Highly-rated hurdler Lie Forrit was sent off the 5-6 market leader following an impressive fencing debut at the Borders track off the back of a lengthy absence, with Grade Two-winning hurdler Bold Sir Brian next best at 13-8.
Outsider of the three runners, Moon Indigo, led his rivals for much of the two-mile-six-furlong journey, but his early exertions began to take their toll in the straight. Bold Sir Brian was easily travelling the better of the other pair and quickened up well in the hands of Peter Buchanan to score by two lengths. Lie Forrit got going late in the day to fill the runner-up spot.
At Doncaster meanwhile, Nicky Henderson stole the show with a 19-1 treble through Open Hearted, Prince Of Pirates and Tour D’Argent. They were the Seven Barrows trainer’s only runners at the track after Remember Now was a late withdrawal from the two-mile handicap hurdle.
Open Hearted (9-2) kicked off proceedings in the royal colours when opening his account over obstacles in the crownhotel-bawtry.com Maiden Hurdle. Always in the front rank, Andrew Tinkler’s mount led before the third-last and comfortably held the favourite Ile de Re by four and a half lengths.
Prince Of Pirates (11-8) rallied on the run-in under a power-packed Tony McCoy finish to lift the Mirror Punters Club Beginners’ Chase. A mistake at the final fence appeared to leave the way clear for 5-4 favourite Habbie Simpson, but McCoy was having none of it. Sporting the JP McManus colours, which he carried to victory on Synchronised in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown a day earlier, McCoy galvanised his mount to get up close home to win by half a length. Tour D’Argent (4-7 favourite) was the easiest of the Henderson winners, landing the Pyramid Carpets “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle with the minimum of fuss. Bringing up a double for McCoy, he made all of the running to score in a canter by nine lengths from An Capall Mor.
Sir Alex Ferguson was on track to see Harry The Viking (5-2) battle to a narrow victory in the Lynn Higgins 60th Birthday Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.
The Manchester United manager part owns the Paul Nicholls-trained six-year-old, who was following up a debut success over fences on this course three weeks earlier.
A bad mistake six from home failed to affect Harry The Viking, who outpointed Ikorodu Road by a head in a rousing finish.
Air Force One (11-2) rolled back the years when registering his first win since taking a Grade One novice chase at Punchestown in April 2008 in the Sorrelcourt Stud Handicap Chase. Trainer Charlie Mann had expected to retire the nine-year-old after this race, but has now scrapped that idea after he got up on the run-in under Noel Fehily to beat Beneficial Reform by two and a quarter lengths.
“I’m amazed. I thought this would be his last race and I would retire him after today,” said Mann. “He was a 164-rated horse at one stage and was running in Gold Cups, Hennessys and King Georges. He worked well on Wednesday and I rode him, but I thought he was not in love with the game. He’s rated 120 now and the handicapper has given him a chance.”
The Neil King-trained Kaysersberg (25-1) came out on top under 3lb claimer Alex Merriam in the National Hunt Flat Race.