade Two contest has an illustrious roll of honour, with subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Native River, his then stablemate Thistlecrack and Santini all winners in the last decade.

The Lucinda Russell-trained Ahoy Senor sets the standard in this year’s renewal, having claimed the notable scalp of Bravemansgame when landing a Grade One novice hurdle at Aintree in the spring.

Due to a lack of suitable ground, the six-year-old was set a stiff task on his debut over fences at Carlisle, but was not done with in the Colin Parker Memorial when unseating Derek Fox two out.

Russell has been pleased with her stable star since and is looking forward to continuing his education in Berkshire.

She said: “We took Ahoy Senor down early so he missed any bad traffic. He had a canter round the track and a pick of grass this (Friday) morning and seems in really good form.

“We’re looking forward to it. He lacks a little bit of racing experience compared to the others, but he’s going really nicely at home.

“I think he’s probably come on for that Carlisle run, so fingers crossed he’ll be OK.”

The biggest threat to Ahoy Senor appears to be Mr Incredible, who represents the formidable combination of Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore.

Henry de Bromhead saddles Mr Incredible
Henry de Bromhead saddles Mr Incredible (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

The Westerner gelding looked a smart recruit to the chasing ranks when making a winning start in an eventful race at Naas three weeks ago – coming from a long way back to score with something to spare.

“He was really good at Naas – we were delighted with him. He won a fairly action-packed beginners chase,” said De Bromhead.

“It was either come here or supplement him for the Drinmore at Fairyhouse on Sunday as there’s very few options for him here between now and Christmas.”

Flash Collonges, who won three of his five starts over hurdles, debuts over the larger obstacles for Paul Nicholls and Harry Cobden, while Dan Skelton’s Wetherby winner Ashtown Lad completes the line-up.

Ashtown Lad at Wetherby
Ashtown Lad at Wetherby (Zac Goodwin/PA)

“He jumped very nicely at Wetherby and I think he’s stepped forward from that,” Skelton told Sky Sports Racing.

“We never got the chance to get him on the grass gallop before that due to the weather, he’s been in the interim and you should see an improved performance.

“Whether that’s good enough to go and win a Grade Two, time will tell, but I’m very happy with him.”

Listed honours are also up for grabs in the Ladbrokes Committed To Safer Gambling Intermediate Hurdle – a race formerly known as the Gerry Feilden.

Jonjo O’Neill’s Soaring Glory won the Betfair Hurdle over the course and distance last season and made a successful reappearance at Ascot four weeks ago, while the Neil King-trained Onemorefortheroad is on a hat-trick following autumn wins at Stratford and Huntingdon.

King said: “This was the obvious race for him after Huntingdon. He loves a flat track and the better the ground, the better for him.

“We’re very lucky it’s cut up to this small field.

“It’s a step up in grade, but he’s earned it.”

Recent Cheltenham scorer Gowel Road (Nigel Twiston-Davies) is another with winning form at Newbury and Captain Morgs (Nicky Henderson) is the other hopeful.

Ahoy Senor poised to take up Newbury challenge

Lucinda Russell’s Ahoy Senor is on course for a second outing over fences as he looks likely to take up his entry in the Grade Two John Francome Novices’ Chase at Newbury on Saturday.

The six-year-old was a 66-1 winner of the Grade One Sefton Novices Hurdle at Aintree last April when running over the smaller obstacles for only the second time in his career.

His chasing debut then came in the Listed Colin Parker Chase at Carlisle last month, where he showed much promise in travelling and jumping impressively before slipping on landing three fences from home and unseating rider Derek Fox.

The Newbury assignment is the probable next port of call, with good to soft conditions anticipated at the Berkshire track despite the current dry spell that has scuppered the plans of many soft ground horses.

“We’re entered at Newbury,” Russell said on Tuesday.

“We were on the phone to (clerk of the course) Keith Ottesen last night and he said the ground will be good to soft.

“There are a few showers forecast on Thursday night and Friday and if it did rain that would just play in our favour.

“I think he’s going to go down, hopefully he can build on what he did at Carlisle and get back novice chasing.”

Ahoy Senor (right) on his way to beating Bravemansgame
Ahoy Senor (right) on his way to beating Bravemansgame (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The bay’s Aintree victory last season came at the expense of the highly-regarded Bravemansgame, who has only further boosted both his own and Ahoy Senor’s reputations with two comfortable successes over fences, the most recent of which came at Haydock on Saturday.

“I think Bravemansgame is an awesome horse, his jumping was just superb,” Russell said.

“He is in front of us as far as experience goes but I was very impressed by him at Haydock on Saturday.”

Russell looking beyond Carlisle mishap with Ahoy Senor

Lucinda Russell is drawing the positives from Ahoy Senor’s chasing debut at Carlisle.

The six-year-old was a Grade One winner over hurdles at Aintree in April, making all to defy odds of 66-1 in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle in which he defeated the highly-regarded Bravemansgame by seven lengths.

On Sunday, the point-to-point winner switched to fences for the Listed Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase – in a quality field which included a clutch of classy second-season chasers.

Ahoy Senor led for much of the race and jumped with great flair until the second last, at which he seemed to stumble slightly on landing as he unseated Derek Fox.

Russell reports her stable star to be none the worse following the mishap, and she was impressed with his performance despite the eventual outcome.

“He’s obviously very onward bound and you worry that he’s only ever going to be able to stand off fences, but he’s very clever in getting near to them as well,” she said.

“I was delighted with the way he went – we set him a very tough test.

“He just stumbled on landing. It happens, and I suppose he is a novice – there were a lot of positives to take away from it.”

Ahoy Senor does not have another engagement pencilled in yet, but he is likely to run in a novice chase at the end of this month.

“It was unfortunate for him to stumble after that fence, but I don’t think it’s going to be an issue – we’re just looking forward to his next run,” added Russell.

“I don’t know where it’ll be, but it’ll be towards the end of the month. We’ll find a novice chase somewhere.”

Carlisle objective for Ahoy Senor after Wetherby defection

Ahoy Senor is expected to make his debut over fences on Sunday after he was a late withdrawal at Wetherby on Friday due to the ground.

Trainer Lucinda Russell had entered the six-year-old – who was last seen beating Bravemansgame in the Grade One Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in April – for the bet365 Novices’ Chase at the West Yorkshire venue.

But while enough rain fell overnight to turn the ground good to soft, good in places, Russell felt conditions would not be suitable for her stable star’s chasing bow.

He is now set to run in the Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase on Sunday, although the winning point to pointer will be taking on more seasoned rivals in the likes of Fiddlerontheroof, Espoir De Romay and Silver Hallmark.

Russell said: “I walked the course and it’s good to soft, good in a couple of places and it’s not for him.

“Mighty Thunder will be fine on it tomorrow (in the Charlie Hall Chase), but it’s not for a soft ground horse.

“He’s declared for Carlisle and that’s the plan, provided he’s OK in the morning. It’s quite a high level, but I just want to get him started.”

Ahoy Senor’s return delayed as Russell resists Carlisle

Lucinda Russell has resisted the temptation to press ahead with Ahoy Senor’s planned chasing debut at Carlisle, on ground she has decided may be slightly too lively for the rising star’s first start of the season.

The point-to-point recruit was due to head to Cumbria on Thursday, for the Introducing Racing TV Novices’ Chase.

But Russell had already voiced her intention to first ensure conditions were suitable – and then after consulting clerk of the course Kirkland Tellwright, she announced on Wednesday evening that Ahoy Senor will not run.

The Perth & Kinross trainer will therefore consider Wetherby next week as a possible first target for her Grade One-winning hurdler, or possibly Hexham.

She said: “I’ve spoken to Kirkland, who has been very good, and he says it’s good ground all over.

“At this stage of the season I just can’t risk it, and there are plenty of other options coming up. He could go to Wetherby or Hexham, with Wetherby (on Friday week) being the next option.”

Ahoy Senor finished second in an Ayr bumper on his debut under Rules in January before returning to the Scottish track to make a successful start over hurdles in March.

He was a widely unconsidered 66-1 shot when then stepped up to Grade One level for the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree’s Grand National meeting.

But having produced a dominant front-running display to defeat the high-class Bravemansgame, the six-year-old heads into the autumn as perhaps the brightest jumping prospect in the north.

Russell said: “It’s funny, isn’t it – it becomes a responsibility.

“The better the horse is, it’s almost as though the less he belongs to you and the more you have a responsibility to everyone else.

Cadzand (right) in action at Southwell
Cadzand (right) in action at Southwell (Mike Egerton/PA)

“You obviously have a responsibility to the owners and the jockeys and everyone here in the yard, but also to everyone else as well that’s supporting.”

“He’s a lovely horse to school. He’s been really well produced from the British point-to-point field and he’s done loads of schooling before – it’s just natural to him.

“Hopefully this (going chasing) will take him to another level again.”

In Ahoy Senor’s absence, just three runners will go to post as Dan Skelton has also taken out Cadzand.

Deluxe Range (Sandy Thomson), Tupelo Mississippi (Brian Ellison) and Hardy Du Seuil (Jamie Snowden) – who made it no further than the first fence on his British bow at Wetherby last week – are the other hopefuls.

Russell’s anticipation mounts for Ahoy Senor’s chasing debut

Lucinda Russell is feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement at Ahoy Senor’s planned return to action at Carlisle on Thursday.

The point-to-point recruit finished second in an Ayr bumper on his debut under Rules in January before returning to the Scottish track to make a successful start over hurdles at the start of March.

Ahoy Senor was a widely unconsidered 66-1 shot when then stepped up to Grade One level for the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree’s Grand National meeting.

But having produced a dominant front-running display to defeat the high-class Bravemansgame, the six-year-old heads into the autumn as perhaps the brightest jumping prospect in the north.

“It’s funny, isn’t it – it becomes a responsibility. The better the horse is, it’s almost as though the less he belongs to you and the more you have a responsibility to everyone else,” said Russell.

“You obviously have a responsibility to the owners and the jockeys and everyone here in the yard, but also to everyone else as well that’s supporting.”

Ahoy Senor is set to face four rivals in the two-and-a-half-mile Introducing Racing TV Novices’ Chase, although his participation in Cumbria is ground dependent.

Russell added: “We’ll see if they get any rain and what the situation is in the morning, but he only needs it to be on the soft side of good.

“If he did go, it’s half a mile shorter than ideal, but he won over two and a half miles over hurdles – and it will be good to get some experience into him and see where we go from there.

“He’s a lovely horse to school. He’s been really well produced from the British point-to-point field and he’s done loads of schooling before – it’s just natural to him.

“Hopefully this (going chasing) will take him to another level again.”

Cadzand (right) in action at Southwell
Cadzand (right) in action at Southwell (Mike Egerton/PA)

The biggest threat to Ahoy Senor appears to be Cadzand, who won three of his five starts over hurdles for Dan Skelton.

Deluxe Range (Sandy Thomson), Tupelo Mississippi (Brian Ellison) and Hardy Du Seuil (Jamie Snowden) – who made it no further than the first fence on his British bow at Wetherby last week – are the other hopefuls.

Ahoy Senor all set to start chasing career

Grade One-winning hurdler Ahoy Senor is set to make his novice-chasing debut in the coming weeks.

A £50,000 purchase after impressing in a wide-margin point-to-point victory in November, the Dylan Thomas gelding filled the runner-up spot in an Ayr bumper on his first start for Lucinda Russell, before going one better on his hurdling bow at the Scottish venue at the start of March.

Ahoy Senor was a widely unconsidered 66-1 shot when stepped up to the highest level at Aintree the following month, but produced a dominant front-running performance to ensure he heads into the new campaign as one of the most exciting prospects in the north.

Russell is keen for her stable star to make a low-key beginning to his career over fences – identifying a race at the Charlie Hall meeting at Wetherby as a potential starting point.

She said: “I’m really pleased with him. He’s summered very well and is in full work.

“He’s just a couple of pieces of work off a race really. Chasing is definitely the plan, and we’re looking forward to it.”

Wherever Ahoy Senor begins his chasing career, expectations will inevitably be high.

Russell added: “It’s quite a responsibility having a horse like him, but it’s a good situation to be in.

“We might start low and go to Hexham or Carlisle or Wetherby. There’s a three-mile novice chase at the Charlie Hall meeting, so maybe we’ll go to Wetherby for that.

“There’s no pressure. We’ll start small and see how we get on.”

Russell mulling Punchestown option for Aintree hero Ahoy Senor

Ahoy Senor may be heading to the Punchestown Festival this month as Lucinda Russell ponders one more outing over hurdles for her impressive Aintree winner.

Russell has made no secret of the intention that British point-to-point graduate Ahoy Senor’s future will lie over fences as of the start of next season.

But after the six-year-old’s shock yet decisive success from a field of top staying novices in Grade One company at Aintree last week, his Scottish trainer will consider heading to Punchestown for the Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle on April 28.

Ahoy Senor was among a clutch of British entries published on Monday for the five-day meeting, which will feature many of the stars of this spring’s major Festivals in a finale to the National Hunt season.

“It won’t do him any harm to get a bit more experience,” said Russell.

“But he really is a (future) chaser, and that’s what we’re looking forward to.”

A decision over whether to travel has therefore yet to be made.

Russell added: “It’s 50-50 really. We’ve just got him back into work and we’ll find out how he is.

“I’d prefer it to be ground on the soft side. So no firm decision has been made (yet) – we’ll see how we get on over the next week.

“Maybe it’s being a bit greedy – but then again, if he is in good form, he is a racehorse and that’s what he’s been bought to do.”

So far, three days after the lightly-raced Ahoy Senor’s seven-length win from Bravemansgame, he appears to have recovered well from what was his third run of the campaign – and just the second hurdles start of his career.

Russell said: “He’s fine. He’s a remarkable horse really – very inexperienced race-wise, but just a very straightforward horse to deal with.

“We knew he was a very good horse. We only bought him in the autumn, and he missed out on the early-season novices.

“He’s been very well-prepared, and had a full season in training before he ran in his point-to-point – so we always knew physically he was going to cope with it.

“It was just whether he would mentally – but he is just very straightforward.”

Elsewhere among the Punchestown entries, Henry de Bromhead’s champions Minella Indo, Put The Kettle On and Honeysuckle are all in the reckoning – and Monkfish and Envoi Allen are on course to clash too in a test of their superstar potential.

Gold Cup hero Minella Indo is one of 11 currently in the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup – along with Willie Mullins’ Al Boum Photo, dual winner of Cheltenham’s signature event, and his stablemate Kemboy, successful in the most recent edition of this race in 2019.

Gold Cup winner Minella Indo may be in action again at Punchestown
Gold Cup winner Minella Indo may be in action again at Punchestown (David Davies/Jockey Club)

The opposition for Queen Mother Champion Chase heroine Put The Kettle On, in the William Hill Champion Chase, includes Dan and Harry Skelton’s Nube Negra – who got closest to the mare in second at Cheltenham – and Mullins’ Chacun Pour Soi. The latter’s stablemate and Ryanair Chase winner Allaho and Joseph O’Brien’s Aintree Grade One star Fakir D’oudairies also hold alternative Gold Cup entries.

On the same card, which opens the meeting, dual Cheltenham Festival winners Monkfish – unbeaten over fences for Mullins – and De Bromhead’s Envoi Allen, who lost his perfect record when falling in the Marsh Novices’ Chase last month, are among 12 in the Dooley Insurance Champion Novice over an extended three miles.

Gavin Cromwell’s Flooring Porter, winner of Cheltenham’s Stayers’ Hurdle, tops 25 possibles in Punchestown’s Grade One equivalent – and Envoi Allen has the option of dropping back to two miles, with both Mullins’ Energumene and Nicky Henderson’s Arkle and Aintree hero Shishkin among the potential opposition in the Ryanair Novice Chase.

The Paddy Power Champion Hurdle could feature a rematch between Honeysuckle and Henderson’s 2020 Cheltenham winner Epatante – who was third this year – with her stablemate Buveur D’Air and Gary Moore’s Goshen also potential British challengers.

Ahoy Senor springs 66-1 surprise in Sefton Novices’ Hurdle

The Grand National-winning team of Lucinda Russell and Derek Fox teamed up at Aintree once more to win the Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle with Ahoy Senor at 66-1.

Having just his second start over hurdles, having won at Ayr last month, Ahoy Senor made every yard of the running.

As his challengers dropped away one by one in the straight there was only the favourite, Paul Nicholls’ Bravemansgame, who brought the strongest form to the table, able to get close before the final flight.

Ahoy Senor was not for stopping, though, and the lightly-raced six-year-old went away again on the run-in to score by seven lengths and his future looks very bright.

Fox, who won the 2017 National with the Russell-trained One For Arthur, said: “It’s unbelievable as he’s only had the one run over hurdles before.

“He works so well at home and everyone thinks a lot of him. I’m delighted.

“He’s a very talented horse. He does everything with so much ease and he’s a pleasure to ride – I’m very lucky to be on him.

“This is my first winner back here since the Grand National on One For Arthur (in 2017). It was brilliant.

“He’s a big horse and you wouldn’t to risk him on ground that was too fast. He does go on good ground. We just want it to be safe enough for him because he’s so big and you don’t want to risk injuring him. That’s why we took him out at Hexham.”

Russell said: “He’s just a super horse who gallops and jumps. I saw him win his point-to-point and he did the same thing there.

“It was only his second hurdle race today, but there was such confidence behind him at home. I just saw he was 66-1.

“I can’t believe we managed to get him beaten in a bumper, but jumping has taken him to another level and I can’t wait for him to go chasing.

Ahoy Senor looks to have a huge future
Ahoy Senor looks to have a huge future (David Davies/Jockey Club)

“We bought him for £50,000, which is a lot of money, but not for a winning a point-to-pointer.”

She added: “It’s great for Derek to ride another big winner and great for the whole yard at home.

“He’s half-owned by my dad, who is 93. He’s found it hard through lockdown, like many people have. The racing has really kept him going, so it’s nice for him to watch it today.

“He is physically a bigger horse than Brindisi Breeze. He has already schooled over fences and jumps well, so I would hope next year is going to be really exciting.”