Nicky Henderson arrived at Kempton yesterday with a host of odds-on chances – but was forced to wait until the finale when Theinval ensured he would not draw a blank for the afternoon.
November is usually the month when Henderson’s huge string at Seven Barrows bursts into life, but this year seems to be taking a little longer.
Henderson must have feared the worst when West Wizard was beaten at long odds-on in the Coolmore EBF Stallions ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle for the second year running, this time going down to Arzal.
Having his first run since defeat in the race 12 months ago to Sgt Reckless, the five-year-old was sent off the 2-9 favourite to go one better.
Barry Geraghty tracked the front-running Arzal (7-2) and was slapping his mount down the shoulder two furlongs out, but the response was limited as Harry Whittington’s horse, ridden by Richard Johnson, won by seven lengths.
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Whittington told Racing UK: “He’s brave at his hurdles and is a very exuberant horse. He’s a very excitable chap and likes to get things over and done with as quick as possible. We make the running with him as he settles much better.”
Henderson and Geraghty suffered another expensive reverse in the Simply Finance Beginners’ Chase as River Maigue was turned over by Tango De Juilley. Venetia Williams’ runner was returning after an absence of 632 days but had shown decent form as a juvenile hurdler.
Fair Loch was going great guns until falling down the back straight, which left Tango De Juilley and Aidan Coleman in front, and Geraghty was straight away in pursuit.
However, he failed to make serious inroads into the deficit and the 10-1 chance cleared the last in fine style to beat the 4-9 favourite by 11 lengths. Ted Spread was third. Things got no better for Henderson and Geraghty in the feature OLBG Mares’ Hurdle when Polly Peachum was another turned over at odds-on behind Carole’s Spirit.
Daryl Jacob was gifted an advantage after no one wanted to go on at the start and it was one his mount never relinquished.
Robert Walford’s mare had not been seen since January but she lacked for nothing in the fitness department, producing a spring-heeled leap at the last to win going away. Gordon Elliott’s Irish raider Clara McCloud gave vain chase but was eight lengths behind the 11-1 winner at the line. Polly Peachum made a very bad blunder at the final flight but was well beaten at the time.
Jacob said: “It wasn’t something we wanted to do beforehand (make the running) because she gets a little bit idle in front and jumps to her right.
“I didn’t really want to do it, we just wanted an even gallop but we were able to get a cheap lead.”
Henderson’s moment to celebrate came after the Starlight Children’s Foundation Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle when Theinval (4-1) led home stablemate Lough Kent.
Philip Hobbs has a big weekend coming up with Fingal Bay in the Hennessy and he continued his pursuit of winners when Brother Tedd (4-6 fav) defied a penalty in the Openwork Foundation Novices’ Hurdle.
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