Duffle Coat extended his unbeaten record with a tenacious last-to-first success in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The three-year-old made it four wins from as many starts to give trainer Gordon Elliott and jockey Robbie Power their first success in Grade Two prize.
Having been outpaced early on in the two-mile contest, the 2-1 second-favourite showed stamina is a strong suit as he forged clear from the last before staying on strongly up the run-in to defeat recent Warwick scorer Adagio by five lengths.
Power said: “I had no choice (but to sit at the back) as we had gone too quick and I was flat to the boards the whole way. To be fair to my lad he is really tenacious and a little terrier.
“From the top of the hill I gave him a little squeeze and he picked up underneath me. I wasn’t overly concerned as I thought we had gone quick on genuine soft ground.
“His stamina is his forte. Gordon says he doesn’t show a lot at home and that he is all about stamina and those strongly-run races suit him. “I’d imagine when his juvenile days are over he will be going up in trip.
Duffle Coat was cut to 12-1 favourite for the Triumph Hurdle in March by Coral, while Betfair went 16-1 for the same race.
Power added: “At this time of year it is hard to get a handle on the juvenile form, as you don’t know what is what.
“I’d imagine there will be more classier ones that come out than him as the season progresses, but there won’t be any more with more guts than he has. Ground doesn’t matter to him as he has won on good and soft.
“It is up to Gordon what he does between now and March, but he will have him good and fresh for then.”
On The Blind Side made a successful return to the smaller obstacles to land the Paddy Power Games Handicap Hurdle, after running over fences and in a jumpers’ bumper.
Nicky Henderson’s eight-year-old took the lead before the second-last flight and kept on stoutly, despite being strongly challenged.
Ridden by Nico de Boinville, On The Blind Side (7-1) held Mrs Milner by a neck with last year’s winner Golan Fortune a length and three-quarters away in third.
Henderson said: “He has been a great servant. He has been the most lovely horse all along, but he just got high in the weights. He just does love to have plenty of space. That’s where it is difficult over fences in those big fields. He doesn’t like getting crowded too much.
“He is a good chaser, but he just might be a tad better over hurdles. He really stuck on well and he was very brave. He loved it. Everything else I have run has got completely stuck in the mud, so we needed one to go in.
“It would definitely make you think that way (to stay over hurdles). We might have to look at one of those (graded staying races) as he is bound to go up a bit, but he has only won by a neck and he was giving the other horse weight.
“I’m thrilled for Alan (Spence, owner), that is a good tonic for him as he has had an operation. He is coming out this afternoon, but all is well and hopeful that will make him feel even better.”
De Boinville said: “He loved it back over hurdles, despite the ground. He loves having his own bit of space, it’s always quite hard in those big field chases to find a little bubble, but there today he’s really enjoyed it and he loves the hurdle game.
“He really knuckled down and found all the way to the line, he had to as well.”
Asked about his thoughts on riding Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Shishkin again this season, he added: “I’m looking forward to it. We’ve got lots of nice horses to come out, some already have, so here’s to a good season ahead.”
Elle Est Belle and Ishkhara Lady dead-heated after a thrilling finish in the gloom to the Karndean Designflooring Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.
After a lengthy deliberation, the judge could not separate the pair, neither of whom had given an inch up the punishing hill in the rain under dark skies.
The gambled-on Ucanaver set out to make all, but weakened out of contention as the race hotted up.
Harry Fry’s Ishkhara Lady, ridden by Sean Bowen, looked to hold a narrow lead, but Harry Skelton forced Elle Est Belle, trained by his brother, Dan, to share the spoils on the line.
Dan Skelton said: “Elle Est Belle is a nice filly.
“She won well at Aintree on her debut and it is nice to win this race in a dead-heat.
“Harry’s horse also looks nice.”
Fry said: “We have always liked Ishkhara Lady and it’s lovely to dead-heat with Dan’s horse who also looks nice.
“We are pleased with what she did today and she is a horse to look forward to.”