Red-hot Hughes reaches landmark century at Ayr

Brian Hughes became the fastest northern-based jump jockey to reach 100 winners in a season with victory on Dreams Of Home at Ayr.

The 36-year-old has been in tremendous from day one of the campaign in his sterling effort to regain the title he won in 2019-20 from Harry Skelton.

He began the day 42 winners clear of nearest pursuer Sam Twiston-Davies, and took his tally to three figures when scoring on Dreams Of Home (11-8 favourite) in the Coral Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.

Having his second run over fences, the Donald McCain-trained five-year-old triumphed by five and a half lengths from Fete Champetre, who ruined his chance with a mistake at the final fence.

Hughes told Great British Racing: “It’s great to reach 100 winners already this year. It’s always the first big target to tick off when you set your goals at the start of the season, so to achieve it in November is really encouraging.

“The five-timer at Musselburgh (in October) was the highlight. They don’t come around too often those days so you have to enjoy them when you have them.”

He added: “The ultimate goal remains reclaiming the championship. Anything can happen during the season, so there is no room to let up from my perspective. I will keep pushing towards the next milestone and continue to ride as many winners as possible.”

Bielsa strikes in Ayr Gold Cup

A brave ride from Kevin Stott enabled Bielsa to secure big-race honours in the Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup.

With the results of Friday’s Bronze Cup and the Silver Cup earlier on Saturday’s card suggesting a low draw was favourable over the sprint distance of six furlongs, it looked like Bielsa would have his work cut out drawn highest of all in stall 25.

As the stalls opened, the majority of the field split into two groups, with several horses racing on the far side of the track and another batch going down the middle.

The Kevin Ryan-trained Bielsa (15-2), however, ploughed a lone furrow against the stands’ side rail, which ultimately proved a masterstroke.

Great Ambassador, the 3-1 favourite, careered clear of his rivals on the far side inside the final furlong, but Bielsa galloped straight and true and was two and a quarter lengths clear passing the post.

Ryan, winning the Ayr Gold Cup for a fifth time, told ITV Racing: “I spoke to Alistair Donald (racing manager for winning owners King Power Racing) this morning and said ‘we’re on the rail, it’s fresh ground, and he likes to go that way anyway’.

Bielsa winning the Ayr Gold Cup
Bielsa winning the Ayr Gold Cup (Jeff Holmes/PA)

“It’s great to train a winner like this for King Power. They’ve been very patient with this horse and I’m chuffed really.

“He’s a very talented horse. It just hasn’t happened this year. Things go wrong and you get little niggles, but that’s what gets you an Ayr Gold Cup – they generally get there fresh and well.

“We’ve won four Ayr Gold Cups and you wonder if you’re going to win another one.

“They were all Group horses and this horse is a Group horse.”

Nazanin swoops late for Firth of Clyde prize

Hollie Doyle and Nazanin claimed a last-gasp victory in the Virgin Bet Firth of Clyde Fillies’ Stakes at Ayr.

A field of 14 juvenile fillies went to post for the Group Three contest, with the Archie Watson-trained Nazanin a 16-1 shot after finishing a well-beaten eighth in last month’s Lowther Stakes at York.

Deep inside the final furlong, the main of the action took place on the far side of the track, with Canonized – turning out just 24 hours after finishing fifth in a Listed event at the Scottish track – locked in battle with Hala Hala Athmani and Irish raider Head Mistress.

But ploughing a lone furrow down the centre, Doyle and Nazanin finished with a flourish to get up and deny Canonized by a short head, with Hala Hala Athmani and Head Mistress close up in third and fourth respectively.

Doyle told ITV Racing: “She’s been taking steps forward. In the Lowther last time, the ground was very quick and I didn’t think she let herself down, but today I let her use herself and she’s got through that ground lovely.

“It’s just so good for Archie and the connections.

“She’s been highly tried on her last two runs, so it’s always a bit worrying, you don’t know if you’re overfacing them, but we’ve always known she’s got the ability. It’s excellent she’s done that today.”

Maydanny delivers in Doonside Cup

Maydanny ran out a clear-cut winner of the Virgin Bet Doonside Cup at Ayr.

Impressive when landing the Golden Mile at Goodwood earlier in the summer, Mark Johnston’s charge had since disappointed in handicap company at York and in the Group Three Superior Mile at Haydock.

Stepping up to a mile and a quarter for the first time this season, the 9-2 chance tracked the pacesetting The Flying Ginger for much of the way before pulling clear in the hands of Joe Fanning.

Admirable veteran Euchen Glen made late headway from further back in the field, but Maydanny never looked in any real danger of being pegged back and passed the post with a length and a half in hand.

The winning handler told ITV Racing: “You never expect things, but we were very hopeful – we wouldn’t be running him here if we didn’t think he had a great chance.

“He was obviously a little bit disappointing last time, but we knew if he could run up to his best, all the conditions seemed to be right for him.

“More of the same (would probably be the plan). We’ll just take one race at at time, there’s no specific target in mind.”

Johnston and Fanning were completing a quick-fire double on the card following the success of Highland Premiere (13-2) in the opening Microtech Group EBF Nursery.

The Middleham maestro went on to make it a treble with the Richard Kingscote-ridden Annandale (9-4) in the concluding Jordan Electrics Ltd Handicap.

Staxton (right) winning the Silver Cup at Ayr
Staxton (right) winning the Silver Cup at Ayr (Jeff Holmes/PA)

Staxton clung on grimly to claim top honours in the Virgin Bet Ayr Silver Cup.

Tim Easterby’s sprinter had not managed to get his head in front since making a successful start to the campaign at Ripon in April, but had dropped to the same mark as a result.

Drawn low in stall two, the 25-1 shot was produced to challenge against the far rail by Duran Fentiman and stuck to his task admirably to get the better of a thrilling battle with Soldier’s Minute by a head.

The hat-trick seeking 9-2 favourite Blackrod was almost two lengths further behind in third.

Revich (second left) was a narrow winner
Revich (second left) was a narrow winner (Jeff Holmes/PA)

Trainer Richard Spencer and 3lb claimer Angus Villiers combined to land the Virgin Bet Handicap with 20-1 shot Revich.

Carrying the colours of Middleham Park Racing, the five-year-old stuck to his guns to see off Hong Kong Harry by half a length, with another Middleham Park runner in Marie’s Diamond close up in third.

Middleham Park’s Tim Palin said: “I think the key to Revich is a turning track and he was just getting down to a workable mark.

“He was as game as a pebble in the final furlong when he could easily have cried enough.

“Getting denied the one-two was unfortunate, but we’re very grateful for the win and Marie’s Diamond ran great as well.”

John Quinn’s Titan Rock (8-1) strode clear in the Download The Gribbens Taxi App Now Handicap.

Dandalla storms back to winning form at Ayr

Dandalla burst from the wilderness with a classy performance to win the Listed Arran Scottish Sprint EBF Fillies’ Stakes at Ayr.

Twice a Group-race winner as a two-year-old, the Karl Burke-trained filly had failed to live up to expectations this season.

Tweet Tweet took the field along up the stands rail, with Bimble prominent on the far side, but Dandalla (13-2) took it up over a furlong out under Ben Curtis and won cosily by a length and three-quarters in a record time for the five and a half furlongs. Bimble was second, with Keep Busy a short head away third.

The syndicate-owned filly’s connections have eyes on a major move back up in class next, for the Group One Qatar Prix de l’Abbaye at ParisLongchamp.

“We saw it coming,” said owners’ spokesman Nick Bradley.

“We fell into the trap of trying to step her up for the Guineas and hadn’t realised it was five rather than six (she needed) when we came back in trip.

“(Jockey) Jamie Spencer pointed that out after she ran at Pontefract – so give him credit. Ben (Curtis) rode her well at Beverley, but she was drawn in the car park (that day), and we thought she’d win today.

“She’s always had the ability, but we kept putting her in the wrong race or tactics were wrong.

“If she had disappointed she’d have gone for a Listed race at Ascot. She’s obviously won well, so she’s going to go for the Abbaye next.”

Elsewhere on the card, Vertiginous confirmed the form of her runs in the Queen Mary and Lowther Stakes to get off the mark with a Listed success in the British EBF Stallions Harry Rosebery Stakes.

The Brian Meehan-trained filly was the only maiden among the 13 runners, but her performances at Group level showed she had plenty of ability – and she delivered in convincing style.

Travelling well throughout in the hands of Paul Mulrennan, Vertiginous (17-2) made all to score by two lengths from Mitbaahy in a course record time for two-year-olds.

Ger Lyons’ Irish raider Geocentric was a length away third.

Meehan said: “I’m very pleased. She’s been consistent all year. We’ve been running her over six on her last two starts, but she’s got so much pace.

“She’s a lovely filly, very talented and has got a super temperament. She’s as cool as anything and takes it all in her stride.

Brian Meehan's Vertiginous was a Listed winner at Ayr
Brian Meehan’s Vertiginous was a Listed winner at Ayr (Julian Herbert/PA)

“I went up there with good confidence because I knew she was going to run a big race – her form was so good, and she’s a model of consistency.

“I think there’s more to come, perhaps in the the Cornwallis, and we’ll look at other options.”

The well-backed 4-1 favourite Call Me Ginger led home a one-two for trainer Jim Goldie in the Virgin Bet Ayr Bronze Cup – giving Mulrennan a double.

The in-form rider produced the five-year-old with a late run on the far side to lead in the final half-furlong and win by half a length from stablemate Be Proud.

Hala Hala Athmani takes plunge in Firth of Clyde

Hala Hala Athmani steps straight from her promising debut success into Group Three company when she lines up for the Virgin Bet Firth of Clyde Fillies’ Stakes at Ayr.

The half-sister to Group One-winning sprinter Hello Youmzain came from last to first to score by five and a half lengths in a 12-runner Carlisle maiden a month ago.

Connections sense the Kevin Ryan-trained juvenile will not be out of place in Saturday’s competitive Pattern race.

“She’s well thought of and she won well first time out at Carlisle – she looked good and came from way back,” said Bruce Raymond, racing manager to owner Jaber Abdullah.

“You’ve got to go for those races and try to get a bit of black type while you can.

“Maybe a little more experience would help her, but she won first time out after overcoming difficulties. I think she’s got a good chance.”

Hellomydarlin has been running with credit in Listed and Group races, and her connections are expecting another decent run.

The daughter of Galileo Gold, owned by Nick Bradley Racing, did nothing wrong when runner-up to Flotus in the Ripon Champion Two Year Old Trophy on her latest start.

Bradley said: “She’s a very tough filly, who ran a huge race in Ripon last time.

“She’s improved with every run and goes there with a good each-way chance.”

Others in the mix include Deauville Listed winner Choux, from the David Evans stable, Clive Cox’s Group Three-placed Crazyland and William Haggas’ Canonized, who was fourth in a Group Three at ParisLongchamp this month.

There is a sole Irish-trained contender in Ger Lyons’ unbeaten Listed scorer Head Mistress.

Tweet Tweet all set for Listed engagement at Ayr

Tweet Tweet bids to continue her progression in the Arran Scottish Sprint EBF Fillies’ Stakes at Ayr on Friday.

Placed on each of her three starts as a juvenile last season, Declan Carroll’s charge has won three times from four outings this term and arrives on a hat-trick following summer victories at Haydock and York.

Carroll feels the time is right to test the water at Listed level in Scotland.

He said: “She’s in great form and it looks like she’s ready for a step up. This is her next step up and we’ll see how she gets on.

“She’s drawn high (stall 15) and I’ll tell you after the race if that is good or bad!

“We’ll play the cards we’re dealt and see how it goes.”

Dandalla has lots of high-class form to her name
Dandalla has lots of high-class form to her name (Julian Finney/PA)

The Karl Burke-trained Dandalla looked a potential superstar in the making after winning the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes at Newmarket last summer, but is winless in eight starts since.

However, connections were encouraged by her fifth place in last month’s Beverley Bullet from a wide draw and hopes are high ahead of her latest assignment.

Nick Bradley, racing manager for the owners, said: “I think she’ll nearly win.

“We’ve messed it up in terms of how we’ve been riding her and tactics. We think we’ve now figured it out and we think she’s going to run a massive race on Friday.

“She’ll be there or thereabouts.”

Other contenders for the five-and-a-half-furlong Listed contest include John Quinn’s Keep Busy and a quartet of Irish raiders in Ken Condon’s pair of Teresa Mendoza and Let’s, Joe Murphy’s White Lavender and Russian River from Joseph O’Brien’s yard.

Listed honours are also up for grabs in the preceding British EBF Stallions Harry Rosebery Stakes, in which the Burke-Bradley combination is represented by three-times winner Fast Response.

The Fast Company juvenile turns out just five days after dominating her rivals in a conditions event at Musselburgh.

Bradley added: “We thought she’d win up at Musselburgh as she was flying at home.

“She’s come out of the race well and Jason (Hart) keeps the ride. Hopefully she goes there with an each-way chance.”

The 13-strong field features two Irish challengers, with the Ger Lyons-trained Geocentric joined by Michael O’Callaghan’s Naas maiden winner Ernest Rutherford.

“He’s come out of his race in Naas well and we’re quite hopeful,” said O’Callaghan.

“He’s a nice colt and we wouldn’t be bringing him over if we didn’t think he’d run a big race.”

Euchen Glen primed for Doonside Cup mission

Jim Goldie is looking forward to running stable star Euchen Glen in the Virgin Bet Doonside Cup at Ayr – whatever the weather and opposition.

The eight-year-old will be bidding to improve on his fourth place behind Addeybb in Saturday’s Listed contest 12 months ago, and add to his tally of victories this year in the Brigadier Gerard and Gala Stakes – both at Sandown.

Addeybb, who went on to taste Group One glory in the Champion Stakes, is again among this weekend’s entries.

However, he also has the option of the Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup at Newbury and is likely to go where there is some give in the ground.

“I’m hoping (Addeybb’s trainer) Mr (William) Haggas finds Newbury more attractive than Ayr, but we’ll wait and see,” said Goldie.

“He’s in good nick. Obviously Ayr is our local track, and it’s nice for us to have runners here.

“He’s fresh and well, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Goldie, whose stables are 26 miles away at Uplawmoor, near Glasgow, expects the ground to be nearer good than soft.

“I think the ground will be good to firm. It won’t be slow ground,” he said.

“I think there might a bit of rain on Friday, but there’s not going to be a great deal.

“We’ll be going there, whatever the ground. We’re going well at the moment.”

Abbaye hopes as Mo Celita dream continues

Mo Celita may try to complete her remarkable rags-to-riches story with a bid for top sprinting honours in the Qatar Prix de l’Abbaye at ParisLongchamp in October.

The Adrian Nicholls-trained filly is likely to first take in either the Group Three Qatar Prix du Petit Couvert at ParisLongchamp over five furlongs or the Arran Scottish Sprint EBF Fillies’ Stakes over five and a half at Ayr next month.

The three-year-old daughter of Camacho is already a Listed winner, having struck at Deauville this month.

It was only in April Mo Celita failed to attract a bid when landing a narrow success in selling company at Leicester, on her British and stable debut.

She then went on to win her next four races, as well as stepping up in class and being bought by David Redvers and David Howden.

“She’s in good form. She’s come out of her Deauville race very well. I’m very happy with her,” said Nicholls.

“There are a couple of races coming up – one in France she’s entered for, the Prix du Petit Couvert on Arc trials day. I won that when I was riding.

“There’s a race at Ayr at a similar time. She’ll get an entry for that. The long-term target at the moment is the Abbaye.”

Mo Celita has proved herself adaptable as well as classy, having won in conditions ranging from heavy to good to firm and over both five and six furlongs.

Yorkshire trainer Nicholls added: “She’s not massively ground dependent – she’s just doesn’t want it fast.

“You’re kind of edging towards France for that bit better ground. It’s usually on the soft side at Ayr as well, but we’re just playing it by ear.

“Mr Redvers and Mr Howden are looking to going to the Abbaye as the main aim if all goes to plan.

“It’s a dream come true. She’s looks to be still improving, so it’s onwards and upwards with her.”

Keep Busy upholds family tradition at Ayr

Keep Busy emulated her dam with victory in the Listed Irish Stallion Farms EBF Land O’Burns Fillies’ Stakes at Ayr.

John Quinn’s four-year-old was dropping down in class, having run consistently well at Group One and Two level in her last four starts but without a victory since her last trip to Scotland at Hamilton in August.

Keep Busy, a Group One runner-up at the Curragh last year and back in action quickly after her admirable close fifth as a 50-1 shot in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot last week, was sent off the 4-7 favourite this time to gain a deserved fifth career success and second at Listed level.

She duly did so with the minimum fuss, following the example set by her mother Look Busy – who won this race by a short head back in 2008.

Ridden by Jason Hart,  Keep Busy was not quite so hard-pressed to make her class tell – striking from off the pace a furlong out, after being positioned in midfield early on, and quickly confirming her superiority to win by three-quarters of a length from Irish challenger Dickiedooda.

Mid Winster, prominent throughout, just held on for third half a length further back.

Quinn was delighted to see Keep Busy win for the first time in seven starts – and confirmed she will soon be going back up in class again.

“She did it well – she was going away at the line,” said the North Yorkshire trainer.

“It’s only seven days after Royal Ascot, so I’m delighted.

“I’ll give her a little chance now for a while. But she does thrive on racing – the more I ran her as a two-year-old the better she was, then last year she only started running in June and then ran nine times.”

A return to the Curragh for the Group Two Sapphire Stakes is therefore on Keep Busy’s agenda – with high-profile dates at Goodwood, York and ParisLongchamp all possibly in the diary for her later in the season.

“She does like racing,” added Quinn.

“Her mum was supremely tough, and this one is the same.

“That said, there’s only so much for her. But there’s the Sapphire at the Curragh, the Group Two in about three weeks.

“That would be the plan, and then back for the Group Ones she ran well in last year – I put her in at Goodwood (King George Stakes) this morning, and the Nunthorpe, and she’ll be entered in the Abbaye.

“But I’d say the Curragh (next), all being well, would fit nicely.”

Keep Busy staying busy with Ayr engagement

King’s Stand Stakes fifth Keep Busy makes a quick reappearance in the Listed Irish Stallion Farms EBF Land O’Burns Fillies’ Stakes at Ayr on Tuesday.

The four-year-old was sent off a 50-1 chance in the Group One sprint won by Roger Teal’s Oxted, but finished one place in front of better-fancied stablemate Liberty Beach, who had landed the Temple Stakes at Haydock in which Keep Busy was only fifth.

The John Quinn-trained pair will have all the major five-furlong races for the rest of the season on their agendas.

“Keep Busy came out of the King’s Stand fine, so we’re happy to let her take her chance,” said the Malton handler.

“It looks a good opportunity, she’s well, so now I just hope she wins.

“Keep Busy always improves for her first run of the season and she did again, that’s her, she’s tough so we’re happy to run her again.”

As for plans for the rest of the season for the duo, Quinn said: “The two of them are in the Sapphire Stakes at the Curragh (July 17), they’ll be put in the King George at Goodwood and in the Nunthorpe.

“They are both proper five-furlong fillies and they beat all the other fillies well at Ascot. With a bit of luck they’ll win a Group One this season.”

Bharani Star returns with Listed victory at Ayr

Bharani Star delighted trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam with her Listed success in the British Stallion Studs EBF Rothesay Stakes at Ayr.

The daughter of Sea The Stars has been highly tried since registering a first career victory when dead-heating in a Haydock handicap last June – subsequently finishing fourth in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot and sixth in the Oaks at Epsom.

Making her first appearance since contesting the Galtres Stakes at York in August, Bharani Star was a 16-1 shot for her Scottish assignment – with dual champion jockey Paul Hanagan in the saddle.

Settled in midfield for much of the 10-furlong journey, the four-year-old quickened up to lead entering the final furlong and passed the post with almost two lengths in hand over Jessica Harrington’s Irish challenger Astadash.

Chapple-Hyam said: “I’m pleased with the filly and pleased for everyone concerned.

“If you’d asked me a week ago I’d have said she’d win, but if you’d asked me this morning I’d have said she’d a chance.

“She ran very well in the Ribblesdale last year, and I’m delighted with her.”

While in no rush to firm up immediate plans for Bharani Star, Chapple-Hyam hopes she can earn herself a possible return to Group One level in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood this summer.

He added: “We’ll step up for a Group Three somewhere, and take things slowly.

“Hopefully she might be good enough for the Nassau later on in the year.

“I don’t think the ground matters to her.”

Richard Fahey saddles 3,000th British winner

Richard Fahey claimed his 3,000th British winner when Hong Kong Harry scored at Ayr on Tuesday evening.

Based in Malton, North Yorkshire, Fahey has long had a prolific strike rate from his Musley Bank yard.

He has trained more than 150 winners for the past six seasons and in 2015 equalled the record for most winners in a calendar year when saddling 235 – a figure subsequently broken by Mark Johnston in 2019.

Fahey has handled popular equine stars such as Gabrial, Kimberella and Superior Premium as well as top-class performers such as Mayson, Wootton Basset and Ribchester, arguably the best horse he has trained.

Ribchester winning the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot
Ribchester winning the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot (John Walton/PA)

Fahey, who was born in Ireland but moved to Yorkshire when he was 18, told Great British Racing: “I would never have dreamed of reaching 3,000 winners when I started out, to have had 30 would have been enough back then!

“However, I’m obviously delighted to have reached such a fantastic milestone now and the credit must go to all my team as I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.

“If I had to pick one highlight, it would have to be Ribchester breaking the track record in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, it doesn’t get much better than that!”

A former jockey who rode more than 100 winners, Fahey’s training career began in 1993 and just seven years later he registered his first Royal Ascot win through Superior Premium in the Cork And Orrery Stakes.

His tally of 3,000 winners in Britain is made up of 2,859 on the Flat and 141 under National Hunt rules.

Paul Hanagan, who steered Hong Kong Harry to victory, has ridden more winners for Fahey than anyone else, with the pair enjoying 895 successes together.

Hanagan said: “I joined Richard when I was 17 years old and we have both grown together ever since, enjoying some fantastic days and moments together.

“There is no way I would have been able to achieve what I have achieved in my career, for example the two Champion Jockey titles, if it weren’t for Richard.

“We have become great friends and I’m over the moon for him to have reached this fantastic milestone.”

Mighty Thunder records famous ‘home win’ in Scottish National

Mighty Thunder provided Scottish trainer Lucinda Russell with victory in the Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr.

Trained in Kinross by Russell and her partner Peter Scudamore, Mighty Thunder was an 8-1 chance for his latest National assignment after winning the Edinburgh National at Musselburgh and finishing second in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter on his last two starts.

Rounding the home turn, it looked like Sandy Thomson could saddle the first two home, with 7-1 favourite Dingo Dollar and his stablemate The Ferry Master clear at the head of affairs.

However, Mighty Thunder responded to jockey Tom Scudamore’s urgings to close the gap and reeled in Dingo Dollar on the run-in to land a popular success by three-quarters of a length.

Irish raider Mister Fogpatches beat The Ferry Master to third place.

Mighty Thunder is the first home-trained winner of Scotland’s most famous jumps race since Merigo in 2012.

Russell said: “I’m delighted for the horse and his owners. It’s mixed emotions because it’s sad for Blair Campbell missing the ride due to injury, as he has kind of produced the horse, but these things happen and it’s fantastic Tom could ride and keep it in the family.

Trainer Lucinda Russell with Mighty Thunder
Trainer Lucinda Russell with Mighty Thunder (Jeff Holmes/PA)

“It’s been a tough time through Covid for the owners as they provide alcohol to pubs and clubs and things, but this will certainly brighten up their day.

“This is the horse’s first season over fences. He’s such a laid-back horse during a race, you can come with a late run at the end – he’s just made for these long-distance races really.”

The victory comes just nine days after Ahoy Senor claimed Grade One glory at Aintree for the team.

Russell has also won the Grand National on Merseyside with One For Arthur in 2017, while Brindisi Breeze was a Cheltenham Festival winner for the yard a few years ago.

Asked where winning the Scottish National ranks in her achievements, Russell added: “It would have to be second to the Grand National, but it’s a pretty good second place.

“I’m very proud of the way all the Scottish horses ran in it. They’re putting northern horses back on the map and that’s what we wanted.”

The trainer hopes Magic Thunder could be a realistic contender for the Randox Grand National at Aintree in 12 months’ time.

She said: “We’ll take it a step at a time, but I think we’ll probably go for the Becher Chase (in December) and see if he takes to the fences at Aintree.

“If he does then great, and if he doesn’t, we’ll aim at the Scottish National again.”

There was a sad postscript to the four-mile contest after it was confirmed the Sandy Forster-trained Claud And Goldie had collapsed and died in the pulling-up area after passing the post in ninth place.

Milkwood delivers in Scottish Champion Hurdle

A long-term plan came to fruition for Neil Mulholland after Milkwood claimed a clear-cut victory in the Coral Scottish Champion Hurdle.

The Somerset-based trainer revealed he has had the Grade Two contest as the primary objective for his seven-year-old ever since finishing fourth behind the high-class Sceau Royal in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las in October.

Since that fine effort, Milkwood had been third in the Gerry Feilden at Newbury and third again in the fiercely-competitive County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

With the form of the latter contest significantly boosted by the subsequent Grade One success of the winner Belfast Banter, Mulholland’s charge was the 3-1 favourite to get back on the winning trail at Ayr – and did so in impressive style.

After moving smoothly into contention under a confident ride from Sam Twiston-Davies, Milkwood took over the lead from Irish raider Ana Bunina after the final flight before pulling three and three-quarter lengths clear.

Mulholland said: “He ran very well in the Welsh Champion Hurdle and Ayr is a very similar track, so we’ve had this in mind since then.

“It was the same type of race, but better ground and we’re delighted it’s worked out on the day.

“We were hopeful going into it, but it’s hard to win any race, never mind a Scottish Champion Hurdle.”

On future plans, he added: “The only race left for him (this season) is the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock.

“He’ll probably go chasing at some stage, but I’ve got to speak to the owner and see what we’re going to do.

“We’ll enjoy today and see how he comes out of it.”