Balder books Ryanair date with smooth Ascot success
Balder Succes staked his claim for Cheltenham glory with a clear-cut victory in the Betfair Ascot Chase at the Berkshire track.
The 4/1 shot, trained by Alan King, put his rivals to the sword once Wayne Hutchinson took him to the front at the fourth-last. Ma Filleule tried to make a challenge, but Balder Succes always had her measure as he jumped superbly.
A typically brilliant leap at the last confirmed the win as he scored by three and a quarter lengths to register a second Grade One triumph. Leading novice Ptit Zig, the 6/4 favourite, fell at the ninth fence.
"This a horse who has been great to me. The owners have been very supportive and it's for the team as well," Hutchinson said. "Good horses like Voy Por Ustedes and My Way De Solzen don't come along very often. He's a flag-bearer for us now."
King said: "After today's performance we've got to stick to the Ryanair route. I've got to the speak to the owners as they're away today, but I think that will be the way we go.
"Over two-and-a-half they just go that half-stride steadier early on. While he'd been running well in the early part of the season, those good two-milers were just getting him out of his comfort zone. Now he's won the last twice over that bit further."
Balder Succes has an unfortunate record at Cheltenham, failing to complete in three outings.
King added: "He fell in the Triumph and unseated in the Champion Hurdle, but he would have won over fences (as a novice) as he was bolting up but fell at the last fence because of the low sun.
"Obviously he made the odd mistake over two as he was out of his comfort zone. but that was just what I wanted to see today - he is maybe a bit under the radar still, but I am not worried about that."
Ma Filleule's trainer Nicky Henderson is eyeing a rematch at the Festival next month.
Meanwhile, Lie Forrit got up in the dying strides to deny his old rival Harry The Viking in the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock.
The Lucinda Russell-trained 11-year-old had fended off Harry The Viking at Kelso five weeks ago and the two veterans were again to the fore as they fought out the finish to the valuable handicap chase over three miles and five furlongs.
Lie Forrit (8/1) took up the running from Gas Line Boy after the fourth-last fence, only for Harry The Viking (12/1) to loom large at the final obstacle and grab a narrow lead. Both horses kept on resolutely all the way to the line and Peter Buchanan managed to get Lie Forrit in front where it mattered to land the spoils by a head.
The leading pair pulled 19 lengths clear of Monbeg Dude (13/2) and Tony McCoy in third.
Russell said: "I love this race, that's the third time we have won it, Silver By Nature (dual winner) was a legend and so is this lad. We knew he wouldn't be able to dominate today, Peter said he had plenty in the tank coming up the straight but it didn't look like that to me.
"He lost his nerve over fences as a novice, but obviously he was a very good hurdler. That meant his chase mark was much lower and he has been better than ever this season. The Scottish National is the plan now, he has proved he stays. We didn't even enter him for Aintree, so he will go straight there."
Sandy Thomson, trainer of the runner-up, said: "We only paid £14,000 for him and he has won that back already.
"We have entered for Aintree, but he probably won't get in, so Ayr would be the plan if he doesn't."
Sunday Indo Sport