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Copper Coin realises long-term ambition for Scudamore team

Copper Coin delivered the bravest of victories in Huntingdon’s John Bigg “Oxo” Handicap Chase – a race of “massive significance” to trainer and jockey Michael and Tom Scudamore.

The brothers have long dreamt of joining forces to win the race which bears the name of their grandfather Michael’s 1959 Grand National winner – and despite trailing the field for much of the two-and-a-half-mile contest, Copper Coin had read the romantics’ script as well.

The Scudamores, sons of multiple champion jockey Peter, were capping a memorable weekend too – following their exploits on Saturday at Kelso, where Tom rode Grand National favourite Cloth Cap to a decisive Listed victory and Michael’s Do Your Job was second in a Grade Two novice hurdle.

The success which meant most, though, was reserved for Huntingdon – the culmination of years of hopes and more recently months of planning with the lightly-raced eight-year-old.

“It’s obviously not the biggest race in the world for a lot of people – especially with the week after next round the corner (at the Cheltenham Festival),” said Herefordshire trainer Scudamore, after Copper Coin’s 7-1 victory by a tenacious half-length.

“But obviously, from a family point of view, it’s a race of massive significance to us.

“Tom and I have just been saying it’s a race we’ve wanted to win ever since I’ve had my licence – 10, 15 years or so.”

Copper Coin was cast adrift of the eight-strong field at one stage, and still last as they turned for home – but Scudamore gradually made up ground before challenging at the last and seeing off Risk And Roll close home.

“He’s a wonderful horse anyway – he’s got such character, always causing havoc when he’s out and about being ridden,” Scudamore added.

“He’ll definitely have a big picture on the wall from now, I imagine!

“I’ve never had anything quite right to come for (this race). (But) it’s something we’ve had in our minds for some time with this horse, and it’s amazing it’s all come together really.”

The trainer could hardly be confident mid-race, but he still had faith both horse and jockey were not done with.

“He’s obviously had to be really brave today,” he added.

“The horse has had plenty of problems – he hasn’t had a lot of races in his life, and there have been a lot of gaps between them.

“He was bred by the owners as well. So to get his first win, and do it in a race like this, is just great for everyone.

Tom Scudamore has a favourite's chance in the Grand National after his weekend success on Cloth Cap
Tom Scudamore has a favourite’s chance in the Grand National after his weekend success on Cloth Cap (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Tom is riding exceptionally well, and has done for a number of years.

“I think he’s riding as well as anybody out there at the moment.

“He’s proven it again today.”

He had to challenge from the most unpromising of positions, however.

“It didn’t look likely early, and he was just a little bit sticky,” said Scudamore.

“But Tom just never moved on him, rode him with loads of confidence – and that’s shown at the end.

“With a circuit to go, he was a bit sticky again at the one after the ditch – and he dropped off the back by four and a half lengths.

“You thought then ‘it’s a long way back from here’.

“But Tom never panicked, and every time he did just ask a little bit more, the horse responded.

“Then turning for home, you just thought ‘he could go and run a nice race here and be third, fourth or fifth’. Actually, with the lay-off he’d had, you’d probably take that.

“But when he was bang there after the last, and the guts he had to show up the run-in, all credit to the horse.”

Copper Coin has had just nine career starts, and this was his second over fences.

Scudamore said: “He’s had his issues and injuries and things, and he was just unbelievably brave to really stick his neck out and get his nose in front when it really mattered.

“It’s obviously extra special to team up (here) – and we’re very, very proud to have got it right today.”

Double delight for title-chasing Skelton at Huntingdon

Harry Skelton kept up the pressure on Brian Hughes in the race for the jockeys’ title with a double for brother Dan on Go Steady and Antunes at Huntingdon on Thursday.

Skelton knows that in order to threaten the championship won for the first time by Hughes last season he will have to rely largely on his home stable remaining in cracking form.

But he stressed the importance of obtaining increased support from outside yards, saying: “The winners are coming really well, touch wood, and I will keep tipping away, even though it is going to be difficult.

“Brian gets a lot of rides, but our horses are in great form. I just need a few extra winners from outside to keep the pressure on.”

On 100-30 shot Go Steady in the Mansionbet’s Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap Chase, Skelton was rewarded for his perseverance as he reeled in Rob The Getaway.

He said: “He’s going the right way. He was a bit unfortunate at Fontwell when he landed on a ditch and unseated Bridget (Andrews). He’s a horse that likes to get the sun on his back, and I hope he’ll continue to progress.”

Skelton spent the latter part of the Mansionbet’s Bet 10 Get 20 Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase in isolation on 9-4 chance Antunes, who completely dominated the contest after the departure of 6-4 favourite Timetochill.

Fable gave her supporters an anxious moment when losing ground halfway down the back stretch in the mares’ maiden hurdle, but Nico de Boinville remained patient on the Nicky Henderson-trained six-year-old who came through to outpoint Juniper and long time leader Lady Of The Night.

The even-money favourite will according to her rider appreciate a further step up in trip on a more galloping track.

He said: “The track rode a bit tighter than on her run at Wincanton and the ground was dead and tacky. She struggled to hold her position going down the back but she’s really gutsy, and when I asked her away she went, showing a fighting spirit.”

Gavin Sheehan had to content himself with second on Juniper in that race – but the jockey had earlier connected with Brave Seasca flooring 11-10 shot Interconnected in the Mansionbet’s Watch And Bet Novices’ Hurdle.

Sheehan said: “I was impressed with the way he jumped. He got in a bit tight to a couple, but then winged the flights in the back and got a flier at the second-last, after which I always thought I was going to win.

“His form had worked out and I think that long term he’s a rangy, scopey chaser in the making.”

Liam Harrison needs just two more winners to see his claim reduced to 5lb after the battling success of No No Juliet in the mansionbet.com Mares’ Handicap Chase.

The 5-2 winner grabbed Ellens Way approaching the last and stayed on in determined fashion to score by a length and three-quarters, with The Toojumpa just a neck further away.

The jockey said: “Her Wetherby run was not long off the back of her previous race, so she’d been given a bit more time between races. She was a bit cold early in the race today, but really warmed to the task as the race progressed.”

Malina Ocarina posted a 20-1 shock when coming home three and a half lengths clear of Great Hall for Gary Hanmer and Charlie Todd in the Mansionbet’s Faller Insurance Handicap Hurdle.

Jumps courses on weather watch as cold snap bites

Jumps tracks are bracing themselves for another week of inspections and abandonments due to the continuing cold snap.

Sunday’s card at Musselburgh survived a morning inspection, but fixtures remain under threat in the coming week.

A poor weather forecast has prompted Plumpton to call an inspection at 8am on Monday to determined prospects for that day’s card.

Light snow is forecast with temperatures down to -2C overnight and not expected to rise above freezing.

Frost sheets were deployed on landings, take offs and vulnerable areas on Friday.

The prospect of a sharp frost on Sunday night has forced Carlisle to hold a precautionary inspection at 8am on Monday ahead of the same day’s meeting.

There is currently no problem with waterlogging, but there is a chance of snow on Monday.

Taunton are to inspect at noon on Monday to assess prospects for Tuesday’s card.

The course was free from frost on Sunday morning, but it is set to get colder overnight with temperatures forecast to drop to -2C on Sunday and -4C on Monday night. Daytime temperatures will struggle to get above freezing.

An precautionary inspection is also set for Market Rasen at noon on Monday ahead of Tuesday’s fixture due to the potential risk of snow and frost.

Wednesday’s meeting at Fontwell has been abandoned following an inspection on Sunday afternoon.

The course was found to be waterlogged in places and unraceable.

An inspection is set for Huntingdon at 4pm on Monday ahead of Thursday’s programme as the course is waterlogged.

The Alconbury brook has burst its banks and areas of the home straight are flooded.

Friday’s jumps card at Kempton is also in doubt due to the lake bend being waterlogged.

Officials are expecting up to 25 millimetres from a mixture of rain, sleet and snow. Minimum temperatures on Wednesday and Thursday could go down to -5C, with a maximum temperature of +2C.

Huntingdon double on Happy Diva agenda

Happy Diva has her sights set on winning this month’s Pertemps Lady Protectress Mares’ Chase at Huntingdon for a second time.

Kerry Lee’s talented mare defeated Magic Of Light to take the Listed contest over two and a half miles in 2019, having finished second the previous year.

“She’s in great form. She’s on target for the Lady Protectress at Huntingdon at the end of the month,” said the Herefordshire trainer.

Happy Diva was third to My Old Gold in a Listed race at Carlisle on her latest start at the end of November, two weeks after falling at the second-last when disputing fourth place in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

The 10-year-old had won that race too in 2019.

“She was unlucky at Cheltenham, unfortunately – (but) such is life,” said Lee.

“She’s quite all right, and she will be going there (to Huntingdon on January 29), all things being well.”

Huntingdon forced to abandon Friday card due to flooding

Friday’s meeting at Huntingdon is the latest fixture to fall foul of the weather due to waterlogging.

The Alconbury brook which borders the course has burst its banks. A precautionary inspection for 4pm on Thursday was initially called just before 8am, but not long after 11am it became apparent racing would not be possible.

Clerk of the course Jack Pryor said: “Unfortunately the brook has burst its banks and as a result the meeting cannot go ahead as the course is flooded.

“The brook bursting is quite a regular occurrence as we are on a flood plain.”

Pryor is also clerk of the course at Market Rasen, who are due to race on Saturday and as yet no problems are anticipated.

“It’s not too bad there. I’ve called it soft, heavy in places this (Thursday) morning, but rain is forecast so it could deteriorate a little bit,” said Pryor.

“At the minute we’ve no concerns.”

Thursday’s North Yorkshire Grand National meeting at Catterick had to be abandoned due to snow.

Officials called a precautionary inspection for 7.30am due to the threat of snow overnight, and clerk of the course Fiona Needham arrived to a wintry scene.

With snow continuing to fall, Needham had no option but to call off proceedings at around 6.30am.

She said: “The snow came in the small hours, I think. We had a covering when I got here just after 5.30am and I was thinking ‘if this turned to sleet, it might go’. Unfortunately, as I went to walk the course, the snow just got heavier and heavier.

“It became obvious the snow wasn’t going anywhere. It’s disappointing, but it is what it is.”

The are no worries at Warwick ahead of the Classic Chase meeting on Saturday.

Clerk of the course Jane Hedley said: “Based on the current forecast we’ve no concerns.

“We’re soft heavy in places at the minute and we’re expecting a bit more rain or maybe sleet, but nothing that should lie – we don’t think.

“Friday is dry, but we are due some rain on raceday, which is annoying more than anything so there’s every chance we could have heavy ground. But it’s not forecast in volumes that concern us.”

Lingfield’s National Hunt meeting on Monday has been called off following a Thursday inspection.

The situation was bleaker still ahead of Newcastle’s meeting on January 20, where the course was partially frozen, waterlogged and under snow. A noon inspection was called, with the inevitable outcome confirmed shortly afterwards.

Both meetings have been rearranged to be run as ‘Jumpers Bumpers’ cards.

Rainyday Woman impresses in Huntingdon victory

Rainyday Woman proved a cut above her rivals in the Fitzdares Club Adores Henrietta Knight Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race to form the highlight of a Huntingdon double for Paul Nicholls.

Having made a winning debut for the 11-times champion trainer at Stratford last month, the imposing five-year-old had little problem in following up, running out a decisive winner of the Listed prize.

Prominently-ridden throughout, the 7-2 joint-favourite galloped on strongly all the way to the line under Nicholls’ daughter, Megan, before scoring by three and a half lengths.

Assistant trainer Harry Derham said: “Megan felt like she had improved from Stratford and it looked like she had at home.

“I think the fact she is a big, strong mare in those conditions suited well as she stays very well.

“Meg was a bit concerned she did a fraction too much for the first mile, but I’d say she has a good level of ability.”

Rainyday Woman is likely to wait until next season before having her attentions switched to hurdles, according to Derham.

He added: “I suspect we will stick to bumpers for this season. You could either go to the Listed bumper at Sandown or the Grade Two at Aintree for girls.

“She will be one to really look forward to in mares’ novice hurdles next season.”

Silent Revolution completed a brace for both Nicholls and jockey Harry Cobden after landing the Fitzdares Wishes Everyone A Merry Christmas Intermediate Open National Hunt Flat Race by a short head.

Derham said of the 11-10 favourite: “He is a nice horse, but he wouldn’t want the ground that deep.

“He got done for a bit of toe turning in, but he showed a fantastic attitude for a young horse to stay on like that and get back up.”

Premiumaccess and Harry Cobden clear the last
Premiumaccess and Harry Cobden clear the last (Tim Goode/PA)

Grade One-winning rider Cobden got off the mark aboard the Colin Tizzard-trained Premiumaccess, who opened his account under rules in the Google The Fitzdares Club Right Now Novices’ Handicap Chase, which the 17-2 shot claimed by a length.

Cobden said: “Last night I thought he would win as I schooled him the other week at the Tizzards.

“He has always shown he is a nice horse and he does work well, but he jumps exceptionally well.

“I thought today if he didn’t win off 110 I didn’t know anything about racing.”

Eclair De Guye and Bryony Frost clear the last before going on to win the Fitzdares Fancies Goose Over Turkey Handicap Chase
Eclair De Guye and Bryony Frost clear the last before going on to win the Fitzdares Fancies Goose Over Turkey Handicap Chase (Tim Goode/PA)

Bryony Frost and Lucy Wadham struck gold together for the second time in three days following the nine-and-a-half-length victory secured by Eclair De Guye (6-1) in the Fitzdares Fancies Goose Over Turkey Handicap Chase.

Frost said: “He took a bit of time to warm up, but down the back he really started to jump.

“He made some good ground then and over the last mile he really started to operate.

“I enjoyed trying to work out what the best thing to do with him was and get him on my side.”

On the link up with Wadham, she added: “Leighton Aspell helped me loads with the first couple of rides and as he has now retired Lucy wanted a jockey.

“Her owners seemed to like me, thankfully, and the relationship has started to build.

“She is brilliant to work with.”

Zhiguli and Niall Houlihan (right) on the way to winning the Fitzdares Thanks Lily O’Shea This Christmas Handicap Hurdle (Tim Goode/PA)
Zhiguli and Niall Houlihan (right) on the way to winning the Fitzdares Thanks Lily O’Shea This Christmas Handicap Hurdle (Tim Goode/PA)

Niall Houlihan received an early Christmas present when eclipsing his previous best seasonal total of seven winners with a four-length victory aboard Zhiguli (5-2) in the Fitzdares Thanks Lily O’Shea This Christmas Handicap Hurdle.

Houlihan said of the Gary Moore-trained winner: “That’s eight winners for the season, which is great.

“There was no set target – just to ride as many winners as I could. I’m just happy to have beaten last year’s total.”

Morrison targeting Listed honours with Miss Austen

Fresh from picking up a big prize with Not So Sleepy last Saturday, Hughie Morrison has his sights set on Tuesday’s Fitzdares Club Adores Henrietta Knight Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race at Huntingdon with Miss Austen.

While her two outings to date were almost a year apart, she was due to run at the Grand National meeting before the pandemic struck.

She was last seen winning by almost 10 lengths at Ludlow in January and Morrison is hunting for black type.

“We were always aiming for Aintree with her, but of course it never happened,” he said.

“So we reconvened, we were thinking of going to Cheltenham or Huntingdon, but she had a slight niggle so we decided to wait for this.

“She’s got a great temperament and a really good little engine, I think she’s a decent mare. We’re hopeful she can get some black type.”

Michael Scudamore also enjoyed a good weekend with Nada To Prada picking up a Listed prize at Haydock and he is chasing another with Karlie, who won a point-to-point before scoring on her Rules debut on fast ground at Taunton.

Scudamore said: “She won her point on soft ground, but coped with quicker ground well at Taunton so she’s versatile that way.

“It’s hard to know what she achieved at Taunton, but she quickened up and did it in a nice fashion.

“Obviously she’ll have to step up again on that, but she’s fit and well and raring to go.”

Kim Bailey’s Flirtatious Girl is one of the more inexperienced runners in the field having had just the one run, but she did win at Warwick.

“The form hasn’t particularly worked out very well, but I think she’s improved since she ran,” said Bailey.

“It’s a very tough race, so if she’s in the first three I shall be delighted.

“She won on good ground on her debut, but I can’t see why she wouldn’t handle it softer.”

Fergal O’Brien runs both All Clenched Up and Blue Sans, while Alan King’s Nina The Terrier is another likely to be well fancied having won her only outing to date.

Disappointment for Huntingdon as Peterborough Chase card abandoned

The meeting scheduled for Huntingdon on Sunday has been abandoned due to waterlogging.

The fixture was due to stage the Peterborough Chase, but following 24 millimetres of rain on Thursday and Friday the Alconbury brook burst its banks and areas of both the track and racecourse facilities were left flooded, with no possibility of improvement before Sunday.

The Grade Two Peterborough had attracted a strong field, including Ann Hamilton’s Old Roan winner Nuts Well and the Nicky Henderson-trained pair of Top Notch and Mister Fisher.

A similar situation in 2017 saw the race moved to Taunton.

Henderson lining up dual assault on Peterborough prize

Nicky Henderson is likely to be double-handed with Top Notch and Mister Fisher in Sunday’s Fitzdares Club Loves The Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon – as long as the ground does not turn soft.

Henderson, who is just one behind Henrietta Knight’s record of eight wins in the Grade Two event, holds a soft spot for Top Notch, who is responsible for two of his victories in the race.

However, in Mister Fisher, who is three years younger at six, he could face a very stern opponent from inside his own stable.

“Top Notch is a real friend, he’s been with us for years and everybody loves him,” said Henderson, in a call hosted by Great British Racing.

“We have had to stop and tinker with his palate which does take three to four weeks out of your prep, which does just worry me as I would like to have been out a bit earlier than this.

“It did hold us up. He’s done plenty, his weight is good and it’s an ideal race for him – two and a half miles around Huntingdon is great.

“Mister Fisher is pretty likely to join him if the ground is anywhere near good.

“Unfortunately he got stuck in the mud in the Paddy Power at Cheltenham the other day.

“I could wait for the Caspian Caviar (at Cheltenham) next week, but if Huntingdon was genuinely good – I dare not wait another week as he has to have good ground – he would join him, which might make things more complicated for Top Notch.”

Rouge Vif needs sound surface at Sandown

Harry Whittington is keeping an eye on the Sandown weather as he prepares Rouge Vif to take on Altior in the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase.

The Nicky Henderson-trained Altior has been the dominant force in the two-mile division for the last few seasons, save last term when an attempt to step up in trip left its mark on the 10-year-old as he was limited to just two starts.

In contrast, Rouge Vif was twice a winner in the 2019/20 campaign and finished third in the Arkle, boosting his mark to 156 – a perch from which he triumphed with ease on his return at Cheltenham in October.

A subsequent run in last month’s Shloer Chase back at Prestbury Park was scuppered by testing ground, and Whittington believes a sound surface at the Esher venue is crucial to Rouge Vif’s chances.

He said: “Rouge Vif is in great form and firmly on course for the Tingle Creek Chase on Saturday.

“We would obviously rather have our conditions, given we are taking on the likes of Altior, so better ground will be important to him. I think if the ground remains as it is, we would be hopeful of a good run.

“If Sandown got plenty of rain then that would put his participation in doubt, but at the moment he is a definite runner if the weather holds – and it is something we are really looking forward to.

“These are the races you dream about running in. To have a horse capable of running in a big Grade One like the Tingle Creek against a horse of Altior’s calibre is hugely exciting. Hopefully, we don’t get too much rain, and it should be a very exciting race.”

Simply The Betts has the option of running at Huntingdon for Whittington
Simply The Betts has the option of running at Huntingdon for Whittington (Tim Goode/PA)

On what could be a big weekend for Whittington and owners Kate and Andrew Brooks, Simply The Betts is also entered in Sunday’s Fitzdares Club Loves The Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon.

The seven-year-old, who was a Festival winner back in March, finished sixth on his return in the Paddy Power Gold Cup back at Cheltenham last month – and he could yet return to that venue in preference to Sunday’s Grade Two contest.

Whittington added: “He’s in great form and has come out of his last race fine. He’s also in the Caspian Caviar at Cheltenham on December 12, and no decision about where he runs will be made until later in the week. Wherever he runs, I think he’ll run very well.”

Hamilton hoping Nuts Well can shine in Peterborough prize

Nuts Well is among 14 entries for Sunday’s Fitzdares Club Loves The Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon.

Trained in Northumberland by Ann Hamilton and owned by her husband Ian, the nine-year-old has won five of his last six races.

He beat Ladbrokes Trophy runner-up Aye Right on his seasonal reappearance and followed up in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree, which has produced its fair share of subsequent winners.

“The Old Roan hasn’t worked out so bad, has it?” said Ian Hamilton.

“He’s been all right since, but he has a hell of a weight to carry this weekend.

“Hopefully they won’t all show up, he’s in good fettle so we’ll just have to hope for the best.

“Two or three that were behind us at Aintree have come out and won, and that is always nice to see.

“He’d have a little chance I would think. I suppose one worry is that he carried 11st 7lb at Aintree, he’ll have something similar on Sunday but Danny (McMenamin) won’t be able to claim 3lb as this is a Graded race and with the Covid changes, they are already carrying an extra 3lb.

“I think this might be a bit better race than Aintree, but we’ll see how we get on.

“After Harriet’s (Graham) horse (Aye Right) ran so well in the Ladbrokes Trophy, it would be great if we could go south and do something similar – Harriet is just a young lass compared to us though! It was magic watching, giving the winner all the weight too. She trains not far from us, so we were delighted.”

Top Notch won the race at Taunton three years ago
Top Notch won the race at Taunton three years ago (Julian Herbert/PA)

Nicky Henderson’s Top Notch is chasing a third victory in the race, having won a rearranged version at Taunton in 2017 and reclaimed the Grade Two prize back at its rightful home 12 months ago.

Top Notch has not been seen since finishing third to Frodon in the Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton in January. Henderson could also run Mister Fisher.

Paul Nicholls has entered Dolos, while Nigel Twiston-Davies has given Al Dancer the option.

Bun Doran, Mercian Prince, Simply The Betts and Fanion D’Estruval are all in the mix too.

Cobden half-century is well ahead of schedule

Harry Cobden is just one winner behind Jump Jockeys’ Championship leader Brian Hughes after a double at Huntingdon, highlighted by his 50th success of the season aboard Wild Max.

Cobden continued his fine run of form on the five-year-old in the Download The tote App Michaelmas Hurdle, which was the third leg of an across-the-card four-timer for trainer Paul Nicholls.

“I always try and aim to ride 50 winners by January – so to get 50 by November is pretty good,” said the 22-year-old.

“I’m just looking forward to the rest of the season. Hopefully I can stay in one piece and keep on rolling.

“If we get March out of the way and I’m still there then it will be all guns blazing.

“This year is different to any others, because those that normally get 100 winners on the board early haven’t, so this season is a good one to give the title a go.”

Victory for the 2-1 favourite, who obliged by a neck, was compensation for defeat on last month’s seasonal return at Cheltenham – where he suffered interference at a crucial stage when still holding every chance.

Nicholls’ assistant Harry Derham said: “I was little nervous he was doing a fraction too much – he has almost travelled too well, because he has a lot of pace.

“He enjoys a flat track, and all of his wins have come on them. I’d like to think the better the race, the faster they go, the more he will relax.”

Master Tommytucker, right, on his way to defeating Precious Cargo at Huntingdon (Tim Goode/PA Images)
Master Tommytucker (right) on his way to defeating Precious Cargo at Huntingdon (Tim Goode/PA Images)

Master Tommytucker (4-5) got his chequered career over fences back on track – to get the ball rolling for both Cobden and Nicholls in the Download The tote App Intermediate Chase.

Having fallen in three of his previous five starts over fences, the lightly-raced nine-year-old put in an immaculate display of jumping to defeat his sole rival Precious Cargo by 12 lengths.

Derham said: “He didn’t have to have too much of a hard race there, which was nice. There is no doubt the engine is there – it was just a case of getting rid of those jumping errors.

“He will go to Haydock now, because there is a two-and-a-half-mile graduation chase there on Betfair Chase day, and it is worth quite a bit. ”

Having had to come to terms with the loss of Namib Dancer after his fall earlier in the card, trainer Emma Lavelle had her spirits lifted after Dollnamix struck at the 16th attempt in division two of the Download The tote App Handicap Hurdle.

Speaking away from the track, she said: “It is just the ups and downs of racing for you.  Neither the horse or owners deserved that.

“I think Namib Dancer had a heart attack. He was doing everything right, then three or four strides before the hurdle (jockey) Aidan (Coleman) said he knew what was coming.”

On her 100-30 winner, Lavelle added: “Dollnamix has thrown a few races away before – but he has done everything right today, and that will do his confidence the world of good.”

Eileendover (28-1) saved the best until last when running out a facile 29-length winner on her debut in the tote.co.uk Ten To Follow “Junior” Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.

Winning trainer Pam Sly said: “She worked with one of my other useful ones Takeit Easy the other day – and I thought ‘that will do!’.

“She was supposed to run on the Flat but had problems with the stalls, but it’s a good job I didn’t go down that route now.

“I suppose we will look at getting some black type now.”

Skelton eyes Huntingdon next with Shan Blue

Shan Blue is set to put his unbeaten record over fences on the line on Peterborough Chase day at Huntingdon next month.

Dan Skelton’s high-class hurdler has made a smooth transition to the larger obstacles by registering back-to-back wins at Wetherby – scoring by 14 lengths last month and 16 lengths last weekend.

Connections are hoping Shan Blue can complete his hat-trick in the Fitzdares Novices’ Chase at Huntingdon on December 6, before stepping up to Grade One level for the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

“We thought it was quite a nice performance the other day, giving 7lb to those better horses,” said Skelton.

“I’m delighted how he has transferred to chasing seamlessly. Hopefully he will be a force this side of the new year and next.

“I think I will go to Huntingdon on December 6 for a novice chase, and then go for the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase. I want to keep him out of those Graded races at Newbury.

“He is favourite for the Kauto Star – there is a lot of water to go under the bridge before then and a lot of good horses to run, but that is where I’m looking at the moment.”

Trainer Dan Skelton has his team in fine form this season
Trainer Dan Skelton has his team in fine form this season (David Davies/PA)

Another Wetherby winner for whom Skelton holds high hopes is Third Time Lucki.

Best of the British when fourth in last season’s Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, the five-year-old made a winning hurdling debut at Uttoxeter before following up in West Yorkshire.

“I’m not sure where to go with him yet,” he said.

“The handicapper has given him a mark (129), so that opens things up.

“I’ve got to talk to Mike and Eileen Newbould (owners). He was a very good bumper horse, who is now two from two over hurdles, and he has shown that he enjoys hurdling by getting his career over them off to the perfect start.”

Protektorat, who is part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, made a smart start to his chasing career at Carlisle recently and is set for an imminent trip to the home of National Hunt racing.

“He goes to Cheltenham next week,” Skelton added.

“We will enter him over two miles, but the preference would be to go for the two-and-a-half-mile novice chase.

“He jumped a bit left at Carlisle, but we’ve had him checked out at home and there was nothing to be seen – I don’t think he was jumping left for any reason that day.

“I’m happy with him, and he looks a better chaser than hurdler, as we expected.”

Twiston-Davies back in form with Huntingdon treble

Sam Twiston-Davies emphatically ended a 36-ride losing streak with a Huntingdon treble, completed by Innisfree Lad in the MansionBet Faller Insurance Handicap Hurdle.

Having endured a day to forget at Wetherby 24 hours earlier, during which Ballyoptic pulled up in the feature Charlie Hall Chase, Twiston-Davies enjoyed the perfect confidence-booster at the Cambridgeshire track.

He said: “It’s a fairly crazy game. You go 36 rides without a winner, and you start to think ‘what you are doing – are you doing it wrong?’.

“It shows, though, on a day like today when you are on the best horses to have a plan and stick with it.”

Innisfree Lad had a slice of good fortune when scoring at the course 19 days ago, but the eight-year-old needed no such luck this time round – cruising home 18 lengths clear of Shantou Sunset, for Twiston-Davies and trainer Tom Symonds.

The winning jockey said of the 4-1 favourite: “I think the faster pace and softer ground suited him more than some of the others.

“I just tried to copy what Brian Hughes did last time, by keeping him wide. He jumped nicely.”

A step up to Grade One company may be next for Orchestral Rain, who gave Twiston-Davies and trainer Dr Richard Newland the second of their two winners together – by 10 lengths as 2-1 favourite in the MansionBet Proud To Support British Racing Juvenile Hurdle.

Newland said: “He had to do a lot of the donkey work but he has done that well.

“I think he has progressed a lot from his last run, and I thought that at home because he is now getting the hang of it. He is probably better going the other way [left-handed].

“We will see what the handicapper does, but we might go for something like the Finale at Chepstow because I think the testing ground will suit him.”

Even-money favourite Chef De Troupe got the ball rolling for Twiston-Davies and Newland, following up his recent Perth success by two lengths in the Download The MansionBet App Claiming Hurdle.

Newland said: “He is a nice horse with lots of ability – but he got a fair hike for winning last time, so we thought this was a good option.

“He will go back into handicaps now, because no one came forward to claim him.”

Espoir De Romay formed the opening leg of an across-the-card double for trainer Kim Bailey – with an impressive two-and-a-half-length success on his debut over fences in the Watch And Bet At MansionBet Novices’ Chase.

Bailey, who was also on target with rising star Imperial Aura at Carlisle, said: “He is a nice horse and at the end of it he will have learnt a bit today. (Jockey) Ciaran (Gethings) was very impressed with him.

“He had a good season last year and he was one I was looking forward to, because he has been good over fences at home. He will be a better horse on softer ground.

“Like all these novices, I think he will need a little bit more experience before raising our sights.”

Perfect Myth (6-4) went one better than on her previous visit to the track when making her first start over an extended two miles three a winning one, by five lengths in the mansionbet.com Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Bryony Frost, rider of the Neil-King trained winner, said : “The step up in trip has helped her today. I got caught in a bit of traffic last time, but she jumped beautifully today – and once I came round the final bend, she hit top gear.

“The wind op she had has helped make her believe in herself, and she is turning into a really nice mare now.”

Graeme McPherson relatively unscathed following Huntingdon incident

Graeme McPherson counted himself lucky after narrowly avoiding serious injury following an incident involving one of his runners at Huntingdon.

The Stow-on-the-Wold handler was left nursing a sore shoulder after being kicked by Dublin Four, who moments earlier had collapsed to the ground outside of the saddling boxes, before division one of the MansionBet Proud To Support British Racing Novices’ Handicap Chase.

McPherson said: “He came out of the saddling boxes and went over backwards and was motionless on the ground. I feared the worst, so I went over to see how he was and was double-barrelled. He caught me just on the shoulder, but it was enough force to knock me backwards and I just banged myself on the stable door.

“The shoulder is a bit sore, but I will be fine. It is a lucky escape and we live to fight another day.”

McPherson reported the six-year-old gelding to have sustained only superficial injuries.

He added: “The horse seems OK. He has skinned his front legs a little bit, just where he has scrambled around. I think he is a lovely horse, but he has just scared himself more than anything else.

“He has never shown any signs of doing anything like this and he was as good as gold last year. Hopefully it won’t leave any scars on him.”

After a slight delay, victory in the two-and-a-half-mile contest went the way of the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Guy (9-1), who put in an assured round of jumping to score by 13 lengths.

Vegas Blue made a triumphant return to the scene of her Listed bumper success, running out a 13-length winner of the Bet 10 Get 20 With MansionBet Mares’ Maiden Hurdle under Nico de Boinville.

De Boinville said of the Nicky Henderson-trained 4-11 shot: “She is a mare we like a lot. I’m not sure what happened on Boxing Day, but maybe it came a bit quick for her. Today she has shown what she really is.

“The guys at home have done a great job with her and she jumped brilliantly.”

Jonjo O’Neill appears to have a potentially smart performer on his hands in Prince Escalus (33-1), who exacted revenge on his Newbury conqueror Your Darling with a front-running success in the Covered By MansionBet Faller Insurance Novices’ Hurdle.

Winning rider Jonjo O’Neill junior said: “It was a very strong bumper at Newbury with Your Darling and Flinteur Sacre in and we were going to go novice hurdling with him afterwards in the spring, then coronavirus happened so maybe it is a blessing in disguise as he is a novice this season.”

Corey McGiven celebrated his first winner under rules after the Lucy Wadham-trained Will Sting (22-1) held on in the MansionBet Maiden National Hunt Flat Race.

The 21-year-old, who has been based with the Newmarket handler for two months, said: “It’s brilliant and I’d just like to thank Lucy and the owners for giving me the opportunity and putting me up on a nice horse.

“He can be a bit keen at home, but he settled lovely today. He did everything really well and picked up when I needed him to.

“I’d say there’d be more to come.”