Champion jockey Tony McCoy’s observation after he had virtually lifted Control Man over the line in the European Breeders Fund ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle Qualifier at Fontwell today said it all.
“Has he got guts galore? I don’t know about that – all I know is that he has got a mind of his own,” he said.
McCoy had to ride a power-packed race to get Martin Pipe’s 9-4 shot home by a length and a half from Holland Park, with Copsale Lad half a length further back in third, after Control Man had looked likely to be swallowed up near the end.
The six-year-old, who made all, is now set for the Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, while the third will be aimed at the EBF Final at Sandown on March 13.
Majed, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Ruby Walsh, broke his duck over fences, but it was something of a belated victory for a horse who has run in the Martell Cognac Grand National twice.
The former smart hurdler (6-5 favourite) won the Betfred Treble Odds On Lucky’s Novices’ Chase by six lengths and 22 from Alpine Slave and Guard Duty.
A delighted Nicholls said: “He loves nothing better than going right-handed around a little track like this, and it has rekindled his enthusiasm all over again. There will be lots of little races for him now, but I wouldn’t dream of putting him in another National.”
Harik, the classic all-rounder, took the Betfred Early Prices From 9am Handicap Chase for owners the Best Beech Partnership, winning by seven lengths at 5-1 from Gus Des Bois.
The 10-year-old, who was bred by Hamdan Al Maktoum, has 10 owners who hail from the East Sussex town of Wadhurst, and they have him to thank for a total of £76,000 (€111,300) in prize money from 13 victories on the all-weather, over hurdles and over fences.
The chestnut is trained by Gary Moore and was ridden superbly by the handler’s son Jamie, who conjured some splendid jumps out of him. Unfortunately, none of Harik’s owners had a bet on their hero, as they thought the ground would prove too soft.
Rico Hombre almost threw the race away before scraping home from The Fridge in the Racecourse Video Services Levy Board Intermediate NH Flat Race.
The winner, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Andrew Tinkler, looked certain to score on the stands rails until he jinked close home.
The 5-2 favourite regained his composure and battled back to regain the advantage, his handler remarking: “He’s a French-bred baby and I wouldn’t worry if he didn’t run again for some time after this. He will learn.”
Mendosino made his handicap debut a winning one when strolling home by five lengths from Come Bye for Venetia Williams and conditional rider Alan O’Keeffe in the Betfred Non-Runner No Bet Cheltenham Handicap Hurdle.
The German-bred gelding, successful on the Flat in his home country, was first into the straight and soon had the race sewn up.
The trainer said: “He ran well when he raced here before, so I knew the track suited him. However, the distance of an extended two miles and a quarter was a bit of a no man’s land. Some more of the same will be on the agenda for him.”
Legal Lunch, the 7-2 favourite, had the rest for breakfast in the Betfred Double-Result Singles & Multi’s Selling Hurdle, scoring by nine lengths and the same from Jardin Fleuri and Arden Hills under Richard Johnson.
It was Keith Goldsworthy’s first winner as a licensed trainer after three months, and he also owns horses with Peter Bowen.
Goldsworthy said: “Legal Lunch deserved to win this. He has won five Class A events in his time, but he has had leg and joint trouble and has been off for a year. I just try to keep him off fast ground.”
The nine-year-old was bought in for 4,200gns at the subsequent auction.subsequent auction.
Beefy Nova (13-2), trained by George Yardley at Malvern and ridden by Ben King, just got the better of Steel Mill by a head in the Betfred In-Running On Sports Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase.