British Horseracing Board chairman Martin Broughton might have a few pressing business matters on his mind at the moment but he found the time to go to Huntingdon and watch Cruising River take the day’s biggest prize at odds of 25-1.
Along with his twin brother, Steve, and two other friends, Broughton owns the seven-year-old gelding, who holds entries in both the Kim Muir and the National Hunt Chase at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.
It was Shining Strand, owned by The Queen, who took the field along and had pulled 20 lengths clear when ducking out at the last in the home straight with a circuit to go.
The fierce early gallop set by the favourite had seen many of his rivals in trouble from an early stage.
But his departure left Cruising River in front – a position he was able to maintain all the way to the line despite the slightly weak-hearted challenge of Distant Thunder on the run-in.
Winning rider Paul Moloney was completing a double after taking the previous event on Harrycone Lewis.
“I was a bit worried that he wasn’t going as well as it looked as he was and so it proved but he battled on well,” said Broughton.
Knight confirmed future plans for the winner, saying: “He’s in the Kim Muir and the four-miler but we will need a rider.
“I like Tom O’Brien a lot but I imagine there will be other trainers who would like to use him.
“We bought him from Tom Costello and he is a half-brother to Lord of Illusion who is part-owned by Barry Brazier, who used to own a lot of good horses with Fred Winter. He’s a bit of a lucky mascot for us.
“The horses are running well but these ‘purple’ weeks soon come to an end!”
O’Brien had advertised his talents as Boardroom Dancer took advantage of a series of mishaps behind him to defy top-weight in the opening contest.
With a quarter of the field out of the Racing UK Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase after the first three fences, the 85-40 favourite was soon clear.
And although he started to tire by the time he negotiated the home turn for the final time, none of his remaining rivals were able to do much about closing the gap and it was left to Lambrini Blanco to follow the winner home at a respectful 22-length margin.
Winning trainer Suzy Smith is enjoying plenty of success at present and revealed that she is rapidly outgrowing her current 20-box operation in Lewes.
“I have just started looking for a satellite yard nearby,” she said. “We’re full up already and there are more due to arrive soon so I’m not sure how that will work out.
“I have got two for Paul Beck and one of them is just getting ready to run and it is good for a big owner like that to give me a chance.”
Rhys Hughes was taken to hospital in Huntingdon for precautionary X-rays after being kicked twice by other horses having been unseated from Aisjem at the second fence.
Beck’s colours were in the winner’s enclosure shortly afterwards when Magico rallied to take the huntingdon-racecourse.co.uk Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Connections reported the Venetia Williams-trained gelding had appreciated the drop in grade and had been slightly hampered when well-beaten at Wincanton on his previous start.
Having taken up the running at the 10th fence, Magico (7-1) saw off the challengers that came to him in the home straight and kept on well to win by five lengths despite a blunder at the final fence.
Linnet heads for the Cheltenham Festival after breaking her duck over jumps in the Cash Converters Lincoln Juvenile Hurdle.
With favourite Princelet coming a cropper at the third-last under Tony McCoy, the winner was left a couple of lengths clear.
And although Flaming Weapon drew alongside to make the 15-8 winner work for the money on the run-in, Graham Lee persuaded the winner to pull out more close home for a one-length verdict.
VC Bet quoted the winner at 33-1 for the JCB Triumph Hurdle, but Linnet is more likely to go for the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle depending upon the assessor’s view of this performance.
After Princelet and Shining Strand had both left him tearing his out, the relief was tangible from Nicky Henderson when Herakles took the Keech Cottage Children’s Hospice Novices’ Handicap Hurdle under Mick Fitzgerald.
“I thought I was going mad after those two but Mick has restored my faith by giving this horse a great ride,” said the trainer.
“I was a bit surprised he hadn’t won before today but he needs good ground and appreciated this step up to two and a half miles.
“Shining Strand is an amazing horse. He’s got so much ability but he is just wild.
“We’ve got the hang of making him jump off now but nothing was going to stop him when he decided to run out.
“He was going a hell of a gallop and even though I couldn’t guarantee he would have kept it up he does just keep on going.
“He’s the same at home. He’s been through every hedge at Seven Barrows. He’d even run through walls.”