There has been plenty to celebrate in 2019 for trainer Paul Nicholls – and Cill Anna ensured he signed off for the year on a winning note after opening her account under rules at Warwick.
Having received an OBE in the New Year Honours list, the Ditcheat handler – who claimed his 11th trainers’ title in April and his 3,000th British winner in February – was given more to cheer with victory in the LPS British Stallion Studs EBF Mares “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle.
Sent off at 7-2, Cill Anna showed stamina is her forte when picking off long-time leader Emmas Joy late on in the two-mile-five-furlong prize before scoring by half a length.
Fresh from winning the King George on Boxing Day with Clan Des Obeaux, Nicholls said: “We’ve had an amazing year and now we’ve got to try to do it all again. We’ve got to keep looking forward and building our string.
“Winning my 11th King George with Clan was amazing and getting the OBE is a fantastic honour. There have been plenty of positives to take from the year.
“We will have a bit of a quiet month now and give the horses their flu jabs and just keep 15 to 20 on the go, then it will be manic from the end of January to the end of the season.”
On Cill Anna, he added: “I was pleased with that performance and hopefully she will keep going forward, as she is learning all the time. We will aim her at the Grade Two mares’ novice hurdle at Newbury in March.”
Wilde About Oscar quickened clear in the manner of a smart individual to run out a facile nine-length winner of the Local Parking Security Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.
Tom Messenger, assistant to winning trainer Dan Skelton, said of the 2-1 favourite: “The lack of experience caught him out at Southwell, but the form of that race has worked out well as Fergal O’Brien’s horse won again at Haydock, so we were quite confident.
“He will go to Newbury for the Listed race in February, I would have thought, as he will handle the mud. Hopefully this time next season he will have a couple of novice hurdles under his belt.”
Pat Murphy celebrated his first winner in more than two years after Galtee Mountain (9-1) came good at the ninth attempt when initiating a double for Johnny Burke in the Local Parking Security Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.
Murphy said: “The last time at Fontwell the penny dropped and Johnny has given him a lovely ride. He jumped really well, which pleased me as I’m his schooling jockey!
“That’s my first winner in two and a half years. I’ve probably only had 15 runners in that time, but still it is quite nice.”
Grade One-winning rider Burke completed his brace when steering the Tom George-trained Manofthemoment (5-1) to glory by two and a quarter lengths in the LPS Handicap Chase.
High Counsel (7-2) hit the back of the net for the second race in succession for his football-loving connections when pulling out enough to land the Local Parking Security Conditional Jockeys’ Veterans’ Handicap Chase.
Joint-owner Steve Edkins said of the Gary Hanmer-trained winner: “It was his first time in a veterans’ race and we are all veteran footballers that own him, so it is quite apt.
“I was representing the England Over-50s team in Cardiff last time he won at Southwell, so I missed that, but it is good to be here today.”