Champion jockey Tony McCoy and his eternal rival Richard Johnson shared a rare dead-heat in the Cavalry Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase at Leicester.
McCoy, partnering the Nicky Henderson-trained 9-4 favourite Prince Of Pirates, got up in the last stride to earn half of the spoils in a pulsating drive to the line.
Johnson was on Brackloon High (4-1) for his father-in-law, Noel Chance, who is now looking at the Kim Muir Challenge Cup at Cheltenham.
“I thought we were second, but we deserve a crack at the Kim Muir or something after that,” said Chance.
“He has to go up a little. Far be it for me to want the handicapper to put him up, but he has to for him to get in.
“He might go up 6lb, which should put him in that race.”
Connections of Prince Of Pirates are happy with the progress the JP McManus-owned seven-year-old is showing.
Henderson’s assistant Ben Pauling said: “We’re happy enough and delighted with the way he jumped.
“He’s got a massive engine and I thought he might have got it, but we’ve very pleased.
“He’s got plenty of ability and needs to learn his trade slowly.”
However, McCoy’s efforts saw him banned for four-days (March 1-4) for excessive use of the whip.
The Henderson team had earlier enjoyed outright success with Carabinier, who opened his account over fences when justifying favouritism in the Wren Handicap Chase.
The 9-2 market leader jumped into the lead at the last under 3lb claimer David Bass and pulled away to beat Moscow Chancer by nine lengths.
“That wasn’t exactly expected as we were not sure if he’d be able to travel over this shorter trip,” said Pauling.
“He jumped well except for two mistakes but he was soon back on the bridle. A stiff track over two and a half is his trip.”
Rody (9-2), who has to live outside as he is allergic to dust, showed his toughness with a game performance on his debut over fences to win the Fernie Handicap Chase.
The Tom George-trained seven-year-old ran on strongly to outpoint Roanstar by two and a half lengths with the pace-setting Drom third.
“He is very allergic and has lived in a field for the past six months. Otherwise he’d be coughing all the time,” said George.
“We’ve been waiting for a hood tailor-made for him that’s waterproof.
“It hasn’t been very nice for him in the last few weeks with the bad weather.
“He jumped very well and was always going to be a better chaser than hurdler.”
Sam Thomas picked up a winning spare ride when steering home Niceonefrankie in the Weatherbys Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide Novices’ Chase.
Thomas was replacing Aidan Coleman, who had a fall at Southwell on Wednesday, and enjoyed success on the Venetia Williams-trained gelding.
The 2-1 joint-favourite outpointed Unforgettable at the business end of the race to score by seven lengths.
“It’s hard luck on Aidan, but that’s racing, I guess. There’s lots of ups and downs,” said Thomas.
“I do a lot of work at home on Venetia’s horses and it’s nice to get the opportunity to ride them in races.
“Two miles is this horse’s minimum, but he’s done it nicely in the end.”
Kilvergan Boy (16-1) outstayed Cesium to take the Vicarage Handicap Chase by three and a half lengths for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies and his son, Sam.
“That was very nice as he’s very difficult to win with. He looked all right today. Maybe the better ground helped him,” said the trainer.
Rumbury Grey (8-1), ridden by 5lb-claiming Robert Jarrett, came out on top in a rousing three-way finish to the Dick Saunders Novices’ Hunters’ Chase.
The Steve Flook-trained nine-year-old got the better of Galway Jack and Start Royal by a neck and a head to make a winning debut under Rules.
“We thought this distance might be a bit short for him, but he’s put his head down,” said owner-breeder Christine Rogers.