Debut success for Gilbarry at Wetherby

Malcolm Jefferson's Gilbarry made the perfect start to his career over fences with an impressive performance in the Novices' Chase at Wetherby today.

Debut success for Gilbarry at Wetherby

Malcolm Jefferson's Gilbarry made the perfect start to his career over fences with an impressive performance in the Novices' Chase at Wetherby today.

Nicky Henderson-trained southern raider Osric was sent off the hot favourite and all appeared to be going according to plan as he took the lead at the top of the home straight under Barry Geraghty.

Gilbarry, ridden by Graham Lee, crept into the race down the back and gradually warmed to his task in the jumping department.

The 4-1 shot, the winner of a bumper and a novice hurdle, took dead aim at the market leader heading towards the second from home and quickly took full command, safely negotiating the final fence and galloping up the run-in to score by five lengths.

Lee was once again seen to great effect as he guided 7-2 chance Alegralil to a narrow victory in the bet365 Mares' Hurdle.

Having her first start since April, Donald McCain's mare was settled in third in the early stages of the Listed event but was left contesting the lead with Jefferson's Issaquah when Bogside Theatre fell at the first flight in the home straight.

The pair settled down to fight it out from there on and it was Alegralil who just got the better of the argument by a neck.

"She's a grand mare and I've always known she has a lot of ability," said McCain.

"She just did everything so easily in her bumpers and her first couple of novice hurdles, I think it took her a while to harden up when she stepped into better company.

"I think she'd have won the mares' final at Newbury if the ground had been right and I think we'll stick in the good mares hurdle races this season, hopefully ending up at Cheltenham.

"She will jump a fence one day, though."

Philip Hobbs' tough-as-teak performer Fair Along landed the John Smith's Hurdle for the second year in succession under an excellent ride from regular rider Rhys Flint.

The 6-1 chance was soon setting the pace in the Grade Two contest and remained bang there as the field took the final turn for home.

Favourite Duc De Regniere and Kayf Aramis loomed up as major dangers, with the latter proving the most persistent challenger.

But Fair Along, without a victory since scoring here 12 months ago, would not be denied and fought off his rival on the run in for a length-and-a-quarter triumph.

Tidal Bay looked like dropping himself out at one stage of the race, but finished to good effect to grab minor honours in third.

"I've been waiting all summer to ride this horse today. He has a bit of a quirk but he tries his little heart out and you can't ask for more than that," said Flint.

"He only gets as high as he needs to over his hurdles but I was confident enough turning in as I knew he'd be a hard horse to pass.

"He's one of the best jumpers I've ridden over hurdles and he's the horse that really got my career going.

"It's quite emotional really and I can't thank the owner or the boss enough for letting me ride a horse like this."

Nacarat put up a superb display of jumping to land the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase.

Having set a searching gallop for the whole of the three-mile Grade Two contest together with the veteran Ollie Magern, Tom George's grey had plenty left to survive a minor blunder at the third-last.

The heavily-backed The Tother One was off the bridle some way out but plugged on for second while last year's winner Deep Purple ran well under a penalty in third. Ollie Magern ran respectably in fourth.

The big disappointments of the race were Barbers Shop and Knockara Beau, with the latter being pulled up before a circuit had been run.

Wining rider Sam Thomas said: "I've had a quiet week and it makes it a bit more special to have a good winner at the weekend. I'm delighted for the owners, they are very loyal and I have paid them back today.

"We got there too soon but he likes to be ridden handy. He went half a stride quicker going to the third-last, but he's a different horse this year and I think he'll be competitive wherever he goes."

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