JAMIE Bargary proved an able last-minute deputy as he drove Splash Of Ginge to victory in the BetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase at Cheltenham. Called up after Ryan Hatch suffered a suspected broken collarbone following a fall in the previous race, Bargary took his chance with both hands to land the biggest success of his fledgling career.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’s charge had looked unlucky when falling on his previous start on this track and made amends in great style.
Always travelling sweetly, Splash Of Ginge (9-2 favourite) took the lead from Hunt Ball at the second last and kept on strongly to beat that rival by three and a quarter lengths.
Bargary said: “I can’t say how sorry I am for poor Ryan, he had a great day ahead of him.
“To miss the ride on this lad, who is so special to him [won the Betfair Hurdle], he’s now very special to me, too.”
Twiston-Davies said: “Although it was only his sixth winner, Jamie is very good as he showed with a faultless display of jockeyship on his first ride without his 10lb claim. It will now be back to the novice route and the JLT is the one. I suppose Ptit Zig will be shaking in his shoes to hear that.”
Ptit Zig had earlier boosted his claims for that race at the Festival by taking his 100 per cent record to four with a clear-cut success in the Grade Two BetBright Novices’ Chase.
Sam Twiston-Davies brought Ptit Zig (evens favourite) to join Champagne West at the final obstacle before pulling away to win readily by six lengths.
Nicholls said: “It was his fourth run in a short period of time but I wanted to get experience of Cheltenham into him. He’ll be heading for the JLT at the Festival.”
Paddy Power cut Ptit Zig to 5-1 from 8-1 for the JLT.
Nicholls also struck with Mon Parrain (25-1), who sparked a 269-1 double for promising 5lb claimer Sean Bowen in the BetBright On Mobile Handicap Chase. Helped by the application of blinkers for the first time, the nine-year-old stepped up on his two previous starts to win by a length from Our Father.
“He was never going at Aintree last time, but I put some blinkers on him yesterday and he just took off in them,” said Nicholls.
Bowen followed up on Rolling Maul (10-1) for his father, Peter, in the BetBright Casino Handicap Hurdle. Also equipped with blinkers for the first time, Rolling Maul led at the second-last and was kept up to his work to hold Knight Of Noir by three-quarters of a length.
Jockey Noel Fehily and trainer Harry Fry enjoyed a 20-1 double with Thomas Brown (5-1) and Rock On Ruby (5-2). The latter was recording his fourth course success in the Dornan Engineering Hurdle as the 2012 Champion Hurdle hero saw off Vaniteux by two and a half lengths.
Thomas Brown gave a battling front-running display to gain a narrow success over Robinsfirth in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle. Fry said: “This was valuable experience. He’s obviously an out-and-out stayer and there’s no point looking at anything else other than the Albert Bartlett over three miles.”
Wishfull Dreaming (4-1) got off the mark in the EBF Cheltenham Pony Club Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race for owner Diana Whateley, trainer Philip Hobbs and jockey Tom O’Brien.