JIM Beaumont, co-owner of 2013 Grand National hero Auroras Encore, enjoyed success in his own colours as Neptune Equester landed the Borders equivalent at Kelso yesterday.
Trained by Sandy Thomson and ridden by Derek Fox, the 5/1 chance stormed home by nine lengths from Scotswell who was runner-up for the second year running.
Edinburgh-based Beaumont said: “He’s obviously not as classy as Auroras Encore so Aintree is only a distant dream. Sandy has done very well with him and we actually fancied him to run well today. The cheekpieces were back on and he’s not the best of travellers so most of his races are here at his local track.
“Right from when I first bought this horse this was the race we wanted to win and he’s done it. He’s done really well for us since we got him.” Thomson went on to record a 53/1 double when Prairie Lad landed the long distance novices’ handicap hurdle. Donald McCain and Jason Maguire were in even better form and recorded a 77/1 treble courtesy of Go Conquer, Diocles and Ardnahoe.
At Sandown, Paul Nicholls was the man to follow yet again as Dodging Bullets hit the target in some style to give the trainer a ninth victory in the 888Sport Tingle Creek Chase.
Bred by Frankie Dettori, the six-year-old has yet to reach the heady heights of past Ditcheat-based winners such as Kauto Star and Master Minded, but in the absence of star names Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy, the 9-1 chance delivered Grade One gold in beating Somersby.
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Nicholls said: “The Champion Chase will be our aim. He’s getting stronger and better and we know how to train him now. We’ll get him at his best at Cheltenham and he should be there with a chance.” There was a sad aftermath as the popular Oscar Whisky had to be put down as a result of injuries he suffered in a fall at the fifth fence.
Sam Twiston-Davies was aboard Dodging Bullets but he was left trailing in third as Noel Fehily completed a Grade One double for Nicholls aboard Vibrato Valtat (5/1) in the Racing Post Henry VIII Novices’ Chase, putting himself firmly in the Arkle picture.
Oscar Whisky’s trainer Nicky Henderson landed a treble through Caracci Apache, Cup Final and Snake Eyes, while Phil Sam Waley-Cohen once again weaved his Aintree magic to notch his fifth success over the National fences with Oscar Time in the Betfred Becher Chase.
Placed twice in the Nationals of 2011 and 2013, Oscar Time is well into the veteran stage of his career at 13 and is now trained by the rider’s father and owner, Robert Waley-Cohen, supposedly to ease his way into retirement. After picking up an injury when fourth behind Auroras Encore in last year’s National, he has been brought back to the boil steadily by taking in a point-to-point and a couple of hunter chases, but he unseated Waley-Cohen at Cheltenham on his return to racing under rules.
Sent off an unconsidered 25-1 chance, he was always going well back at his favourite course and had enough in the tank to hold off Mendip Express by three-quarters of a length, with Saint Are third and Alfie Spinner fourth. “I didn’t want to let Our Father get too far ahead, I just took my time. I thought he’d gone for home early enough anyway and if I’d chased him I wouldn’t have got home,” said the winning rider.
Of his incredible record over the fences, which also includes three seconds, a third and a fourth he said: “You’ve got to have the right horse and anyone could have ridden him today, as he’s such a good ride over these fences.”
Waley-Cohen nearly made it a double over the famous birch when he nursed Cedre Bleu into contention in the Betfred-sponsored Grand Sefton but the old rogue could not pass and Poole Master (25/1) won by a length and three-quarters.
Tony McCoy travels north to Musselburgh today for two rides and the 19-time champion partners top-weight Lucky Cody in the featured William Hill – In The App Store Handicap Hurdle for Brian Ellison. McCoy’s other mount is Arabic History in the opening William Hill – Bet On The Move Maiden Hurdle.
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