Garden makes Geraghty's day
Nicky Richards' veteran Monet's Garden (11/2) showed his rivals a clean pair of heels to win the Betfair Ascot Chase for a second time yesterday.
The 12-year-old was winning for the 16th time in all and and also finished second to Kauto Star in the 2008 renewal. The bold-jumping grey made every yard of the running under Barry Geraghty, who has now won on the popular chaser on the two times he has ridden him. It was a day to remember for Geraghty who also rode three winners for his boss Nicky Henderson.
Richards, though, moved his stable star to Newmarket from his Cumbria base during the cold spell and it has obviously done the trick. Geraghty even took it easy after the last and allowed Albertas Run to close to within a length and a half.
"That was fun," exclaimed Geraghty. "I'd say he's one of the best jumpers ever -- he's so deadly over fences. I was hoping he'd be in the same shape as in the Old Roan Chase and he was."
Herecomesthetruth, sent off the 15/8 favourite after sustained support, was last of the five finishers, while the well-fancied Planet Of Sound was an early casualty.
Richards said: "He got into a good old rhythm and he and Barry get a great tune out of each other. He's top class at this distance. He's into veteran status now so he'll tell us when he's ready again."
Jonjo O'Neill said of Albertas Run: "It was a good run, just not quite good enough on the day. He's in the Ryanair and the Gold Cup and it will depend on the ground."
Henderson also had four winners at Ascot and his 100th of the season came as Lush Life inflicted an unexpected defeat on Menorah in the Lomax National Hunt Novices' Hurdle.
Menorah, the 1/2 favourite and billed as the most serious rival to Dunguib at Cheltenham, looked to have it all wrapped up but lost all chance when diving at the last. Lush Life (7/2) and Ruby Walsh, with Geraghty aboard the stable's more fancied Osric, had been creeping steadily closer and scampered a length and three-quarters clear by the line.
Menorah's trainer Philip Hobbs reflected: "We were worried about the sticky ground but the way things have worked out, the race wasn't ideal. There was no gallop, he was left in front, stepped at the last and got beat. So long as he's okay we'll certainly go to Cheltenham, where we will be assured a strong gallop."
Elsewhere, Lucinda Russell is eyeing a crack at the Scottish Grand National with Silver By Nature after the dour stayer provided the Tayside handler with the biggest win of her career at Haydock.
Having finished second to Dream Alliance in the Welsh National, the grey was sent off a 7/1 chance in the Blue Square Gold Cup under Peter Buchanan.
David Pipe's veteran Peter Marsh winner Our Vic set a strong gallop but once the petrol gauge started flashing, it was Silver By Nature which powered clear up the home straight to win by 15 lengths. Le Beau Bai, the 5/1 favourite, finished third.
The rest of the card was stacked with potential Cheltenham clues, headed by Nick Williams' Me Voici, which boosted his big reputation in the bluesquare.com Victor Ludorum Novices' Hurdle.