Tom George has plenty of young talent to work with this season and stable stalwart God’s Own showed he still has a big part to play in winning the bwin Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter for the second time.
Having claimed the Grade Two prize prize back in 2014, the evergreen 10-year-old got the better of long-time leader Ozzie The Oscar in a pulsating finish, to score for the first time since the Champion Chase at Punchestown in April 2016.
Stalking the pace for much of the extended two-mile-one-furlong contest, the 7-2 shot was delivered by Paddy Brennan to make his challenge over the final fence, after working his way into the race up the home straight.
Showing his appetite for a fight, God’s Own rallied well under pressure before forging on close to the line to score by half a length and earn a 25-1 quote for the Ryanair Chase with Paddy Power.
George said: “I was more emotional about that one than any other winner I’ve had. For him to come back after last season was great. I keep on saying about the ground, but it just shows how important it is to some horses.
“He is 10 years of age and has still got plenty left in him.
“He had everything in his favour, although age was not in his favour. He has had lots of little issues down the years, but we’ve kept the wheels on and he was fresh and well for today.
“They probably didn’t quite go quick enough and he was quite keen. It did turn into a bit of a sprint turning in – over two-miles-one a proper gallop would suit him better, but he is a class horse.
“In the Tingle Creek he will come up against fresh horses again, but today was what we were aiming for. Paddy said after the Celebration Chase we should aim him here.
“Punchestown and here are big, galloping tracks and that is where he shows his best form.”
The well-fancied Diego Du Charmil was last of the five runners, and his trainer Paul Nicholls said: “He took the bulb of his heel and shoe off at the second-last down the back.
“We will be able to run him in six weeks’ time, it is not like last year when he got injured at Newton Abbot and was out until the spring.”
Ozzie The Oscar’s trainer Philip Hobbs went on to claim his second treble at the track in as many meetings.
The Minehead handler saw three of the supporting contests head his way, highlighted by the victory of Listed bumper winner Crooks Peak (8-13) in the D & S Commissioning Novices’ Hurdle.
Having suffered an odds-on defeat on his hurdling bow at Newton Abbot last month, the five-year-old made no mistakes when proving too strong for Some Day Soon, initiating a double for jockey Richard Johnson.
Hobbs said: “He was still very green and he has a lot to learn, but he was all right in the end.
“It might have been the ground at Newton Abbot, but he made a right mess of the second-last and lost his momentum after that.
“He is still learning and still needs to get a bit more practice yet, but that is another step in the right direction. We will probably go for another novice under a penalty.”
Having filled minor honours on his previous two starts, Scoop The Pot (3-1) gained a deserved success when completing Johnson’s brace and Hobbs’ hat-trick, denying long-time leader Belmount by a head in the Smith & Williamson Handicap.
Hobbs said: “The one thing he does is stay well. He has been on the go through the summer, but he doesn’t mind a bit of cut in the ground. He has been really consistent.”
Cotswold Way (4-11) threatened to boil over at the start of the bwin Novices’ Hurdle but that failed to prevent the five-year-old grinding out victory to follow up his recent Huntingdon success and get the ball rolling for Hobbs.
Hobbs said of Michael Nolan’s mount: “He got a bit worked up beforehand at the start. Hopefully the more racing he has, the better he will get.”
Nicholls faced a race against time to get Coup De Pinceau (30-100) ready for the bwin Novices’ Chase and his efforts were rewarded after the six-year-old recorded an eased-down eight-length victory in the three-mile prize.
Nicholls said: “He had a problem six weeks ago, something just jumped into the back of him at home. He was off for three weeks and has only been ridden for three, so it has been a bit of a rush.
“He will be a good fun horse that will win plenty of races at the right level.”
Front-running tactics are the preferred ones of owner Nick Elliott and they came off for Farm The Rock, who toughed it out from the sharp end to collect the Best Odds Guaranteed At bwin Handicap by a length and a half.
Winning trainer Katy Price said of the 5-2 winner: “Mr Elliott likes to run his horses from the front, so he can see where they are, as he feels if they start at the back you don’t get to shout their name as much.
“He has been very patient with this horse and it is starting to pay off.”