Nicholls and Fehily partnership strikes again

The flowering partnership between Paul Nicholls and Noel Fehily continued apace at Cheltenham when Sam Winner (4-1) ran out an easy victor of the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial, the first race on Paddy Power Gold Cup day.

The flowering partnership between Paul Nicholls and Noel Fehily continued apace at Cheltenham when Sam Winner (4-1) ran out an easy victor of the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial, the first race on Paddy Power Gold Cup day.

Fehily has so far been the main beneficiary of Ruby Walsh's broken leg, and was again seen to good effect on a Ditcheat inmate.

Making his British debut, having earlier this year finished second three times in his native France, Sam Winner was tracked wide throughout.

When the race began in earnest three flights from home, Fehily gave the youngster an inch of rein and he powered clear of Grandouet to win by 15 lengths.

Plan A plugged on for third, but the 11-4 favourite Titan De Sarti, another French import, was only fifth.

Nicholls said: "I like him an awful lot - he's a brilliant jumper."

Fehily said: "He's a very nice horse - a strong, galloping type.

"He made ground very easily and galloped all the way to the line.

"I'd say he's entitled to be favourite for the Triumph Hurdle after that."

Paddy Power shared Fehily's belief, and inserted Sam Winner as the 7-1 favourite for the JCB Triumph Hurdle back at Cheltenham next March.

Nicholls added: "He's been an awesome jumper from day one and he's a sort we like because he'll make a chaser one day.

"With horses like this you don't really know how good they are until they run, so I hadn't thought about anything after this.

"It's quite possible he could come back here again, he wouldn't be the sort to run in a bog at Chepstow."

Grade One-winning hurdler Wayward Prince showed he is likely to take high rank in his new discipline with a hard-fought success in the Ultima Frontrunner In IT Solutions Novices' Chase.

Ian Williams' six-year-old landed the Sefton Novices' Hurdle last spring and was sent off the 9-4 favourite after having made a winning debut over fences at Huntingdon in October.

Dougie Costello moved him up to challenge Balthazar King half a mile out, but looked to have a huge fight on his hands when Chicago Grey loomed large turning into the straight.

However, Gordon Elliott's charge crumbled on landing and brought down Beshabar, who also had a chance.

Wayward Prince carried on regardless, and battled on well for a four-and-a-quarter-length win from Balthazar King.

Wayward Prince was left unchanged by Paddy Power and William Hill at 16-1 for the RSA Chase.

Williams said: "He's a rock-solid horse and has performed well.

"He didn't jump with the fluency that I had expected of him - that was maybe down to the ground, which could be a bit tacky out there.

"Dougie also felt they just weren't going quick enough for him, and that he would appreciate a proper gallop.

"He's done what he needed to do, but there may be a bit of improvement needed from him.

"We'll possibly bring him back here for the December meeting, but there's load of options."

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Page 5: 13:43Costello said: "I said to Richard (Johnson, rider of Balthazar King) when we were trotting back in that I felt I was only going half-speed and in second gear - that's because he has such a high cruising speed and he idles.

"I was trying to go quick enough and not get there too soon. I had to kick-on three out but at the same time I was waiting for a bit of company.

"I still felt I had the beating of the horse who fell at the second-last because I was only getting into third gear."

Christian Williams, who was brought down on Beshabar, suffered a suspected fracture to his left arm.

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Page 6: 14:14Midnight Chase (8-1) was a joy to watch in giving Costello a quick double in the Morson Group Handicap Chase.

Raised 9lb for an easy win at the course last month, the Neil Mulholland-trained eight-year-old jumped from fence to fence at the head of affairs.

Junior was in second throughout but could never get on terms to land a blow, while Any Currency stayed on from a long way back to eventually fill the runner-up berth, eight lengths away from the impressive winner.

Irish National winner Bluesea Cracker travelled well for a long way before tiring into fourth.

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Page 7: 14:17Mulholland said: "We were due to come back here in December, but there's a possibility we might have to go out of handicaps now.

"We were hoping he could improve and he has done.

"I've stood in the same spot in the weighing room for his last three wins now and I like to keep things the same if I can.

"I'm lucky I've got a good jockey on board so I don't have to worry about things too much but I got more of a thrill watching that than I ever did riding.

"We'll definitely be looking to coming back here some time - he loves it at Cheltenham."

Costello added: "He's a specialist around here - he hits the hill here and finds an extra gear.

"Neil is a serious trainer and has done marvellous with this horse."

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Page 8: 15:30Cross Kennon returned to winning form in the Jardine Lloyd Thompson Handicap Hurdle.

Trained by Jennie Candlish and ridden by Alan O'Keeffe, the six-year-old had finished fourth in the Pertemps Final at the Festival in March.

After a disappointing seasonal reappearance at Aintree in October, the money came for him and he was backed from 9-1 in the morning to go off the 9-2 joint-favourite.

O'Keeffe looked to have plenty to do half a mile out but he stayed on stoutly to beat Viking Blond by three lengths, with Backbord third.

"He ran a blinder at the Festival and I just tried to settle him early doors because he can be keen," said O'Keeffe.

"It was a good training performance to bring him back here and win. They went a good gallop and I knew he'd stay on up the hill.

"He's a nice staying chaser of the future."

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