The Skyfarmer showed his appreciation for a quicker surface when opening his account over fences in the Oakley Coachbuilders Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase at Newbury yesterday.
Always travelling well in the hands of Richard Johnson, the 7-2 shot jumped with real enthusiasm to hold off the late rally of 11-4 favourite Wuff by two lengths to complete a double for the rider and trainer Philip Hobbs.
Johnson said: “We always knew he wanted better ground and unfortunately in his three previous runs the ground was not right and that is why he hasn’t been seen out since Christmas.
“It has just taken a bit of time to get his confidence together, but today the further he went the better he jumped.
“He is only a young horse and hopefully there is more to come from him on better ground.”
Rock The Kasbah got the balling rolling for Johnson and Hobbs when getting the better of a thrilling finish to land a narrow victory in the Emma Lavelle Racing Novices’ Hurdle.
The five-year-old looked to have surrendered his chances of victory after making a mistake at the last, which allowed Inner Drive to gain the initiative. However, the 8-1 chance rallied to the cause to get up by a nose in the final stride.
Hobbs said: “Although he has form on the soft, maybe it was too soft last time. Richard thinks that the better ground helped him. It was a big advantage that he won a boys’ hurdle race so he didn’t have a penalty to carry.”
Gassin Golf (4-1 joint-favourite) saw his consistency rewarded when getting his head in front for the first time this season in the Carter Jonas Handicap Hurdle.
After posting a string of placed efforts, including when finishing third last time out in the Imperial Cup at Sandown, the Richard Lee-trained six-year-old ran out a four-and-a-half-length winner of the extended two-mile event to complete Johnson’s treble.
Lee said: “He deserved to win today. It was Kerry’s (Lee, daughter) idea of running in the cheekpieces, which he ran in for the first time in the Imperial Cup. He has never been ungenuine, he just wants something to focus on.
“We have just got the horse right and if he was to go to Aintree now he would probably be stepped up to two and a half miles.”
Sam Twiston Davies was given a thorough examination of his fitness levels when partnering Rally (14-1) to glory in the Hawk Inn Handicap Hurdle.
Pushing the six-year old along from more than a mile out, the six-year-old looked to be a sitting duck entering the home straight as Hinton Road moved up in eyecatching fashion.
While Rally continued to find plenty for pressure, the Alan King-trained runner offered little off the bridle when asked the question and his run soon came to nothing.
After safely negotiating the last, Rally maintained his healthy advantage up front to post an eight-length success.
Nigel Twiston-Davies said: “That was a fairly inspired ride by Sam. It was the last chance for the horse today as he had been disappointing and we had run out of excuses for him.”
Shuil Royale made it two wins from as many appearances this season after defying top weight in the Pheasant Inn Handicap Chase.
Sent off at 9-2 and given a patient ride by Ryan Mahon, he moved well throughout the two-mile-six-furlong contest before taking control of matters after the penultimate fence and staying on well close home.
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