The most interesting race on Monday was the two miles novice hurdle at Leicester with the finish being dominated by two ex-Flat racers. Zabeel Champion won 6 of his 14 races on the Flat for Mark Johnston earning an official rating of 103 in the process. Placed in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, he went through the sales ring in early September and was bought by agent Tom Malone for 185,000gns. Sporting the colours of yard sponsor Martin Tedham, the four year old made his hurdles debut for Jonjo O'Neill at the Midlands track and made a winning start to his new vocation.
Zabeel Champion jumped well but was forced to pull out all the stops on the run-in to beat Lydford by a head. The runner-up was rated 92 on the Flat when trained by Roger Varian winning twice on the all-weather. Transferred to Dan Skelton during the Autumn, the Gredley family owned gelding was a shade keen early on but moved up going strongly after the second last. Harry Skelton tracked Nick Scholfield throughout and looked set for victory after narrowly touching down in the front after the final flight. However, it was Zabeel Champion who prevailed appearing the stronger stayer in the process. The pair look useful recruits.
Lydford was featured in the November Update and, while it was frustrating to see him beaten here, he won't always bump into such a decent opponent. A good jumper and strong traveller, it won't be long before he goes one better, especially on a sharp track. One could imagine Dan Skelton sending him to somewhere like Catterick this winter - he did the same with another Gredley owned jumper Stepney Causeway in March.
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