Sport Horse Racing

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Paul Nicholls and Tony McCoy make dream start for new boss JP McManus

Paul Nicholls saddled his first winner for powerful new owner JP McManus on a grey afternoon at Exeter.

Mr Mole could be a future star in the green and gold silks after taking what looked a high-quality renewal of the Barclays 40 Years of Wedded Bliss Novices' Hurdle.

Snapped up after a debut bumper victory at Hereford in the spring, the 6-4 chance fluffed the first flight but Tony McCoy remained unruffled even with 6-5 favourite Melodic Rendezvous, who was second to Champagne Fever in the Punchestown Champion Bumper, looming alongside.

The champion pushed Mr Mole a length and a half clear of Jeremy Scott's runner by the post.

"It was our first runner for JP and it was the right result, so we're very pleased," said Nicholls.

"He is very green, he was green in the bumper last season and he was again today. He's done loads of schooling but I think he just finds everything so easy. If we look after him he ought to be a nice horse."

McCoy and Nicholls were on opposing sides in the Betfred Best Mate Beginners' Chase, and the trainer came out ahead when Ruby Walsh got Rebel Rebellion (7-2) back past the McManus' runner Bold Henry.

Nicholls' former assistant Harry Fry, who prepared Rock On Ruby to land the Champion Hurdle from his satellite yard, had his first winner in his own name from just his fifth runner.

Highland Retreat (10-1) had fallen on her previous start in the point-to-point field and was always in contention under Jack Barber, passing the line just a head in front of Alberobello in the Dartmouth Term Of '65' England Expects Amateur Riders' Novices' Hurdle.

"To get the first winner on the board is a relief, to say the least, Fry said.

"To go and do it with a horse owned by Richard Barber - who is my landlord and a man I owe everything to - and for it to be ridden by his grandson Jack is a fairy story.

"I thought she would stay and Jack rode her very well. I don't think it was the strongest race but we'll look for another mares race now."

Tim Vaughan produced an impressive training performance to bring Wings Of Smoke (11-1) back from a gap since the end of January in the "Robert Barclay Seniority Stakes" Handicap Hurdle.

Liam Treadwell and James Payne's Knapp Bridge Boy (25-1) picked off the front-running 2-1 favourite Sophonie and ran out a comfortable winner of the Haldon Handicap Chase.

Kim Bailey's Harry Topper (11-4) rallied to snatch the Betfred "The Bonus King" Beginners' Chase from the even-money Nicholls favourite Rocky Creek while Richard Johnson and Garde La Victoire (7-2) picked up best off a dawdling pace in the Connolly's Red Mills junior bumper.

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