Walking On Air added his name to Nicky Henderson’s already lengthy list of smart prospects and could be on course for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham after sauntering to success in the Start Your RacingTV Free Trial Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury on Wednesday.
The 5-6 favourite had been beaten in a Kempton bumper on his debut last season, but made no mistake on his hurdling bow, powering to a 13-length success from Hecouldbetheone in the hands of Nico de Boinville.
Henderson said: “We were getting going before Christmas and then he had a few niggly problems – nothing serious – and it has taken a bit of time to get ready and get out.
“These sort of races are where we need to start.
“He is lovely, he is big, solid and is going to make the most fantastic chaser one day – he jumped them big all the way around. I think the good part is that the mare (Refinement) stayed three miles.
While the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is an option, with Coral cutting his odds to 25-1 from 50s, Henderson already has Jonbon and Constitution Hill in that event so may head for the Ballymore instead, for which Ladbrokes go 10-1 from 40-1.
He said: “You would have to be thinking along the lines of the Ballymore. I would not want to go any more than two and a half. If that is the plan, he would need to run again.
“He has won his maiden and so you can afford to run in a novice under a penalty. You’d like to think he would be going to Cheltenham. He is a mature fella and he looked the part.”
That next start could be at Huntingdon next month. Henderson added: “The Sidney Banks is one possibility. He is obviously not going to go to Trials Day (at Cheltenham).”
Speech Bubble (6-4 favourite) booked her ticket for the British EBF Mares’ ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle Series Final back at this track with a cosy three and three-quarter-length success in the qualifier.
Gavin Sheehan kept things positive on the strapping seven-year-old and she repelled the staying-on Victorias Peak readily enough, going one better than on her hurdling debut.
Trainer Noel Williams said: “She is a good mare and showed that when she won on debut in a Ffos Las bumper. What she beat that day I don’t know, but she could have done round again.
“She is a quality mare. She is big and should only do better when she gets a fence in front of her.
“We have in mind the mares’ final back here, but it will depend on what kind of ground conditions. We will certainly be looking for black type races, anyway. She is that quality.
“I don’t want to go too far ahead of ourselves but she is built for fences, so I would say we wouldn’t be hanging around.”
Goa Lil (7-1) was a somewhat fortunate winner of the Rocking Horse Nursery At Newbury Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase after favourite Amarillo Sky fell when looking in command two out.
Sam Twiston-Davies’ mount was the beneficiary and after the five-and-a-half-length success, winning owner and trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies said: “I’m sure we were lucky because we threw it away at the fence before when he jumped too big. So, we’d have been second but they are there to be jumped.
“He is entered in a lot of races where things don’t fit and he has won a lot of money by going in good races.
“What a lovely run. He is still for sale – everything is for sale at our place. He ran really well at Sandown 10 days ago, but didn’t quite stay two and a half in that heavy ground, but he stays it in good ground. We are just discovering what he wants.
“He is best over two and a half on good ground, going right-handed.
“Hopefully he will get balloted out of a Cheltenham race and then go for that Kempton race for the reserves. That race would be perfect for him.”
Kerry Lee has had something of a lean time this term, but the Will Roseff-owned Storm Control (11-1) overcame top weight with a front-running performance to land the Nouveau Cloud and Cybersecurity Handicap Chase.
A front-running ride from 10lb claimer Daire McConville brought him a fourth career winner in getting the better of Tango Boy for a half-length success.
Lee said: “He did well to hang on. He is a bit of a monkey like that. He did exactly the same at Cheltenham. He just gets in front and looks about. He is genuine but saved a bit for himself and needs everything to go his way.
“He was pulled up on his first two starts this season. He didn’t go right-handed and was up massively in grade last time. Ascot didn’t suit him. He is clearly at his best on a galloping left-handed track like here or Cheltenham. This is the owner’s first outright winner this season. It has been a tough season, but he has been very patient.”
Emma Lavelle has her string in good form and Voice Of Calm (7-2) underlined the point by taking the DJB Cleaning Ltd Mares’ Handicap Hurdle in the hands of 7lb claimer Joe Anderson.
She had gone close over course and distance last time and the six-year-old’s four-length success in the extended two-mile heat provided owner Tim Syder with a double on the card, following his earlier success with Speech Bubble.
Lavelle’s husband and assistant Barry Fenton said: “If we leaned a little bit the last day, she probably got there a bit too soon and it cost us.
“Young Joe gave her a peach of a ride and the plan was to follow the pace and keep a bit up his sleeve, then challenge down to the last. He had to commit a little bit earlier than he wanted.
“That was proper performance. She is a black type mare, without any doubt and personally I’d like to see her go chasing next year as she will be better over fences. She has everything in the bag – she has a bit of pace and has a bit of stamina. We might step her up in trip as well. That is an option. That was a grown-up performance.”
Authorised Speed (5-6 favourite) came good at the third attempt in the Don’t Miss A Beat With Free RacingTV Open National Hunt Flat Race in the hands of Jamie Moore.
Having finished runner-up on both previous bumper starts, the Gary Moore-trained five-year-old made no mistake, cruising to a 10-length success for owner Pat Gallagher.
He said: “He is a nice one and we have taken our time with him. We had him last year back at the farm. Gary found him.
“When you see Mr (Paul) Nicholls here and he has only one runner, that gets worrying.
“We will leave it up to Gary Moore. He will place him. The thing was to win a bumper. We were unlucky at Market Rasen – he got bumped and put through the rail nearly a furlong out. He showed he had a turn of speed.
“At Ascot he came up against Mr Nicholls’s horse (Henri The Second) and battled it out. Gary picked him out, and thinks a bit of him.”