MORTIMERS Cross landed a gutsy success in the John Smith’s Scottish Borders National to give amateur Paul John a big-race winner on his first visit to Kelso.
The 11-year-old, owned and trained by Shropshire permit-holder John Needham, made a lot of the running on his way to a one-length strike over Captain Americo.
John said afterwards: “That’s one winner from one ride here and I made the right decision, as I could have ridden at a point to point instead. The dream is one day to turn professional, but this old horse has given me a terrific ride and he is so game.”
Ludlow-based Needham added: “He’s a thoroughly genuine old horse and he never knows when he’s beaten. I would love him to get into the Grand National one day, but his rating needs to go up a fair bit.”
Borders jockey Ryan Mania enjoyed a 59-1 double courtesy of Douglas Julian and Lucematic, while Melrose owner Geoff Adam saw his colours carried to victory by Lucinda Russell-trained Rhymers Ha’ in the two-mile handicap hurdle.
Rival D’Estruval, trained by Pauline Robson, impressed in the Scotty Brand Paris Pike Novices’ Chase under Richie McGrath. East Lothian owner Ray Green said: “He is best fresh, so he won’t run again before the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham in March.
Nicky Richards is hoping to be among the winners at Musselburgh today, with Peachy Moment one of his stronger fancies in the Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance Handicap Chase. The Greystoke trainer said: “He ran well at Sandown last time and he’s in good form. If he stays this longer trip, I think he will take all the beating.
“Houston Dynimo has won on the Flat at Musselburgh, but he’s not very well handicapped. All my other runners have chances and I run a nice filly in the bumper called Brijomi Queen, who should go close.”
At Punchestown yesterday, Flemenstar jumped to second-favouritism for the Cheltenham Gold Cup with a scintillating performance in the John Durkan Memorial Chase. Jockey Andrew Lynch set out to make every post a winning one and the tactics worked a treat as Peter Casey’s seven-year-old jumped for fun.
Sir Des Champs, unbeaten since joining Willie Mullins, including two wins at the Cheltenham Festival, had no answer to Flemenstar’s pace rounding the turn for home. Last year’s winner Rubi Light was well beaten back in third.
Casey had stated before the race that Flemenstar’s performance would dictate his future plan. Racing over two and a half miles against a genuine Gold Cup contender, he certainly was not stopping on crossing the line. The even-money favourite’s jumping was foot-perfect as he took lengths out of Sir Des Champs down the back straight, although the effort of the runner-up offered plenty of encouragement for his supporters on what was his seasonal return. Coral cut Flemenstar to 5-1 for Cheltenham (from 8-1) behind Bobs Worth.
Meanwhile, Carlton House signed off his career with Sir Michael Stoute with a sixth-place finish behind California Memory in the Longines Hong Kong Cup.
The four-year-old will now join Gai Waterhouse’s team in Australia after enduring a less than perfect passage in the 10-furlong contest. Ryan Moore tracked the eventual winner in the early stages, but got shuffled back when the pace upped a notch. Carlton House kept on for sixth, but the Tony Cruz-trained California Memory had flown, with only French raider Giofra emerging from the pack to claim second with Australian runner Alcopop in third.