Wonderwall sparks Festival dream with Doncaster verdict

Richard Spencer has high hopes for Wonderwall after his convincing victory in the Betting Better With Sky Bet Maiden Hurdle at Doncaster.

The six-year-old is a bumper winner and looked a likely victor on his hurdles debut at Newbury before blundering at the final flight and eventually finishing second.

This time there were no such errors and the bay travelled with complete ease to comfortably prevail under James Bowen at odds of 6-4.

Spencer has the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in mind for the gelding, a horse he regards as the best jumping prospect in his dual-purpose Newmarket yard.

“We’ve always thought he’d be a horse for the Ballymore,” he said.

“We’d like to run before if we could. There’s (Cheltenham Festival) Trials Day and there’s the Sidney Banks at Huntingdon, but the plan has been Cheltenham for a long time.

“He’s going to be a better horse when he jumps a fence, he just respects a fence better than a hurdle because he’s got so much ability.

“He’s a very good horse. He’s the best jumper we’ve got, we haven’t got many but he’d work with a lot of good Flat horses as well.

“He’s got a lot of natural speed, he’s stays, he’s a very good horse.

“We were gutted he got beat the first time but at the end of the day, he’s had the experience and it’s going to stand him in good stead and if we can get another run into him, that would be great.”

Moriko De Vassy (9-4) looked a horse of great promise when landing the Betting Better With Sky Bet Novices’ Hurdle for Aidan Coleman and Tom Symonds.

Moriko De Vassy winning his bumper
Moriko De Vassy winning his bumper (Tim Goode/PA)

The five-year-old was a bumper winner last term and took his hurdles debut by 30 lengths in November, but fell when contesting a novice contest at Huntingdon last month.

Burdened with a 7lb penalty for his previous success, the gelding overcame a final fence error and a lost shoe to produce an impressive late burst of speed and deny Fergal O’Brien’s Great Heart’Jac by a neck on the line.

“We’ve done lots of work with his jumping,” Symonds said.

“At Huntingdon it was frustrating because he just turned to see Mr (Nicky) Henderson’s horse, Balco Coastal, who’s obviously franked the form, and he said ‘what the hell are you doing there?’ and forgot there was a hurdle in front of him.

“It’s slightly arrogant, here he hit the front, looked at the hurdle and just put down.

“He might (have an entry at Cheltenham) but we will take our time with him.”

Erne River made light work of his chasing debut when cruising to an impressive six-length win in the Sky Bet Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase for Charlie Hammond and Nick Kent.

Nick Kent's Erne River
Nick Kent’s Erne River (Tim Goode/PA)

The 5-1 chance kept himself out of trouble as three runners either fell or were brought down and found himself clear of the field approaching the last fence, which he jumped well to cross the line unchallenged.

“We know he’s a very good horse and the two wins last year (over hurdles) were a bonus because I didn’t think he was quick enough for a hurdles race and he proved us totally wrong!” said Kent.

“He oozes chaser and that’s why we’ve gone chasing quicker than normal and we’re really, really pleased.

“He’s a bit more relaxed as he’d been a bit keen in his races last year, but we’ve worked on that at home, he was great there.”

William Maggs’ career in the saddle got off to the best possible start as he enjoyed a winner on his first ride under rules.

The 16-year-old has pony racing experience and rides for Donald McCain alongside his twin brother Charlie, who began his professional career for the trainer at Southwell on Sunday.

Riding the McCain-trained Bird On The Wire in the first division of the Sky Bet Extra Places Every Day Handicap Hurdle, a race specifically for conditional or amateur jockeys, Maggs steered the 8-1 shot to a four-and-a-quarter-length victory over 50-1 chance Ribeye.

“What an amazing start, that’s my first ride under rules,” the jockey said.

“I’ve ridden in pony races since I was about 11 or 12 and picked up two winners from 24 rides.

“It’s nice to open the account under rules like this.

“I was travelling from the outside as the horses turned in and as I came down to three out, I switched him down the outside and he just picked up from there and kept on galloping.”

Of bagging a first winner before his twin brother, Maggs added: “I won’t rub it in too much!”

Division two of the same race went the way of Manintheshadows, ridden to success by AJ O’Neill for his father Jonjo.

A 9-1 chance, the chestnut recorded a five-length triumph to claim his second career victory.

“It’s fantastic, he’s a great little horse who tries so hard,” the jockey said.

“He just keeps galloping once he gets into his nice rhythm, he finds his happy spot and keeps going from there.

“I’m really enjoying the riding at the minute and I’m lucky enough to be having a lucky streak, but in the future my heart is quite set on training, so hopefully that will come into fruition over time.”

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