Flying Angel a godsend for backers in smooth victory
Flying Angel rewarded market support to land the Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle at Sandown yesterday. Four were in with a chance straightening for home, including Solstice Star who was chasing a remarkable sixth win on the bounce.
Never far away after last year's runner-up Rayvin Black then Clayton had led, Martin Keighley's Solstice Star made a bold bid but Flying Angel swept to the front with two to jump and while it was hard work in the ground, he soon put the race to bed.
Grinding it out from there, the 9-1 chance had five lengths to spare over Solstice Star and another four and a half lengths back to Spice Fair in third.
Affaire D'Honneur was sent off the 9-2 favourite but was always in the rear before staying on past beaten horses to be a remote fourth. Rider Ryan Hatch said of the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained winner: "He travels really well, but is still a big baby and I was in front miles too soon. He just pricked his ears and wasn't doing a tap, I felt if a horse came to him he'd have gone again.
"I'm really thrilled with that, from day one he's always been an accurate jumper and he's one for fences as well."
"The man you have to congratulate for this win is my son, Sam," added Twiston-Davies. "He found the race as he said he probably wouldn't get in at Cheltenham, but he would probably get in this race. So we followed his advice and here we are."
The Sandown feature traditionally carries a bonus from the sponsors if the winner can follow up at the Cheltenham Festival, but that is not the case this year.Twiston-Davies, winning the race for the first time, added: "Only when I win it is the bonus gone! He's still in the Martin Pipe and other handicaps (at Cheltenham), but we will see how he is.
"Ryan said he was just doing enough, which is one thing which makes us think it might be possible to run next week. He is very good and ran a superb race in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, I thought he had a good chance today and it showed he definitely stays. Looking at the size of him, chasing will be the future.
"We've always had aspirations for him, the owner asked us to buy a special horse and thank goodness it worked."
Meanwhile, ante-post favourite Ivanovich Gorbatov is one of 25 juveniles confirmed for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham on Friday.
Officially trained by Aidan O'Brien but chiefly prepared by his son, Joseph, the JP McManus-owned four-year-old made a sparkling start to his jumping career at Leopardstown's Christmas meeting before suffering an odds-on reverse on his return to the track for last month's Spring Juvenile Hurdle.
Despite that disappointing display, Ivanovich Gorbatov remains at the top of the betting, with connections hopeful he will bounce back on the forecast sounder surface next week.
Willie Mullins has a formidable hand, with Spring Juvenile first and third Footpad and Let's Dance joined by stable companions Apple's Jade and Voix Du Reve.
Sunday Indo Sport