Coral Long Distance Hurdle

THE Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle was another good race affected by a late withdrawal, and without the guaranteed pace of Dashel Drasher, it was left to Champ (Nicky Henderson/Jonjo O’Neill Jr) to make the running.

Champ looked like winning comfortably between the last two hurdles having jumped more fluently than chief rival Paisley Park (Emma Lavelle/Aidan Coleman). Although the latter was careful at the hurdles in the straight, he was in a fighting mood, and launched a determined challenge on the stands rail after the last.

Champ was on the opposite side of the track and it was impossible to tell who had the upper hand when they flashed across the line, but the slow-motion replay confirmed that Champ had won the day by a neck.

The 11/8 favourite was a winner at this meeting in 2018 and 2019 and was making it five from five at Newbury in November/December. His sole defeat here came over two miles in the Game Spirit Chase. He’s likely to head to Ascot for the Long Walk Hurdle, where he could again clash with Paisley Park.

The runner-up has looked reluctant on occasion in the last year, but he remains very game in a finish and would likely have won had he met one of the last few hurdles on a better stride.

Novices’ Chase

The withdrawal of Colin Parker Memorial winner, Beaupot, due to the ground, took all the air out of this Grade 2 event.

As a result, the race was at the mercy of last year’s Challow Hurdle winner Stage Star (Paul Nicholls/Harry Cobden), but the 2/7 favourite fluffed his lines and a few fences along the way as he capitulated after the last to 22/1 outsider Sebastopol (Tom Lacey/Stan Sheppard).

This was Sebastopol’s 11th start over fences, and he is not a novice having won in March and April last season, but new rules allowed him to run in this contest and he will relinquish his official novice status next week.

I would normally moan about the farcical nature of a Grade 2 novice being won by one so experienced over fences, but this race would have been a dead loss without him. We should be grateful for small mercies, and of course Tom Lacey should not be criticised for taking advantage of a system which afforded his charge his best chance of black type.

Sebastopol was bouncing back from a poor run in the Rising Stars Novices’ Chase at Wincanton, but he was reported to have been unsuited by ground which was described by his trainer as slippery there.

Wincanton punters will be aggrieved to note that both market leaders were pulled up in that contest only to win well next time.

Rest of the card

The novice events at this meeting tend to throw up some top-class prospects, and all eyes were on Jet Powered making his debut in Marie Donnelly’s colours for Nicky Henderson in the opener.

An easy winner of a Borris point last December for Cormac Farrell when carrying the colours of Samcro’s breeder Douglas Taylor, he was bought by Anthony Bromley of Highflyer Bloodstock for £350,000 in January and has been the subject of much conjecture since.

The 8/13 favourite didn’t disappoint his many backers for all Henderson’s concerns about the hype, and apart from a stutter at the final hurdle, he impressed with how he travelled and jumped, winning by 11 lengths from Ittack Blue under a motionless Nico de Boinville.

Experience came to the fore in the novices’ handicap chase, with chase debutant Balko Coastal unplaced after a series of slow jumps, and it was previous chase winner Frere D’Armes who scored at 4/1 for the Skelton brothers.

The winner and Aucunrisque always had the others on the stretch as they helped set a decent pace, and it was Frere D’Armes who had more in reserve from the last. The winner had his limitations over hurdles, but jumps fences well and is clearly a better horse in his new discipline.

The two-and-a-half-mile novice hurdle went to the Paul Nicholls-trained Stay Away Fay under Harry Cobden, but only after long-time leader Russian Ruler had tied up dramatically in the straight having looked assured of victory.

The winner was a Lingstown point winner a year ago for Matthew Flynn O’Connor, before being bought by Tom Malone on behalf of Paul Nicholls for £305,000.

He looks a proper stayer and will be racing over three miles sooner rather than later.