Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville enjoyed an Ascot double as Captain Morgs and Tweed Skirt obliged to send the yard into a big weekend of racing in good form.
Captain Morgs capitalised on his course and distance form to take the two-mile Garden For All Seasons Handicap Hurdle as the 7-4 favourite, with De Boinville taking full advantage of the final-fence error made by Jonjo O’Neill’s runner-up Garry Clermont.
As O’Neill’s bay jinked left at the last obstacle, Captain Morgs instantly surged forward to fill the gap and then kept on to triumph by three-quarters of a length.
“He’s been in very good form and we wanted to come back to two (miles),” said Henderson, whose Cesarewitch winner Buzz is favourite for the Coral Hurdle on day two of the Ascot meeting.
“A very strong run two like that, he finished well and he’s won it nicely.
“It was a great ride though, he’s crept round the inner there and he was in a bit of trouble turning in but he sat and waited and just let the horse pick himself up – and he did.”
Of his race-winning manoeuvre at the last, De Boinville said: “You can call it good fortune and a bit of luck.
“I was coming with a wet sail and the second horse just had a look at the last and made a mistake.
“I got a really nice, clean jump at the last, he was just getting going from the second-last to the last and he’s run all the way to the line.”
The Henderson-De Boinville axis was also to the fore in the Ascot Fan Pass “Introductory” Hurdle as Tweed Skirt got the better of Olly Murphy’s 2-7 favourite Go Dante.
The pair faced only one rival with Mark Gillard’s Blueblood making up a small field of three, and it was Henderson’s filly who took the initiative when making all to prevail by two and a half lengths at 11-4.
Murphy was not without a winner on the card, however, as Doctor Ken obliged as the 4-7 favourite in the Ascot Shop “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle.
A bumper winner who was third in respectable company on his hurdling debut, the gelding was a tough half-length victor under Aidan Coleman and is a horse Murphy regards as a promising future chasing prospect.
“He’s a big, raw individual that will improve from getting a tow into a race, but he’s a horse we’ve always liked. He’ll be a lovely horse next year so whatever he does this year will be a bonus,” he said.
“He’s got a lovely way of going, he races in the correct way and he’ll make a lovely chaser next year and acquit himself well over hurdles this year.”
He added: “There was no pace at all so there was no point in dropping him in. It’s a good start, he’s a lovely horse and he’s got a great mind on him. It wouldn’t bother me stepping up in class and it certainly wouldn’t bother him, I will half-mind him, but he may have a run in a good race somewhere.
“I love this lad, it took him three goes to win a bumper, but you can see why looking at him. He’s a horse that’s going to win a lot of races.”
Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch were another trainer-jockey combination to score twice at Ascot as Pink Legend took the most valuable contest of the day, the Events At Ascot Handicap Chase.
Starting at 15-2, the mare reproduced the form that saw her land a Listed race at Cheltenham last time out and seemed to stick to the task at hand when the cheekpieces previously used were removed.
“She was jumping sufficiently quickly, I thought I’d sit upsides Nico (de Boinville, Lust For Glory) as he was travelling well,” Deutsch said.
“I gave her a squeeze coming off the bend and she’s picked up really nicely, I’m very pleased with her.
“She had them on (cheekpieces) at Cheltenham last time and it seemed to work, she was looking around a lot in her races last year.
“Today she seemed to be going sweetly and wanted to get on with it, I’m glad we had left the cheekpieces off really.”
Williams and Deutsch then struck again with another mare in the Not Forgotten Handicap Chase, this time the notably consistent chestnut Kapga De Lily.
The eight-year-old has not been seen since April but was a five-times winner last season and seemed to happily pick up where she left off with a genuine one-and-a-half-length success at 13-2.
Williams said: “It’s lovely to come here to Ascot and have two winners, particularly as everybody says it’s not my ground!
“In fairness to Kapga De Lily she ran on good round at Haydock at the end of last season so I knew she’d operate on it.
“We started her later because we’ve still got the final of the mares’ Hereford series (Hereford Mares’ Chase Series), we’ve qualified her for that as she won it last year.
“The ratings are limited and after she won it last year we felt she only had one more chance to qualify – the plan is still to run there.”