Newbury Saturday

Coral Gold Cup Handicap Chase

THE inaugural running of the Coral Gold Cup (or the 66th Hennessy if you prefer) produced one of the closer finishes in recent memory, with Le Milos (Dan/Harry Skelton) just holding the determined challenge of Remastered (David Pipe/David Noonan) by half a length, with the runner-up’s stablemate Gericault Roque (Tom Scudamore) filling third place, a further six lengths away. The winner was well backed all week and was returned the clear favourite at 9/2.

With Harry Skelton going over the whip limit in victory, there was a degree of controversy about the result, but under new rules set to come in from the new year, the winner would have been referred to High Holborn and disqualified retrospectively, making this result more intriguing.

There remains plenty to debate about the rights and wrongs of demotion in such circumstances – knowing the result would be under scrutiny would make for some rather low-energy presentations for a start – the most pressing point is that such swingeing authority is yet to be introduced, and Skelton knew that the worst that would happen would be a short ban (he got seven days and a £2,900 fine) for his over-zealous use of the stick.

It’s to be hoped that the introduction of stiffer penalties will see such whip misuse curtailed with immediate effect.

Le Milos – bred in partnership by the late Robert Chugg and wife Jackie along with Harry and Lorna Fowler, and out of the wonderfully named Banjaxed Girl - has improved for the switch to Dan Skelton this season, scoring well in the mud at Bangor last month, and coping well with the faster turf in gaining his biggest success here.

He was held up early before making ground in the back straight, hitting the front under pressure three out and pulling out extra when needed after the last despite looking near the end of his tether.

Dan Skelton intimated that Le Milos would be prepared for the Grand National and is unlikely to run again over fences until the weights are published in early-February.

Novices’ Chase

Pulled up when his rider felt him take a false step on chase debut, McFabulous (Paul Nicholls/Harry Cobden) has made handsome amends since, and his jumping was much too assured for odds-on favourite Thyme Hill (Philip Hobbs/Tom O’Brien) in the Grade 2 John Francome Novices’ Chase.

The 2/1 shot able to cruise to a six-and-a-half-length win while the runner-up wasted too much time in the air, and is reported to be returning to hurdles with immediate effect, with a bid for the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March on his agenda.

As for McFabulous, Paul Nicholls didn’t hesitate in earmarking the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day as his next target, and the track there should suit him, having won the Relkeel Hurdle there when it was rerouted from Cheltenham a couple of seasons ago.

Nicky Henderson’s First Street benefited from the defection of morning favourite Pikar and the unseating of stablemate Theatre Glory to win the Gerry Feilden Hurdle under its new title.

The five-year-old hit the front before the last and kept on strongly under James Bowen to deny Grivetana (Paul Nicholls/Harry Cobden) – to whom he was conceding 25lb – by two and a half lengths.

The winner returned the 3/1 joint-favourite with Teddy Blue (Gary/Jamie Moore), who finished third having typically raced freely.

The winner may go for the International Hurdle next, but Henderson is concerned about the relatively quick turnaround, for all his other option is the Christmas Hurdle, which the trainer has pencilled in for Constitution Hill.


Crawfords’ Ayr raid

FEW Ayr meetings take place over jumps without participation from the Crawford brothers, whose Larne base is so handy for the track, and Stuart Crawford saddled his first four-timer there on Tuesday, with Largy Shark, Carnfunnock, Gold Cup Bailly and Largy Valley all successful.

Daryl Jacob rode the first three winners in the double-green of Isaac Souede and Simon Munir, while 7lb claimer Stephen Connor steered Largy Valley to victory in the bumper in the colours of Raymond Scullion.