Gold Present for Henderson
The Sir Peter O’Sullevan Memorial Handicap Chase saw a winning seasonal debut from Gold Present (Nicky Henderson/Nico de Boinville, 11st 10lb). Always prominent, the seven-year-old rallied after the last to defeat Warriors Tale (Paul Nicholls/Bryony Frost (5), 11st 6lb) by a neck with Gentleman Jon (Colin Tizzard/Paddy Brennan, 10st 6lb) another half-length away in third.
Nicky Henderson said: “Gold Present had to do well to come back. Nico gave him a lovely ride because I think he had to take a little breather down the bottom. He was exuberant early on and jumped his way to the front very quickly. I think Nico had to take a pull because it was his first run of the year.
“I thought he was beaten but, on the other hand, it looked as though Nico had to sit still for a second turning in to fill him up again. It was his first run of the year and will come on a lot it for it.
“I have no idea what the plan is now but I think he wants to go up to three miles now. He fell in the Topham last year but, with the way he jumps, you can see why we were thinking about that race. It might be somewhere else for him later on in the season.
“Sir Peter was a great friend and it is lovely to win this race today.”
Nico de Boinville added: “With our horses, the first time they run, they just need to be sat on for half a second to let them fill up again. I thought if I did that, he might get a second wind and run on, which is what he has done.
“He was helped by the loose horse slightly inconveniencing the Nicholls horse but, apart from that, he is full of guts and jumps for fun. He got brought down horribly in the Topham and I didn’t really want to be in front but he jumped me there so I didn’t want to disappoint him.”
Old Guard prevails
The well-backed Old Guard (Paul Nicholls/Bryony Frost (5), 11st 7lb) landed the Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle. Taking the lead three out, the six-year-old stayed on well to come home two and three-quarter lengths to the good over Reiluc (Chris Gordon/Paul O’Brien, 11st 3lb) with Air Horse One (Harry Fry/Noel Fehily, 11st 8lb) a further head back in third,
Paul Nicholls said: “The horses are running well and the jockeys are riding well, particularly Bryony, who had never ridden here before. She had a walk round earlier and is so tactically aware – she said that there would be no pace so she would be up there and would kick on from two hurdles out. The horse deserved to win a nice race.
“Old Guard ran well at Cheltenham last time and is a great advert for breathing operations – he has been a different horse this season. That is why I am not afraid to say when my horses have had a breathing operation. The same is true of Clan des Obeaux, who has also been transformed this season and I don’t see the problem in making trainers say when horses have had breathing operations.
“We could look at stepping Old Guard back into Graded company after today. We will put him in the Christmas Hurdle and have a look. The Lanzarote could also be a possibility. He has been a good money spinner.”
Bryony Frost added: “We had confidence in Old Guard. He is a great friend of all of ours – he owes no-one nothing in the yard. We have had two seconds today and my team have behind me saying I will be alright and just need to keep kicking.
“This horse looked revved in the paddock and on fire – he was ready – and he filled me with confidence out there. We hit the front, I started to galvanise him and he is brave. We had to take time at the last – he has been wanting to go to the inside the whole way round, so let him drift in and thankfully I had enough horse.
“I am girl that is sat on the best horse out there. If he wins, he has done the work. It’s a massive day and to have the opportunity for me on a Saturday like this – I have never ridden at Newbury before, apart from I think once on the Flat.”
Jeremy Kyle, who owns Old Guard in partnership with the Brooks & Stewart families, said: “That’s not about Paul or me but about Bryony Frost – what a lady, what a jockey and what a fantastic day. I am so pleased for Old Guard and he deserved it.”
High Bridge all heart
High Bridge (Ben Pauling/Mr Alex Ferguson, 11st 3lb) scored in the Ladbrokes Intermediate Handicap Hurdle by a length and a quarter. The winner runs in the colours of his Margaret Ferguson, mother of his former trainer John Ferguson, while the winning jockey is her grandson.
The six-year-old made all the running to score by a length and a quarter from Charli Parcs (Nicky Henderson/Noel Fehily, 11st 10lb) with Poppy Kay (Philip Hobbs/Richard Johnson, 11st) another three-quarters of length in arrears.
Ben Pauling said: “It was a brilliant ride from Alex because there was absolutely no pace. We had no interest in being in front to be honest but I said to Alex that he might have to bob away. High Bridge is such a relaxed horse that he didn’t do a tap in front and I was just terrified that he would be a sitting duck.
“They have finished like it was a slow race – all on top of each other – but he has repelled them when he needed to. Alex is a young lad who is going so well and it is great for him, John and everyone else.
“High Bridge will stay every yard of two miles and is good in this ground as well. He could be quite useful and we might have to come out of handicaps at some point.
“I am not one for stats, but he’s won off 145 today so we will have to see. He had been creeping up the weights due to what Elgin has done so it is good to see him win and I am thrilled for Alex and John. The Betfair Hurdle back here in February could be an option but we will enjoy today first.
“Willoughby Court is spot on after his win here yesterday – there is not a bother on him.”
Alex Ferguson added: “There wasn’t much pace on and the overall idea wasn’t to make it but, if someone had gone on, they probably would have gone too steady. It all worked out OK. High Bridge was nice and relaxed out in front and I am delighted with his run. He has done nothing wrong and loves it here.
“I get a huge amount of support from Ben and everyone in the yard at home – it’s a great place to be and I am a very happy and lucky boy. Ben and I get on very well and he has been very good to me over the past year and a half. It’s a great place to be and a huge team effort from everyone.
“It’s huge for me. I am still an amateur and delighted with the way things are going. Turning conditional is the next step for me and I am taking nice and steady. I am not rushing but you have to take that next step at some point.”
Overtown Express delivery
The final race of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival saw Overtown Express (Harry Fry/Noel Fehily, 11st 6lb) cme out on top by 10 lengths from Rock On Rocky (Matt Sheppard/Jamie Bargary, 9st 12lb). The winner took the lead four out and kept on well for a comfortable success.
Harry Fry said: “At least we can go home with some credibility after the last two days.
“Overtown Express has been wanting this slower ground and Noel has given him a lovely ride.”
Noel Fehily added: “Overtown Express loves a bit of slow ground, so I was glad to see the rain for him. He jumped brilliantly, as good as he has jumped, and I thought that was his strongest asset today. He was very quick from A to B over his fences.
“I was fairly sure he didn’t run his race in the Kingmaker last season and I think Harry felt the same. He has shown today that he is not a bad little horse when he is right.”