Ebony Express could go in pursuit of glory at the Cheltenham Festival after coming up with the goods to deliver a shock victory in the William Hill Imperial Cup at Sandown.
In a race where few managed to get seriously involved, the 33/1 shot returned to winning ways to give his trainer Dr Richard Newland a first victory in the Grade Three handicap hurdle. The six-year-old held off the rallying advances of long-time leader Rayvin Black by three-quarters of a length under Will Kennedy.
Newland’s charge was cut to as short as 10/1 for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle and 12/1 for the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle, with the latter looking the most likely target for the attempt to bag a £100,000 bonus.
Newland said: “When he won his first two races he was very impressive, then it went wrong at Catterick as I rushed to get a third run in. He was coughing a bit and I was a bit stupid to run him there. He had a little leg infection in the week, but the vet did a great job in getting that sorted.”
Only Martin and David Pipe have bagged the bonus for winning the Imperial Cup and a race at Cheltenham, and Newland added: “I have entered him in both races (Martin Pipe and County Hurdle) . I would like to think he has a squeak of getting in the County Hurdle, as that is the preference.”
As De Mee may be set for a step up to Grade One company after leading home a one-two for trainer Paul Nicholls in the European Breeders’ Fund William Hill National Hunt Novices Handicap Final. Always travelling well in the hands of Sam Twiston-Davies, the 8/1 shot cruised into the lead seeing off his stablemate Great Try by two lengths, securing Grade Three honours.
Andrew Thornton moved closer to his 1,000th career winner when making all aboard Ultimate Act in the William Hill Mobile Cheltenham Offers Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, to hand Seamus Mullins his second winner at the track in as many days.
Mullins said: “We are going to have a good bit of fun with this horse and he will be lovely over fences. If the ground is suitable he will go for either of the four-year-old handicap hurdles at Ascot or Newbury later in the season.”
Trainer Oliver Sherwood will be hoping the victory of Financial Climate in the William Hill Supreme Guaranteed Return Offer Handicap Chase is a sign of things to come.
Sherwood watched on as the 11/2 shot followed up his win at Chepstow with a three-quarters-of-a-length victory in the extended three-mile contest under 5lb claimer Thomas Garner.
Ruby Walsh gained victory in the colours he will be hoping to carry to glory in next week’s Stan James Champion Hurdle aboard Faugheen when partnering Babylone Des Motte to a stylish success in the EBF Stallions TBA Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.
Held up early on in the two-mile Listed event, the Rich Ricci-owned, Willie Mullins-trained four-year-old (9/2) moved powerfully into contention before being ridden out inside the final furlong to win by a length.
“Ruby felt he went a bit too soon, but he had to go for it. There is not a lot of her as but she has completed her first step,” said Ricci’s representative Joe Chambers
A patient approach paid off for Traffic Fluide (11/8), which made it two wins from three starts in Britain with a win the William Hill Daily Cheltenham Specials Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.
The William Hill CheltenhamReady Handicap Chase went the way of Nigel Hawke’s Anay Turge (7/1), which survived a blunder at the water jump to get the best of a battle with Dare To Endeavour by three-quarters of a length.