Fergal O’Brien believes the future is bright for Silver Hallmark following an impressive all-the-way victory in the Read Nicky Henderson’s Unibet Blog Novices’ Chase at Haydock.
A field of four runners went to post for the opener on Merseyside, with Henderson’s Allart the 10-11 favourite to double his Grade Two tally after a striking chasing debut at Ascot last month.
Silver Hallmark (2-1), narrowly beaten by Fiddlerontheroof on his first attempt over fences at Exeter in November, was sent straight to the lead on his first start since – and jumped well in the hands of Adam Wedge for much of the two-and-a-half-mile journey.
His task was undoubtedly made easier when Allart crashed out racing down the back straight – but O’Brien’s charge can still be expected to go on to bigger and better things, judged on the way he powered through the testing conditions to score by four and a half lengths.
O’Brien did not make the trip to the north west, but said: “I’m delighted with him – he’s been very well at home.
“He came back from Exeter with a little nick, which took a bit of time to come right, but he’s been in great form.
“Adam gave him a lovely ride. It was only his second run over fences and only the sixth run of his life, including his point-to-point. Haydock takes a bit of jumping, and I’m delighted with how it’s worked out.”
Silver Hallmark has not been entered for any of the novice chases at the Cheltenham Festival, with O’Brien instead eyeing a possible appearance at Aintree’s Grand National meeting.
He added: “We were in a quandary whether to stick over hurdles or go chasing with him, but Mr and Mrs Rucker (owners) said he was bought as a chaser – and I thought it was worth having a crack at a Grade Two today, and if he lost his novice status, so be it.
“I didn’t put him in any of the novice chases at Cheltenham, because I just felt he was lacking a bit of experience.
“Ground is important to him. I don’t think he wants it as bad as today, but soft ground would be important, so if it came up soft at Aintree then we’d definitely have a look at something like that.”
Faivoir lunged late to claim a last-gasp victory in the Sky Bet Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle.
Dan Skelton’s six-year-old faced a significant step up in class for this Grade Two test – and looked booked for minor honours jumping the final flight, with Donald McCain’s Minella Drama seemingly in control.
However, Faivoir ate into his lead on the run-in and got up in the dying strides to prevail by a neck at 7-1.
Winning jockey Bridget Andrews was emotional after the race as she reflected on the recent death of stable favourite Mohaayed, who was fatally injured at Market Rasen last Saturday.
Andrews had previously partnered Mohaayed to win the 2018 County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
“Last week was tough – Mohaayed played a big part in my career,” she said.
“I’m delighted for this horse today, and delighted for his owners. He’s actually been brilliant for me, because I’m four from four on him now.
“I think that trip (two miles) is fine for him on this ground. He’s still quite green and has a bit of an awkward way of going. He lugged in behind a little bit – but once I pulled him out and got upsides, I was away then.
“I don’t know what Dan’s plans are going to be. We tried him in a handicap at Sandown, and he didn’t really like the hustle and bustle.”
Following an inquiry, the Haydock stewards handed a four-day suspension to Andrews for careless riding, having edged left on the bend entering the straight and failed to “leave sufficient racing room for the two runners on her inside”.