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Metier extends unbeaten run with impressive Tolworth triumph

Metier maintained his unbeaten record over obstacles with a facile victory in the Unibet Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown.

A useful performer on the Flat in Ireland for Andrew Slattery, the Mastercraftsman gelding subsequently changed hands for 150,000 guineas to pursue a jumping career with Harry Fry.

He made a fine start for his new connections when impressing on his hurdling bow at Newton Abbot in October – and having since doubled his tally with a dominant front-running display at Ascot, Metier was the 7-4 favourite to complete his hat-trick in this Grade One feature.

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Always travelling well in the hands of Sean Bowen, the five-year-old loomed up to challenge long-time leader Shakem Up’Arry early in the home straight.

The latter did his best to make a race of it, but Metier had far too many guns and powered clear in the testing conditions to score emphatically by 12 lengths.

Paddy Power reacted by cutting the winner to 10-1 from 25-1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

Fry said: “He comes alive on the racecourse. It was ideal we didn’t have to make our own running today, as they went a good tempo. Sean said he just jumped for fun.

“Turning into the bottom, he had a double handful. Very rarely do races go quite so smoothly, and certainly not at this level, but I’m absolutely delighted for Gary Stevens. We bought him over a year ago now and he had to wait over 12 months to see him first run. I’m delighted that patience is being rewarded.

“He relishes those conditions. He is a very exciting hurdler. With the action on him, I wouldn’t be in too much of a hurry to run him on drying ground, but good horses have to run on all grounds.

“This is a lovely race to win and I’m absolutely delighted to get a first Grade One winner from the new yard, having only moved in back in June.

Metier clears the last at Sandown
Metier clears the last at Sandown (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“A lot of people have helped us to get where we are. To get the new yard up and running, moved in and set up, is a lot of hard work from the team – not least for my wife Ciara, who not only is assistant trainer but is married to me, so it is a double-edged sword. It is great for all the team.

“I think you’ve got to consider that (Supreme). We will enjoy this moment then work out whether we go straight there (Cheltenham) or look at something in between.

“The Betfair (Hurdle) entries close this week, for which you have to have a third run by next weekend anyway, but he has probably gone about it the wrong way. He will certainly have an entry. It will be an interesting conversation with the handicapper.”

Bold show anticipated as Metier takes Tolworth test

Harry Fry believes Metier has everything in his favour ahead of his bid for Grade One honours in the Unibet Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown.

A 150,000 guineas purchase last year after displaying smart form on the Flat in Ireland, the son of Mastercraftsman made an excellent start to his jumping career on his debut for new connections at Newton Abbot in October.

Metier doubled his tally with a dominant front-running victory at Ascot last month and is well fancied to complete his hat-trick in this weekend’s top-level feature.

“He’s in good form, he has form in the ground and a stiff two miles will suit him,” said Fry.

“We’re really looking forward to seeing if he can continue on an upward curve.”

The Michael Scudamore-trained Do Your Job won a couple of minor races at Ffos Las and Ayr in October, before filling the runner-up spot behind Llandinabo Lad in a Listed contest at Haydock.

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Do Your Job in action at Haydock
Do Your Job in action at Haydock (Mike Egerton/PA)

The winner has since finished second in a Grade Two at Ascot to give the form some substance.

Scudamore said of Do Your Job: “He goes there in great form and didn’t run a bad race at Haydock. In hindsight, things probably didn’t quite go to plan that day. I’m not saying we’d have won, but with different tactics, perhaps we might have finished closer to the winner.

“The form doesn’t look too bad now. We probably have to step up again on Saturday, but there’s no reason why he shouldn’t handle the track and he’s handled that ground before.

“He deserves his place in the field.”

Ben Pauling’s Shakem Up’Arry, who is owned by football manager Harry Redknapp, brings plenty of jumping experience to the table as a second-season novice.

The Flemensfirth gelding chased home the brilliant Shishkin in a novice hurdle at Newbury last term, before finishing down the field in the Ballymore at the Cheltenham Festival, but he has subsequently turned in two sound efforts.

“I think he’ll run a massive race on Saturday. He’s a very nice horse who is 100 per cent a chaser for next season, but two miles on soft ground around Sandown is about as ideal as you could get for him really,” said Pauling.

“He’s in good form and had a solid run to finish fourth in a handicap at Haydock last time out. I hope he’ll run a nice race.”

Galice Macalo is a leading contender
Galice Macalo is a leading contender (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Jane Williams saddles Galice Macalo, who after winning at Warwick and Stratford in October, finished runner-up in a competitive Listed handicap hurdle over this course and distance four weeks ago.

The trainer’s son Chester Williams takes the ride, and said: “I can’t wait to ride her – she is a very exciting mare. She has done everything right this season and was probably unlucky to be beaten by a good horse last time.

“She is very progressive. We know that the track and trip suit her well and she loves deep ground.

“She has got to go there with every chance. It would be lovely to get a Grade One on the CV.”

Grandeur D’Ame (Oliver Sherwood), Smurphy Enki (Chris Gordon) and Tile Tapper (Chris Honour) complete the field.

Seven to take on Metier in Tolworth

Metier is set to face seven rivals when he puts his unbeaten record over obstacles on the line in Sandown’s Unibet Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle.

Formerly trained on the Flat in Ireland by Andrew Slattery, the Mastercraftsman gelding subsequently changed hands for 150,000 guineas to pursue a jumping career with Harry Fry.

He made an impressive start for his new connections at Newton Abbot in October – and having since followed up with a dominant front-running victory at Ascot, Metier is well fancied to complete his hat-trick in Saturday’s Grade One feature.

Metier’s rider Sean Bowen said: “He has done everything right in his two runs so far, in that he has jumped and travelled well.

“I think Sandown will suit him well. For a Flat horse he stays very well, and the softer the better it is for him. It looks like it will be fairly testing, so that will suit.

“He was a decent stayer on the Flat, but he is just a hardy, tough horse that enjoys his jumping.

“My only Grade One win is on If The Cap Fits, but hopefully he can give me another one on Saturday.”

The biggest threat, according to bookmakers, is the Jane Williams-trained filly Galice Macalo. After winning at Warwick and Stratford in October, she finished runner-up in a competitive Listed handicap hurdle over this course and distance four weeks ago.

Adrimel bids to make it three from three over hurdles for trainer Tom Lacey and four-time champion jockey Richard Johnson, following wins at this venue and Haydock this term.

Ben Pauling’s Shakem Up’Arry, who is owned by football manager Harry Redknapp, brings plenty of jumping experience to the table as a second-season novice.

Do Your Job (Michael Scudamore), Grandeur D’Ame (Oliver Sherwood), Smurphy Enki (Chris Gordon) and Tile Tapper (Chris Honour) are the other hopefuls.