Albuhera is to form an important part of Paul Nicholls’ Christmas operation following his decisive success over Copsale Lad in the Dubai Duty Free Fulke Walwyn Novices’ Chase at Newbury.
Nicholls, top trainer numerically at the Hennessy meeting with seven winners, was sufficiently impressed with the gelding’s eight-length triumph under Joe Tizzard to consider raising his sights for a tilt at the Castleford Chase at Wetherby.
With Kauto Star and Sporazene set to represent Nicholls in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown next weekend, the victory of Albuhera was a timely boost for that pair and the trainer enthused: “Ruby (Walsh) jumped off this horse at Cheltenham and said ’he just wants two and a half miles’.
“I looked at today’s race and told Joe to use Copsale Lad as a lead and as far as that was concerned, things worked out beautifully for us.”
Of the Castleford idea, Nicholls added: “Some of these two-mile races can cut up a fraction and we might well give it a go as I think his owner would be keen.
“This fellow loves Newbury. He jumped his way there today and did the job nicely.”
Pirate Flagship (15-8) initiated a double on the day for the Ditcheat handler with victory in the Sporting Index National Hunt Maiden Hurdle.
The six-year-old was also launching a brace for his jockey Christian Williams, but the jockey paid a price as he was found guilty of careless riding in that he allowed his mount to hang right approaching the second-last flight. The stewards suspended Williams for one day on Thursday, December 8.
Williams completed his double on 25-1 chance Koumba in the following European Breeders Fund Novices’ Handicap Chase.
The success was of special importance to trainer Evan Williams, as the diminutive gelding not only took him to his best total of 34 winners, but also provided him with a first Newbury success.
“He ran well in an amateur riders handicap at Cheltenham and is as tough as teak but as you can see, there is nothing of him. He’s like a rabbit,” the handler said.
There was another upset when Screenplay (25-1) resisted the strong challenge of Shining Strand to take the Ann and Richard Plummer Golden Wedding Novices’ Handicap Hurdle by three-quarters of a length.
This was further evidence of the well-being of Sheena West’s horses and was a third success for the Lewes trainer in the last fortnight.
Screenplay has been a captain of industry this year and West said: “That’s his 25th outing and we’ve been lucky that the ground has remained in his favour until now.
“He deserves a break now so I’ll put him away and bring him back in the spring.”
Robert Walford picked up a one-day ban (December 8) after being found to have used his whip with excessive frequency on Novacella, while Charlie Mann was fined £1,200 after running Hoh Viss at Leicester having declared Newbury as the horse’s first preference.
A drop back in trip worked the oracle for Too Forward, who travelled beautifully for Carl Llewellyn in the Racing UK Handicap Chase to prove five lengths too strong for Graphic Approach.
Trainer Mark Pitman said of the 10-1 winner: “I ran him at Wincanton to find out whether he was a Hennessy horse but he didn’t stay.”
Philip Hobbs provided the answer to the Lexus IS250 Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle in Motorway (5-1), who proved two lengths and eight lengths too strong for Prairie Moonlight and Pepe Galvez.
Hobbs observed: “He won very well at Cheltenham and although I didn’t want to make the running today, he’s done it well and we know he does stay very well.”
Wichita Lineman (7-4) looks destined for high honours in the bumper sphere following an impressive length-and-a-quarter triumph over Presentandcorrect in the London Racing Club Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.
Of the half-brother to Rhinestone Cowboy, who has just resumed light exercise after a spell on the sidelines, trainer Jonjo O’Neill said: “The way the first two came clear I would say that is a half-decent race.
“This fellow is very similar in that he’s got a lovely, easy attitude.”
Cashmans make the winner 12-1 co-favourite for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.