Cruel twist of fate sees Tartak land the spoils
The wheel came full circle for Tom George and Paul Nicholls in contrasting fashion at Newbury yesterday.
The two trainers endured a complete turnaround in fortunes from Newbury's previous fixture as Nicholls' talented Twist Magic suffered a fatal fall in a dramatic Peterborough Chase won by the George-trained Tartak.
Last month's Hennessy meeting saw perhaps George's most exciting prospect ever, Tell Massini, killed in a novice chase left to Nicholls' promising Aiteen Thirtythree.
Although Twist Magic will not leave such a void, the champion trainer's stable will be emptier without a horse that earned a pair of Tingle Creek victories among five Grade Ones.
Twist Magic was having his first try at two and a half miles on a rare visit to a left-handed track -- the race had been switched due to Huntingdon's abandonment -- and the 9/4 favourite was leading when coming down at the second-last fence.
This left his stablemate Breedsbreeze in front, but he could not put his stamp on proceedings and Tartak, second to Deep Purple a year ago and always to the fore here, was allowed another chance and the second favourite rallied to win by half a length. Deep Purple himself was brought down at the second-last.
"We've had a bit of luck, but we probably deserved some after what happened here last time," reflected George after the featured contest.
"It's swings and roundabouts. This horse deserved a big one. He has been a bit ring-rusty at this time of year before, but is sharper now.
"I think he'll get three miles at Aintree and the meeting in April will be his big target, but we will think about the Ryanair at Cheltenham."
Nicholls reflected on Twist Magic's demise: "He has fractured a pastern and we've lost him. He's been a great horse and it's always sad when it happens. He was still on the bridle when he came down. The other horse (Breedsbreeze) has pulled himself up in front."
The spate of cancellations has left trainers itching for opportunities and Nicky Henderson has so many ready to go he was forced to run three in the maiden hurdle.
Minella Class had a fair bit of experience in Ireland and on his first outing since March, steamed three and a half lengths clear for Barry Geraghty. "He has done what we hoped, but like a lot of Newbury maidens, the form can be confusing and you don't know what he beat," said Henderson.
Colin Tizzard has been in unknown territory this season with the top-drawer Cue Card and he had yet another new experience in the juvenile hurdle.
Tizzard, best known for his chasers, sent out Third Intention, his first three-year-old hurdler, and he got off to a great start by fending off Titan De Sarti by two and three-quarter lengths.
Major Malarkey has only recently found his feet over fences, but looked a future stayer after a gutsy effort in the novice handicap chase. "He did that nicely and maybe one day we might be thinking Nationals," said trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.
Similar comments apply to West End Rocker, which initiated a treble for in-form Alan King with a doughty display after a year on the sidelines in the staying handicap chase.
King then struck with Pride In Battle (15/2) who was always doing enough to thwart the Henderson hotpot Cucumber Run in the EBF 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle.
King, who also managed a two-year-old winner at Lingfield, added: "He was the best of my bumper horses and ran well at Chepstow, but stepping up to two and a half miles has helped. There's more to come I think."
The Barbury Castle-based trainer rounded off proceedings when the outside of his two runners, Who's Afraid, made a winning debut in the closing fillies' bumper.