Ebony Express in line for Cheltenham Festival bonus

Ebony Express is on the prowl for a whopping bonus at the Cheltenham Festival after he stunned Sandown with a 33-1 upset in the William Hill 
Imperial Cup on Saturday.

Dr Richard Newland (right): 331 win. Picture: PA
Dr Richard Newland (right): 331 win. Picture: PA

In a race where few of the runners managed to get seriously involved, the big outsider returned to winning ways to give his trainer Dr Richard Newland a first victory in the Grade Three handicap hurdle.

Having been close to the 
firing line throughout, the six-year-old, under the guidance of Will Kennedy, held off the rallying advances of long-time leader Rayvin Black by three-quarters of a length.

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Newland’s charge was cut to as short as 10-1 for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle and 12-1 for the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle, with the latter looking the most likely target for the attempt to bag a £100,000 bonus.

Newland said: “On his best form he had a good chance of winning and it was just a question of whether he brought his ‘A’ game. I have entered him in both races [Martin Pipe and County Hurdle] in case this happened. I would like to think he has a squeak of getting in the County Hurdle, as that is the preference.”

Newland added: “I thought Will gave him a super ride, he judged it right and was strong in the finish. This is a new relationship, Will is working so hard to move his career forward and is one of the most underrated riders out there.”

As De Mee may be set for a step up to Grade One company after leading home a one-two for trainer Paul Nicholls in the EBF William Hill National Hunt 
Novices Handicap Final.

The Ditcheat handler said: “I will probably be brave enough to enter him in the Grade One novice hurdle at Aintree then put him away to go novice 
chasing next season.

“Someone mentioned the Martin Pipe to me, I hadn’t really thought about it – if he’s got a 5lb penalty and it got him into the race you’d be mad not to have a look, but I’d say it’s probably very unlikely. He’ll go to Aintree and then we’ll put him away.”

Mindurownbusiness swooped
to conquer in the silks of Alan Spence in the Ladbrokes Lincoln Trial at Wolverhampton.

Although the sponsors 
quoted the 4-1 winner for the first leg of the Lincoln at Doncaster on 28 March, the Roger Varian-trained colt is more likely to head for All-Weather Championships Finals Day at Lingfield on Good Friday.

Sovereign Debt earned a tilt at the Godolphin Mile with a spectacular last-to-first victory in the Ladbrokes Lady Wulfruna Stakes. Trainer David Nicholls, who will also consider the final of this series on Good Friday at Lingfield, said: “He had shown us that kick at home and on the track, in fact he should have won his last three. He’s a very good horse.

“He’s such a kind, natural fella at home. To make up that amount of ground in that short space of time was a bit special. I think we’ll go to Dubai [for the Group Two]. He goes on the dirt, so why not?”

Ryan Moore was in irrepressible form, bagging a hat-trick through Pretend and Forest Maiden, both for Charlie Appleby, and the Jeremy Noseda-trained Wakea, who might 
turn into a long-range Ebor 
candidate.

Headline act at Naas yesterday was Miss Xian, who narrowly oupointed Bothair Clei in a pulsating climax to the Woodlands Park 100 Club Leinster National.

Three miles in testing conditions faced the eight runners in the feature event of the afternoon and Allied Victory cut out much of the running before Mark Enright bustled Miss Xian to the front rounding the turn for home.

Sonny B travelled ominously well into the straight and joined Miss Xian on the run to the final fence, with Bothair Clei also in contention to make it a three-way battle on the run-in.

Bothair Clei looked set to triumph after hitting the front, but 9-2 chance Miss Xian roared back and the two passed the post virtually as one.

After a brief wait, the judge called Fran Flood’s mare the winner by a nose.

Flood said: “That’s worth a lot. It’s a great race, the Leinster 
National.

“We took a big chance being 6lb out of the handicap, but that’s her third win around Naas and she’s tough and she stays.

“It’s a black type race and it’s worth a lot to a mare, so it’s worth taking a chance.

“I suppose the three-mile-five [furlong] in Punchestown would be a race that springs to mind. We’ll see what the handicapper does to her.”