Ayr double helps Paul Nicholls continue strong finish to jumps season

    Paul Nicholls' reign as champion trainer might be coming to an end, but he appears intent on finishing the season strongly after an Ayr double helped him to an across-the-card four-timer on Friday.
  • Friday 21 April 2017
  • News

Paul Nicholls' reign as champion trainer might be coming to an end, but he appears intent on finishing the season strongly after an Ayr double helped him to an across-the-card four-timer on Friday.

The Ditcheat handler trailed Nicky Henderson by over £300,000 in this season's title race before racing and with the campaign coming to a thrilling climax at Sandown next Saturday, he requires a minor miracle if he is to successfully defend his crown.

By his own admission, Nicholls - who recently set a personal best for winners in a season - does not currently have the firepower of recent years, but he unearthed a couple of exciting potential chasing prospects in Scotland.

Give Me A Copper, who counts Sir Alex Ferguson among his owners, cost a pretty penny at £270,000 having won a point-to-point and a bumper in Ireland.

He made a successful start for his new connections at Exeter in December, but disappointed at Doncaster the following month and lined up in the Ayrshire Magazine Novices' Hurdle on a retrieval mission.

Despite dropping in class, the 9-4 chance faced a formidable opponent in the Henderson-trained Burbank (6-4 favourite), but showed class and courage to see him off by three and a half lengths.

Nicholls said: "He's a really nice prospect and won well in what was a nice race today.

"We'll put him away now, he won't run again this season, and we'll look forward to going over fences with him in the autumn."

Nicholls and stable jockey Sam Twiston-Davies doubled up in the L&M Surveys Novices' Handicap Hurdle with Winningtry.

The 5-1 joint-favourite saw off King Of Fashion by a length and a half in the colours of Trevor Hemmings.

"He's a nice horse and is still a work in progress," the trainer added.

"I'm not sure if we'll go chasing straight away with him next season or run him in a handicap hurdle somewhere.

"We've had two winners at Fontwell as well, so it's been a good day. Our horses always run well at this time of year and we'll try and keep it going."

Two Taffs, trained by Nicholls' former protégé Dan Skelton, belatedly opened his account over fences with a smooth success in the Hillhouse Quarry Handicap Chase.

The seven-year-old won over hurdles at last year's Scottish Grand National meeting and returned to the track with sound claims following a cracking effort to finish third in the novice handicap chase at last month's Cheltenham Festival.

Former Irish champion jockey Davy Russell was happy to take his time aboard the 3-1 favourite but after travelling powerfully for a long way, Two Taffs hit the front before the third fence from the finish and had enough in reserve to see off the admirable Theinval by three lengths.

Skelton said: "It was nice to see him win a nice prize like that after running so well at Cheltenham.

"He's a novice now until November 1, so we might start him off in a novice chase somewhere next season and then we'll be looking at big handicaps."

Glasgow-based Jim Goldie landed the QTS Handicap Hurdle with the impressive Great Fighter (4-1), who benefited from a cool ride from conditional jockey Callum Bewley.

Fair Loch looked home for all money in the Porcelanosa Scotland Chase, but was caught close home by Patrick Griffin's Irish challenger Chitu (16-1) under Brian Hughes.

Griffin's son and assistant James said: "It was his first run for us. He arrived in the yard around three weeks ago and has done nothing but improve.

"The owner (Graham Slesser) is Scottish, so this is where he wanted to go and it's a nice pot to win.

"I thought jumping the last we'd finished second and I was delighted, but Fair Loch wouldn't be the strongest finisher and the whole race changed complexion in the last 100 yards.

"We'll probably run him in a novice chase under a penalty now in three weeks' time and you'd hope he'd be good enough to win again.

"After that we'll look at novice handicaps and he should pay his way."

Jennys Melody was a shock 50-1 winner of the coral.co.uk Mares' Handicap Hurdle, while the concluding Seko Logistics Scotland Handicap Hurdle went to 11-2 favourite Beer Goggles.

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