At the end of the season, the records could prove that conceding 7lb to Sonofvic was no mean feat as Tom Scudamore pushed out Grands Crus ahead of Paul Nicholls’ dark horse.
Grands Crus was able to keep the 2-7 favourite restrained behind Viking Blond, despite his jumping being so agile that he threatened to take himself into the lead prematurely. Instead, he could delay his challenge to the home straight but was still unable to shake off Sonofvic until the run-in, with his opponent looking an exciting prospect on his first start over fences.
“That was probably a good performance by two very solid horses,” said Scudamore. “It could well be some performance to give Sonofvic 7lb. His jumping was breathtaking and this was another step up the ladder. He just gives you the feeling of complete class.
“He’s got enough speed to drop to two and a half miles, but he does stay three. David will make the right decision. I imagine it will be between the Jewson and the RSA at Cheltenham, but there’s a long way to go yet.”
* AITEEN THIRTYTHREE and Great Endeavour feature among 18 declared runners in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury tomorrow .
Great Endeavour will attempt to follow up his Paddy Power Gold Cup win and owner David Johnson says different tactics may be used on the David Pipe trained seven-year-old.
Great Endeavour raced prominently throughout at Cheltenham but Johnson said yesterday. “The plan is to win, but we may have to review how the race is run from our perspective.”
18 runners were declared for the contest yesterday, with the Paul Nicholls-trained Neptune Collonges set to carry top-weight of 11st 12lb. Nicholls has booked conditional Harry Derham to take 7lb off his back.
Joncol was ruled out by trainer Paul Nolan on Wednesday night due to concerns over the ground.
The Noel Meade-trained Muirhead, winner of the Muster National at Limerick two starts ago, was cut into 20-1 by most firms (from 33’s) yesterday although 25-1 was still available with Coral and Ladbrokes.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Aiteen Thirtythree lines up following an encouraging second behind Somersby at Kempton. The champion trainer also saddles Neptune Collonges (Harry Derham), and Michel Le Bon (Noel Fehily).
Two of last season’s most exciting novice chasers in Wayward Prince and Wymott both take their chance, while Planet Of Sound is one of three runners for Philip Hobbs along with Fair Along and Balthazar King.
Other interesting contenders include Beshabar, Sarando, Carruthers and The Giant Bolster.
* BINOCULAR faces just four rivals as he bids to get back on the winning track in tomorrow’s Stanjames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.
The 2010 Champion Hurdle winner has been beaten at odds-on in the last two renewals of this Grade One prize.
He is likely to be given a thorough examination, with Overturn lining up just a week after landing the Coral Hurdle at Ascot for Donald McCain.
The third serious contender is the Paul Nicholls-trained Celestial Halo, who won the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton on his seasonal return, albeit in slightly fortuitous circumstances.
Kosta Brava and Stormy Weather complete the field.
* BRENDAN POWELL JNR was handed a nine-day suspension at Taunton yesterday after being found guilty of using his whip with excessive frequency on No Woman No Cry.