Zaynar showed the market whispers to be right on the mark at Newbury as an emphatic jumping debut moved the grey to clear favourite in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.
Despite the protestations of trainer Nicky Henderson in the aftermath, Zaynar had been a notable ante-post mover and was already top-priced for the four-year-old Cheltenham crown with some companies.
An import from the Aga Khan’s French stock, Zaynar is now owned by a partnership including Michael Buckley and bookmaker Victor Chandler and usurped Hebridean as 11-8 favourite for the Collingwood Team Services’ Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle.
He hit a brief flat spot but was right in the thick of it by the second-last and Barry Geraghty did not need to be too forceful to pull four lengths clear of Walkon.
“I don’t know where the confidence came from,” admitted Henderson, collecting the event for the
sixth time in eight years.
“He has always jumped beautifully but does take an awful lot of work. He had a right good blow on the back straight and I am a little surprised how well he picked up.
“He is wonderfully well bred – almost too well bred – as he is out of a Prix Diane winner and by
“What has always been the plan is the four-year-old hurdle on Victor Chandler day at Ascot.”
Paddy Power go 9-2 for the Triumph, while William Hill offer 8-1.
Further credence to his prospects came from Walkon’s trainer Alan King. He was giving Zaynar 7lb and King reflected: “Walkon’s the best juvenile hurdler I’ve got.”
King had cause to celebrate himself as Cracboumwiz became Barbury Castle’s first winner for powerful owner John Hales in the First Great Western Maiden Hurdle.
Despite having his first run in 666 days, during which time he moved from Heather Dalton’s yard, the 11-2 shot was lobbing along turning for home – but was joined and headed by 5-4 favourite Qozak at the last flight.
Cracboumwiz and Robert Thornton were unflappable and got back up by a short head on the line, with a long way back to the third.
“Second runner for Mr Hales and first winner so that’s very pleasing,” said King.
“He’s very well bred – a three-parts brother to Azertyuiop.
“He has had problems with his legs so let’s just hope he stays in one piece.”
The same team later added the EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle through Bakbenscher (11-2).
Nigel Twiston Davies scoffed at suggestions his yard was under a cloud when 15-8 favourite Tricky Trickster obliged in the Coolmation Novices’ Chase.
At the start of the afternoon, the Naunton trainer was 19 days and 36 runners without a winner.
He explained: “It’s ridiculous – there have only been about five proper racing days in that space of time and everyone has been saying we’re out of form. We knew there was nothing wrong with the horses.”
Go For One (11-4 favourite) is reaping the dividends of shrewd placing by Venetia Williams and followed up last month’s victory at Ludlow by cantering 19 lengths clear in the SFC Group.co.uk Handicap Chase.
Williams said: “I had him in the entries to run in a 20-grand race at Ludlow on Thursday but when I saw the entries for this race, it made my mind up.
“I will try to find him a race on Boxing Day so he can run under a penalty, but I’m not sure where yet.”
Billingshurst trainer Laurence Wells struck at a Grade One venue as the Jamie Moore-ridden Classic Role (9-1) displaced Russian Flag on the run-in for the Powersolve Electronics Greatwood Charity Handicap Chase.
Charlie Mann’s Eastern Paramour (5-1) made a promising racecourse bow to steal the EBF Kentford Racing Fillies’ “Junior” Standard National Hunt Flat Race.