Code switch no hurdle for Nabucco in Coleman's Ascot treble
Aidan Coleman took centre stage at Ascot after further boosting his impressive strike-rate with a treble, highlighted by victory aboard Nabucco in the William Hill Handicap Hurdle.
Boasting decent form from the Flat, the John Ferguson-trained six-year-old passed his toughest test since switching codes with a gritty performance.
Having saved ground all the way round after charting a path around the inside, the 7/2 favourite hit the front between the final two hurdles.
He met the last all wrong but saw his Flat speed get him out of trouble to come out on top by three-quarters of a length from Unanimite.
Coleman said: "To pitch up here in a competitive hurdle at Ascot giving away experience and win is a great effort. It was a completely different kettle of fish to what he had been running in, but he is a man and is really tough."
Cold March responded to waiting tactics in perfect fashion to form the middle leg of Coleman's hat-trick, coming from almost last to first in the Byrne Group Handicap Chase. Benefiting from a ferocious pace set firstly by last year's winner Ulck Du Lin and then Pearls Legend, the Venetia Williams-trained 12/1 shot erased memories of near misses last campaign as he motored home.
Williams said: "He ran some good races last season, but he didn't really see them out. He was still only a young horse and I think he was just a bit weak. He has probably got a bit of stamina for a little bit further and that came into play."
Masterplan gave the form of his stablemate Atlantic Gold a boost in getting the ball rolling for Coleman with a two-length success in the Gardiner & Theobald Novices' Handicap Hurdle, a win which also formed the first leg of an across-the-card three-timer for winning trainer Charlie Longsdon.
Longsdon said: "I was surprised that he got such a soft lead. This time last year you couldn't have ridden him from the front as he was far too keen."
The Longsdon-trained Pendra put frustrating efforts behind him to live up to the hype that has followed him throughout his career when coming good in the Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap Chase. The seven-year-old put in the performance he has long threatened with a three-and-a-quarter-length success in the three-mile Grade Three heat, under an ice-cool ride from Barry Geraghty.
Longsdon said: "Finally he has won one. He has been short priced in handicaps at the last three Cheltenham Festivals and it is nice to win a big prize as it was long overdue."
Geraghty found himself making another return to the winner's enclosure when steering Cultivator to victory in the Neptune Investment Management Standard National Hunt Flat Race.
Moving powerfully throughout, the 10/11 favourite only needed to be pushed out to score by two and a quarter lengths to complete a double for winning trainer Nicky Henderson, who was successful earlier on with Altior (4/5) in the Colts & Fillies Club Novices' Hurdle.
Henderson said: "He reminds me a bit of My Tent Or Yours in the early days. The ability is there, but the head is not quite there yet. As he is eligible for the DBS Bumper that he finished third in at Newbury last year we might just put him away for that, then go to Aintree."
The Evan Williams-trained Padge (6/1) wasted no time in getting of the mark over fences when getting up close home in the Ascot Underwriting Novices' Limited Handicap Chase.
Sunday Indo Sport