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Herbiers one of the highlights as curtain comes down on Ascot’s jumps season

Oliver Greenall has a valuable race on the bet365 Gold Cup undercard in the sights of Herbiers following the four-year-old’s narrow success in the Betfred Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, as the curtain came down on Ascot’s jumps season.

The Malpas trainer felt Herbiers would prove typical of the horses that come over from France and enjoy cut in the ground, but his observation that the gelding scored on a better surface in a bumper has been borne out by the son of Waldpark proving versatile in handling all surfaces.

Under Paddy Brennan the 12-1 shot made a big move to lead between the last two flights, and stayed on in determined fashion to hold Royaume Uni by half a length.

Greenall believes his charge has improved with each run and said: “We thought he had a little bit in hand, and while it was soft when he won at Hereford he was very happy on the better going today. It was very professional the way he came up for Paddy at the last.

“He’s qualified for the final at Sandown which is worth £75,000, and that’s where he’ll go.”

Venetia Williams reached the 50-winner milestone when Funambule Sivola dominated the Age Concern Bracknell Novices’ Handicap Chase from start to finish under Charlie Deutsch.

The 11-10 favourite was already well clear of Rikoboy when that rival unseated at the last, leaving Monsieur Lecoq as the only other finisher.

“He loves his racing and is so quick over his fences,” said the jockey.

“He has a great way of going and will come up long when you ask him. I always thought he’d find more if anything came at me and I got a very good feel from him off that ground.”

It was a double celebration for the Williams/Deutsch team as the latter bettered last season’s score of 34.

He added: “I’d been on 34 for a week or so and was itching to get to 35. I always set a target to beat my previous score, and am delighted that Venetia has reached the half-century. She has the horses in brilliant health.”

Few horses with recognised talent have frustrated as much as Singlefarmpayment, but the 11-year-old was given a fine ride from Adrian Heskin to take the Berkshire Women’s Aid Veterans’ Handicap Chase.

Well aware that he could not get to the front late enough, Heskin took a couple of tugs on the Henry Oliver-trained 9-4 favourite going down the back and waited until jumping the last to ask his mount the ultimate question.

The combination then quickly asserted to go clear of Crosspark.

Heskin said: “That is a weight off my shoulders. This horse has plenty of history and his last win was in 2015. He was beaten a short head at the Cheltenham Festival and plenty of lads have tried on him, but he’s tricky.

“Today he jumped too well going down the hill and then put in a good jump two out, and to be fair I should have waited a bit longer.

“These races give all the older chasers their turn to win again, and have to be a good thing for the sport.”

Singlefarmpayment (right) got his head in front again
Singlefarmpayment (right) got his head in front again (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Heskin, meanwhile, sees Alan King’s Tritonic as a horse to look forward to at Aintree if the gelding is given the green light to do so after his underwhelming run in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham.

He said: “I’m confident we didn’t see the real Tritonic at the Festival. Maybe three quick runs stacking up might have found him out. Aintree is a track that would really suit him, and as far as hurdling’s concerned we’ve got a real good horse going forward.”

For Nicky Henderson and owners Chelsea Thoroughbreds, Cascova responded positively to the fitting of earplugs to settle better than in his previous outing at Newbury in the Parents And Children Together (Pact) Maiden Hurdle.

The 7-4 favourite had 7lb in hand of his rivals on the book and was ridden stone cold by Nico de Boinville to cruise into contention two out and quickly put the race to bed when given the office, scoring by eight lengths from Manvers House.

Nico de Boinville scores aboard Cascova
Nico de Boinville scores aboard Cascova (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

De Boinville said: “He probably ran to his mark and so did the others. It was a nice even gallop and that set us up nicely for the finish. I think the earplugs helped relax him. He’s got the size and scope to go chasing next year, but there should first be a nice handicap awaiting him over hurdles.”

With South Terrace a late absentee after injuring a hip in the box and Ecco underperforming, Stoner’s Choice seized the advantage to take out the Sky Sports Racing Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle under Max Kendrick.

Kendrick changed his original plan to hold up his Fergal O’Brien-trained mount and made the running. One by one his rivals fell away and the 11-4 chance scored by six lengths from Bells Of Peterboro.

This was a fourth success of the campaign for Stoner’s Choice, and Kendrick observed: “When the two horses I thought might go forward didn’t I decided to press on myself and the horse soon got into a lovely rhythm.

“He’s still a novice, and was very novicey to start with (this season) but has kept on improving. Not many novices win with a double penalty.”

Defi Sacre jumped well for James Best
Defi Sacre jumped well for James Best (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The superior jumping of Defi Sacre proved crucial at the business end of the Berkshire Community Foundation Handicap Chase.

Approaching the final fence James Best’s mount was defending a diminishing lead from Marracudja, but his rival made a mistake that handed the initiative back to Defi Sacre who scored by four lengths.

Best has been a regular sight on trainer Richard Hobson’s horses over the last two and a half years and he said: “This horse has been very good to me and did very well in climbing the handicap last season. The key to him is that he pings off this better ground.”