Josses Hill star turn in Henderson hat-trick
AHEAD of the busy Christmas schedule, Barry Geraghty must be heartened by the form of Nicky Henderson's yard -- illustrated by a sizzling 10/1 treble at Newbury.
Geraghty was aboard all three winners, with the highlight being the impressive hurdling debut of Josses Hill.
Henderson knows that quality does not come cheap, and his long-time owner Alan Spence forked out £100,000 after the strapping gelding was beaten 22 lengths into second by Faugheen on his bumper debut at the Punchestown Festival.
Faugheen has already been one of Willie Mullins' leading lights this season, and Josses Hill followed up last month's Ascot bumper win with a smooth three-length success.
"He's a gorgeous horse, but just a baby," said Henderson of the even-money favourite. "He jumps his hurdles like fences. We'll mind him this season before he goes over fences next year."
The Henderson hat-trick was initiated by the success of Dawalan in the opening juvenile hurdle in which the 4/6 favourite came home eight lengths clear.
A half-brother to the brilliant Flat pair Daylami and Dalakhani, Dawalan is more of a Fred Winter contender than a Triumph Hurdle one according to the trainer, who returned to the winner's enclosure after the victory of Hadrian's Approach in the Graduation Chase.
Having lost his rider following an early blunder in the Hennessy Gold Cup on the same course 18 days earlier, Hadrian's Approach clearly benefited from Geraghty's assured handling
Although always dogged by jumping issues, the 9/4 second favourite was foot-perfect to beat another Hennessy non-completer, Super Duty, by a length and a quarter. "It was a lovely race for him," said the master of Seven Barrows.
"Another crash, bang, wallop like the Hennessy and he'd be finished. It would be nice to find another of these, but he could be one to save for later on now."
The pair were denied a four-timer when Hughie Morrison's Brother Brian (7/1) came late to foil Tistory in the novice hurdle.
Paul Nicholls couldn't believe that Benvolio went off at 8/1 for the novice handicap chase and his gelding belied those odds by getting the better of favourite Midnight Prayer by two lengths.
"When I saw his price I thought I must have missed a trick, as I thought he'd go really well," said Nicholls. "He won twice at Wincanton last season and this was basically his first run over fences. He's a nice little horse."
Tony McCoy punished his rivals for giving him an easy lead aboard Chestnut Ben (11/2) in the Greatwood Charity Handicap Chase.
Newmarket trainer John Butler turned to the perennial champion to do the honours on Montana Belle (5/1) in the fillies' bumper.
Third on her debut at Warwick, she is a daughter of one Derby winner in High Chaparral, and from the family of another in Commander In Chief.
At Lingfield, meanwhile, Tarooq showed a neat turn of foot to produce a record-breaking performance in the featured six-furlong handicap.
The £45,000 sprint was saved over from last week after the meeting was lost to fog and, in just his second run for David Barron, Tarooq (7/1) ran out a cosy one-and-a-half-length winner from the fast-finishing Hawkeyethenoo. Lancelot Du Lac was another neck back in third.
Tarooq is now eligible for the new £1m All-Weather Championships Final Day at Lingfield on April 18.