Tripoli Flyer booked his ticket to Aintree in the spring with an impressive display at Lingfield.
A keeping-on fifth on his rules debut at Chepstow in October, Fergal O’Brien’s five-year-old was a 15-2 shot for the opening Winter Million Open National Hunt Flat Race that kicked off the action on Sunday.
He showed plenty of speed and class to down the well-regarded Nicky Henderson-trained 8-11 favourite Kingston Pride in the hands of Paddy Brennan and now has connections dreaming of bigger and better objectives later in the season.
“We’ve got some lovely bumper horses, but I thought he was very good, he was very impressive,” said O’Brien.
“I thought the Henderson horse had solid point-to-point form and the horse who was second to him (The Enabler) has won a Listed race.
“We thought he would appreciate the surface and the good thing about this horse is his owner as he gave him time after his first race at Chepstow because he had a hard race.
“He was only a four-year-old then and we put him away, I think he went to Paddy’s for a bit and then to an event rider down the road who did a lot of work with him. He came back to us and we just had to put the finishing touches to him ready for today.
“Today was always a plan because we thought he would appreciate the better ground.
“The plan, please God, is to go straight to Aintree. We think he will love the flat track and Paddy said the ground, although he got through it at Chepstow, will be important to him.
“I thought he was impressive but he will have to do it on grass now. Going forward he’s a beautiful jumper, so we will look forward to him.”
There was a shock in the Weatherbys Digital Solutions Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle as Ben Clarke’ 40-1 shot Ooh Betty landed the spoils with the assistance of the stewards.
It was Henderson’s Aston Martini that was first past the post following a ding-dong battle after the last, but the placings were reversed after an inquiry.
“She is battle-hardened and she’s not the sexy option in the race, but I think running in handicaps has served her well as she had to battle hard there and be brave,” said Clarke.
“She got bumped a couple of times coming up the home straight and Ben Jones (jockey) felt it cost him, but saying that, it is not the way we want to win a horse race – Nicky was incredibly gracious so I will drop him a bottle of wine.
“At the back of my mind, I’ve always thought if we get half-decent ground at Cheltenham, she could go there for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. We’ll sit tight and she doesn’t want a bog – she can’t run in proper, proper soft ground – so we will plot our way there.
“Endless Escape was beaten just over 10 lengths in the Cheltenham race last year and this mare would be a much speedier type, so we have half an idea what it takes – not as much as Nicky does – so we’ll see, it could be an option.”
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