Rookie trainer Harry Fry secured the biggest success of his emerging career when Opening Batsman won a dramatic renewal of the Racing Plus Chase at Kempton on Saturday.
Although responsible for last season’s Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby, whom he prepared from what was Paul Nicholls’ satellite yard in Seaborough, the 26-year-old’s name is now above the same Dorset premises.
Still a novice but an evident improver, the 12-1 shot hugged the inside rail under Noel Fehily and finished the three miles that little more strongly than Nicholls’ Rolling Aces, who was there with every chance but was beaten by two lengths.
“What a day,” said Fry, who is the youngest jumps trainer in the country. “Big winners on a Saturday is what it’s all about and for a young team, it shows what we can do in the future. He has multiple entries at Cheltenham, but this was the plan.”
Among the footnotes was the performance of the dashing grey Nacarat, twice a winner and twice more placed in the race.
He made a howling error on the first circuit, eventually finishing last and trainer Tom George announced his immediate retirement.
As has been the case all season, there were a succession of almost private battles between the Nicholls and Nicky Henderson yards, and it was 2-1 to the former in the other Graded races on the card.
Nicholls dropped a heavy hint Irish Saint would not be heading towards the Triumph Hurdle despite him winning what is now accepted as the most informative trial in the Racing UK Subscribe For Cheltenham Adonis Juvenile Hurdle.
The racingplus.co.uk Pendil Novices’ Chase saw Ludlow handicap winner Grandioso (9-4) remain on an upward trajectory.
Nicholls said: “He’s not in at Cheltenham and he does go a bit right-handed, so Aintree might play against him.”
Henderson pulled one back with Forgotten Voice (9-2), who used the speed from his high-achieving Flat career to accelerate five lengths clear of 15-8 favourite Brick Red in the William Hill Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle.
Henderson said: “He did win a Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot so he has got pace, and now he is learning to settle. He jumps well, and he’s a lovely horse.”
Prince De Beauchene could not quite cap a red-letter day for record-breaking trainer Willie Mullins as he had to settle for second in the At The Races Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse.
Mullins had earlier topped Aidan O’Brien’s total of winners in an Irish National Hunt season as he sent out an early double to take his tally to 156 for the 2012-13 season.
However, Prince De Beauchene, part of a strong John Smith’s Grand National team for Mullins in company with On His Own, finished two lengths adrift of Roi Du Mee as 8-11 favourite.
Mullins said: “He jumped well bar the one mistake - he just ran too fresh and ran with the choke out.”
Winning trainer Gordon Elliott is now mulling the options for Roi Du Mee, who is entered at the Cheltenham Festival and in the National.
Stocktons Wing (5-4) had earlier outpointed the Mullins-trained Dogora to claim the Grade Two Winning Fair Hurdle and book his ticket to Cheltenham.
Mullins was at it again yesterday, bagging a hat-trick at Fairyhouse led by the prolific Annie Power, who lived up to her name in the Grade Two paddypower.com Novice Hurdle.
Annie Power was given a 14-1 from 66-1 quote by Stan James for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but Mullins said: “We’ll probably look at the Grade One mares’ race at Fairyhouse for her.”
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5.20 Greek Islands
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Stop The Show