Not for the first time, Gary Moore masterminded a big-priced handicap surprise as 50-1 shot Heathcote landed the totesport Trophy at Newbury.
With the Brighton trainer having just returned from a holiday in Barbados, credit has to be given to his son Jamie, who rode and prepared the horse for the £150,000 event in Moore snr’s absence.
A 20-runner field ensured a frenetic pace as Private Be and Papini took turns in setting the agenda.
Moore jnr remained cool on Heathcote, who had been in and out of form this season, and kept him wide in the home straight – hitting the front with two flights to jump.
Nicky Henderson’s Caracciola appeared at the front with every chance along with eventual third Pedrobob.
But it was Overstrand who gave Heathcote most trouble and fought him all the way to the line, only succumbing by a neck.
“Dad only got back today and myself and (Moore’s assistant) Dave Wilson have been training the horses,” said Moore.
“I ride them and know them all, and I went around the outer as he needs daylight and I probably got there too soon.”
Joint owners Ben Haynes and Bob Siddle had told anyone prepared to listen to back Heathcote.
Haynes said: “We were beaten five lengths by Papini at Sandown last month and were 7lb better off but the difference in price was huge. The bookies don’t often get it wrong, but they did this time.
“The key to him is cut in the ground and Jamie has been looking after things. Perhaps Gary should go away again!”
Disappointments of the race were market leaders Tarlac and Acambo, who never seriously threatened at any stage – with the latter pulled up after dropping right out of it in the straight.
Acambo’s trainer David Pipe said: “Timmy (Murphy) said he was travelling well and he jumped nicely. There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with him afterwards.
“They seemed to be going through the ground and I don’t really think that was a problem – it was just a disappointing run.”
Denman looked much more like the budding superstar his reputation suggests with a highly-accomplished display in the toteplacepot Novices’ Chase.
Sent off the 1-3 favourite against just two rivals, Denman had been a shade workmanlike in two of his three recent outings over fences.
But this time under Ruby Walsh he was clever at most obstacles and came home as he liked – a distance clear of Mr Pointment, who tracked him from afar all the way round.
Already top of the market for the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at Cheltenham, Denman was cut to 13-8 from 11-4 by Coral and 7-4 with the other major bookmakers.
Trainer Paul Nicholls said: “Ruby said that was the best he has ever felt. He schooled for the first time since his last run on Friday and he’s never looked as well.
“He’s having a good blow and will come on for this. A month between now and Cheltenham is ideal. He’s learning all the time and next year when he runs in all of the big races, he will have all this experience behind him.”
Henderson’s Copsale Lad (14-1) has not enjoyed the best of luck in chases this season and the switch to the smaller obstacles paid off in the totescoop6 Handicap Hurdle.
Andrew Tinkler’s mount galloped away from Minella Tipperary and was five lengths clear at the post.
“He got knocked over in the Paddy Power and he doesn’t like going right handed so the wheels fell off last time at Ascot and he won’t go that way round again,” said Henderson.
“This was an opportunity to get a run into him prior to Cheltenham which is where he belongs. He’ll be entered in everything but I think he could possibly be a Ryanair horse.”
Crocodiles Rock may have earned himself a chance at the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the Festival after a gritty success in the tote Text Betting 60021 Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.
Jonjo O’Neill’s youngster (15-8jf) had won well at the track in late December.
And after being headed by Just A Thought, he battled back again to finish a length ahead of his rival.
The five-year-old was shortened to 12-1 for the Festival bumper with Blue Square and William Hill, while Stan James and Ladbrokes rate him a 10-1 shot.
O’Neill said: “We will put him in at Cheltenham and he’d go if it was soft but he wouldn’t run if it was fast ground. He’s tough and he gallops.”
Crocodiles Rock’s rider Tony McCoy also picked the right one of owner JP McManus’ numerous representatives in the totesport.com Novices’ Hurdle as Money Order (7-1) wore down Oslot by a neck.
It was trainer Brendan Powell’s 40th winner of the season and reported his gelding to still be quite immature and unlikely to be overfaced this term.