Cook serves up a treat for Dalton

It will come as a surprise if Mount Cook does not go on to better things following his smooth success in the Morgan Ashurst Novices’ Handicap Chase at Taunton.

It will come as a surprise if Mount Cook does not go on to better things following his smooth success in the Morgan Ashurst Novices’ Handicap Chase at Taunton.

Having been all the rage in the offices in the morning, the 7-2 favourite was eased on the run-in by Stephen Craine, but still scored by eight lengths from Compton Star.

Winning trainer Heather Dalton, who can look forward to running four horses for One Man’s owner John Hales this winter, said: “It wasn’t much of a race but I hope he can win again.”

Hales’ wife Pat and daughter Lisa were present and the latter revealed: “We’ve all had a good bet on this one. He’s had niggling problems, but his blood vessel trouble is hopefully behind him now.”

Conditional Paul Callaghan was handed a 14-day ban by the stewards for his riding of fourth-placed Finnegans Rainbow. The six-year-old, trained by Michael Chapman, made late headway before being beaten over 18 lengths by Mount Cook.

Stipendiary steward Simon Cowley said: “The stewards found Callaghan failed to take reasonable measures to obtain the best possible placing and he’s been suspended for 14 days under Rule 158.

“There was no intent on his part, but he failed to follow the trainer’s instructions. The ban was higher than normal because we had to take a previous case into account in January of this year.”

Thundering Star, easily the most high-profile horse on view at the meeting, provided Paul Nicholls with a good omen for The Open this weekend when landing the Morgan Ashurst Novices’ Hurdle.

Formerly a useful performer in South Africa and carrying the popular silks of Harry Findlay, the-five-year-old overcame signs of inexperience over a trip that was too short for him.

This was a factor that both Nicholls and Findlay thought may prove a stumbling block to the 11-10 favourite, but although market rival Hot Diamond was going the better turning for home, Sam Thomas reeled in the leader before punching out Thundering Star to score by four and a half lengths.

Nicholls observed: “He was a bit green but we knew he’d be like that on his first run and the race will have done him the power of good mentally.

“It was a good starting point and hopefully he’ll go on from this.”

There was a polished riding display from amateur Paul Toole who barely moved a muscle in coaxing Flight Command (6-1) to a three-and-a-quarter-length triumph over Iris’s Prince in the Peter Jolliffe Retirement Handicap Chase.

It was a first ride in England for Toole, and a first for his new boss Charlie Mann. He had previously been with Tom Taaffe in Ireland.

It was good to see Ron Hodges in such good form after Posh Emily’s (4-1) neck success over Bethebestyoucan in the Tattersalls 3 for 2 Selling Handicap Hurdle.

Hodges underwent a quadruple heart bypass in the summer. He said: “We’ve been planning this for a long time, but had struggled to find the right seller.”

Equally good news for Hodges was that he retained his winner without a bid at the auction.

Evan Williams was in fine form with a first and last race double. First up was Mickmacmagoole (15-8 favourite) who bounced back to form in the Welcome Back To Taunton Amateur Riders’ Handicap Hurdle under the accomplished James Tudor.

Williams’ Megabill (5-1) then thwarted Ironical by two and a half lengths in the British Red Cross Maiden Open National Hunt Flat Race, thus giving Posh Emily’s jockey Christian Williams a double.

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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