Jack The Giant wins The Ladbroke at Ascot

Jack The Giant slayed the bookmakers as the result of a monumental gamble in The Ladbroke at Ascot.

Jack The Giant slayed the bookmakers as the result of a monumental gamble in The Ladbroke at Ascot.

Everything pointed to Nicky Henderson’s gelding, who was rated 24lb lower over hurdles than fences, and punters latched on to send him off the 9-4 favourite, having been 9-2 with the sponsors at the start of the day.

But it was only thanks to a little help from his friends that Henderson was able to get him to the starting tape in the first place, with stablemate French Opera not declared so Jack The Giant sneaked in at the bottom of the weights.

Mick Fitzgerald rode his mount in a similar way to a week ago at Cheltenham - where he picked up a 6lb winning penalty – and although Laura Mongan’s Alsadaa made a tremendously brave bid from the front, Jack The Giant was just a length too good in the end.

“It has been a long week for the horse and it’s been an even longer week for connections,” said Henderson.

“He was struggling all week to get in. The intention was to run French Opera and then Lynn Wilson, who owns him, very kindly said there were other options, as their horse was a 25-1 shot and Jack was about 5s.

“Him coming out let Jack in and it was very much appreciated by everyone.”

Jack The Giant fared well as a novice chaser last season and there were some whispers about him being Champion Chase material. However, Henderson continued: “I have a feeling he might be suited by another half a mile.

“This fellow does stay and Mick was saying his days over two miles are probably over.

“He is a chaser not a hurdler – he jumps hurdles like fences, and he will have to go back to them now.”

Consequently, the layers were left grumbling into their mulled wine.

David Williams of Ladbrokes said: “Things could not have been any worse. It was the most almighty gamble and we have come out of the race black and blue. Punters have wiped us out on the eve of Christmas.”

Less predictable, but not entirely surprising, was Lough Derg’s 14-1 triumph in the BGC Long Walk Hurdle.

David Pipe runners Osana and Tamarinbleu had pinched valuable prizes from the front at Cheltenham last weekend and again the Nicholashayne representative leapt away from flag-fall.

Deano’s Beeno, trained by Pipe’s father Martin, narrowly defeated the mighty Baracouda with the same tactics in this event five years ago, but the heralded pair of Hardy Eustace and Black Jack Ketchum never looked like reeling in Tom Scudamore and were beaten nine and six lengths respectively.

“He does absolutely nothing at home – he leaves everything to the track but (if) they want to give us a lead like that, we’ll take it, just like we did with Osana last week,” said Pipe.

The sponsors make Lough Derg a 10-1 shot for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, but Paddy Power, totesport and Blue Square are double that.

Pipe added: “I suppose we’ll have to go there. I don’t see why not.”

Dual Champion Hurdler Hardy Eustace was trying a distance of over three miles for the first time since one previous attempt back in 2003 as a novice.

“I think he got the trip,” said handler Dessie Hughes.

“He made a lot of ground up from the third-last, and if he had tried to follow the leader, he might have been beaten 40 lengths.

“He’ll go for the AIG (Champion Hurdle, at Leopardstown on January 27) now, because that suits and after that it’s up to the horse.”

Conversely, Jonjo O’Neill said of Black Jack Ketchum: “I’d say he didn’t get the trip. He ran a blinder but he might just not be the horse he used to be.

“We will have to try him at a lesser trip again now.”

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