Such was the extraordinary form of trainer Nicky Henderson at Ascot on Saturday, the only surprise about Sentry Duty winning a particularly competitive renewal of The Ladbroke was his odds of 12-1.
Admittedly the tremendously gifted trainer had a shorter-priced runner in the disappointing 5-1 second-favourite Aigle D’Or but with the Boylesports International and the BCG Long Walk Hurdle already in the bag on the afternoon, Barry Geraghty’s ride was an obvious contender.
He had been laid out for the £150,000 handicap perhaps far earlier than when winning over course and distance early last month and was smuggled confidently into the race only in the closing stages.
Alsadaa, runner-up to Henderson’s Jack The Giant a year ago, drew well clear in the opening exchanges with Cuan Na Grai but their challenges folded early and it was all to play for rattling down to the final flight.
Numide fluffed his lines with a mistake, allowing Songe to take third, but it was the ante-post gamble Belcantista who came closest to puncturing Sentry Duty’s hopes, having to give best by a length and a quarter.
Henderson beamed: “I wasn’t sure between the two but in that ground I fancied Aigle D’Or more.
“He’s not very big and while I’m not saying he wouldn’t take the hurly-burly whatever hits him is going to be bigger than him.
“I’m sure he’s better on better ground but we know now that he wants a really good break between his races.
“After his last race we knew The Ladbroke was the one we were after, so we’ve got it right.”
Geraghty added: “I went wide looking for the better ground as he doesn’t like it soft.
“Nicky told me last night if I was within two lengths turning in I’d be fine and when I gave him a kick in the belly off he went.”
Songe, a decent juvenile last season, was providing a pleasant change of fortunes for Charlie Longsdon.
“He’s always underestimated and if my stable had been in better form he was never a 100-1 shot,” said the young trainer.
“He has shown the sort of form we’ve been looking for from him and he’ll have to keep going in all the big handicap hurdles in the spring like the Tote Gold Trophy and the County.”
Gary Moore said of the fourth: “Numide will go straight to the Tote Gold Trophy. He made a mistake but I don’t think he would have won.
“He’s run a great race and shown his run at Cheltenham wasn’t a fluke. We hope it rains at Newbury.”
The 4-1 favourite Ashkazar suddenly dropped right away from contention in the home straight, eventually finishing second-last of the 18 finishers.