Sandown victory for Orbys Legend provided minor consolation on the day Richard Johnson and Philip Hobbs’ Cheltenham Festival lynchpin Thyme Hill was ruled out of the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle.
A minor but untimely injury means Thyme Hill will not renew his rivalry with Paisley Park next week.
Trainer Hobbs and jockey Johnson did have something to smile about, though, as Orbys Legend took the Paddy Power “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle for them in the colours of Highclere Thoroughbreds.
Taking advantage of a mistake from favourite and eventual third Lecale’s Article at the penultimate flight, the 9-4 winner stayed on in determined fashion to see off 20-1 shot Morfee by 12 lengths.
Reflecting on Thyme Hill’s Festival absence, Johnson said: “It’s one of those frustrating things that can happen the week before Cheltenham – he’s pulled a little muscle behind.
“Philip has taken the sensible decision to stop rather than try to get him there half ready. He’s a very exciting horse for the future, and Philip knows there’s no point going to the Festival unless you are spot on.”
Johnson hopes Sporting John may be his best chance of giving Hobbs a Festival winner this year, in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase.
He said: “When he won the Grade One round here (the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase) he got better and better, and he could be very good. I’d be amazed if he didn’t stay three miles.”
Johnson likes Orbys Legend too, and added: “I rode him in a bumper at the start of the season. He showed a very good attitude today, and is a chasing prospect for next season.”
Gericault Roque put up a fine weight-carrying performance in the Paddy Power Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, kickstarting a double for trainer David Pipe and jockey Fergus Gillard – which was completed by Sexy Lot in the closing “From The Horse’s Mouth” Podcast Novices” Handicap Hurdle.
Gericault Roque, the 3-1 joint favourite, locked horns with Anightinlambourn up the final hill and pulled nine and a half lengths clear.
Gillard said: “I thought he was a lovely big horse coming into the race – although with the hood off, I just wondered if the step back in trip would be OK for him. He certainly feels like a true galloper.”
Grey Diamond put his superior jumping to good use in the Paddy’s Rewards Club Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase, sealing victory over Dostal Phil with measured leaps at each of the last three fences under Sam Twiston-Davies.
The 3-1 chance scored by three and a half lengths for in-form trainer Sam Thomas.
The Paddy Power Handicap Chase proved a battle of the top weights, with Frero Banbou proving too strong for Go Long.
The six-year-old, ridden by Charlie Deutsch, was in control from the Pond fence as he carried on Venetia Williams’ fine run – winning by nine lengths.
Bard Of Brittany (100-30 favourite), trained by Sheena West and patiently ridden by Marc Goldstein, claimed a second success in the space of a week when surviving a minor mistake at the last to score comfortably from Adicci in the Paddy Power “4 Sleeps To Cheltenham” Handicap Hurdle.