It was the first day of Newbury's Winter Festival and the Richard Woollacott trained Beer Goggles caused a major upset in the Long Distance Hurdle winning at 40/1. The six year old had shown progressed form prior to finishing third in a staying handicap at Aintree this month. However, this was a marked step forward as he made all the running under Richard Johnson to win by two and a quarter lengths. The runner-up Unowhatimeanharry appeared to hold every chance at the last but was unable to reel in the winner. Thistlecrack was having his first run since finishing second at Cheltenham in January and, while Colin Tizzard feels he will improve for the run, this must be deemed a disappointing effort in fifth. His run in the King George will tells us whether we have seen the best of the former World Hurdle winner but I fear we have.
Tizzard was on the mark earlier in the day though when Lostintranslation gained a deserved victory in the opening novices' hurdle. The ex-pointer had run well in defeat at Chepstow (made a bad mistake at a crucial time) and Newbury earlier this season and he proved too strong for the likes of Admiral Barratry, Simply The Betts and Black Op. Only rated 125 going into the contest, it will be interesting to see his revised mark. His connections feels the gelding will improve again on better ground in the spring but it wouldn't surprise me if they considered a race such as the Betfair Hurdle over the same course and distance in February. Novices have a very good record in the two miles event and he is a proven course performer. He is a useful sort.
It was a good day for One Jump Ahead with Santini (7/2) winning the two and a half miles novices' hurdle. Highlighted as one of my Racing UK colleague Jonathan Neesom's horses to follow in the English Pointers section, the Nicky Henderson trained runner beat some well regarded opponents at the Berkshire track on his Rules debut. A fine big scopey individual, he looks to have a bright future.
I revealed in the One Jump Ahead Update earlier this month that owner Barbara Hester had moved her horses to rookie trainer Olly Murphy during the Autumn. Sangha River was having his first start for his new handler and he made a winning Rules debut in the concluding bumper at Doncaster this afternoon. Available at 6/1 with some firms last evening, the Arcadio gelding landed a major gamble being sent off 10/11 favourite. Featured in the Top 40 Prospects, he raced keenly early on and was still last turning for home under crack amateur Jamie Codd. Having made stealthy headway inside the final three furlongs, he looked set to win comfortably before idling close home. Thankfully, the winning post came in time - it was an excellent result for the Top 40 and I hope plenty of readers snapped up the early prices.
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