Nicky Henderson reached a century of winners for the 10th time in his career as Downtown Getaway completed his across-the-card four-timer in the Matchbook British EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle at Ascot.
After trainer and jockey Nico de Boinville claimed Grade One glory in the Clarence House Chase with Altior, they combined to winning effect again when six-year-old Downtown Getaway got up in the dying strides to prevail by a short-head over two miles five furlongs.
Henderson, also on target with Mister Fisher at Haydock and Before Midnight at Taunton, said: “That will certainly be our quickest 100, I would think. I remember our first 100, and it came on Easter Day one year. It is nice to get that done.
“It’s great having all these Cheltenham and Grade One winners, but it is just as important to win little races with the lesser lights.
“When we win moderate races with moderate horses it gives me great pleasure, because any of the others that win are as important to their owners as Altior today for Patricia Pugh.”
On the successful 4-5 favourite, he added: “There is still a long way to go, but he wants three miles on soft ground more than anything else.”
Life has been tough in the saddle for Tom Bellamy this season, but he enjoyed a change of luck when Ballymoy completed a double for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies – taking the Grade Three Matchbook Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle by a length and three-quarters.
Bellamy said: “I thought the weight might be the beating of him, but he is so gutsy.
“I was in front a lot longer than I wanted, but every time he felt something coming he put his head down again – and he didn’t miss a beat with the jumping.
“Rides have been fine, but I’ve not had the quality. I could do with a few winners, but I hope this might get the ball rolling again – it puts you in the spotlight.”
Anthony Bromley, racing manager to owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, has a plan in mind for the 4-1 winner.
“He has got no big entries for Cheltenham – but I was thinking, and I will talk to Nigel, about the National Spirit at Fontwell,” he said.
“It might be that he goes there, and keeps fresh for Aintree.”
Zac Baker may not share too many things in common with his brother and former Classic-winning jockey George – but riding a winner at Ascot is now one of them after Blue Flight initiated Twiston-Davies’ double with an eight-length victory in the Matchbook Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase.
Baker said: “It is mega to ride a winner here in front of a big crowd and the big stands.
“He is a lovely, big horse. They went too quick in front, and he never looked like stopping.”
Connections of the Paul Nicholls-trained Cyrname were quick to praise the efforts of stable lad Scott Marshall after the seven-year-old set up a return to Grade One company by blitzing his bet365 Handicap Chase rivals by 21 lengths, at 4-1.
Assistant trainer Harry Derham said: “A massive part of this is down to Scott Marshall, who rides him every day.
“He is not the easiest at home – but when he gets in good rhythm like that, he is a high-class horse.
“We will probably bring him back here for the Grade One in February.”
Grand National-winning rider Leighton Aspell celebrated his first winner back since a short spell on the sidelines, steering the Nick Gifford-trained Belargus home at 8-1 by a length and a quarter in the Rosling King Juvenile Hurdle.
Aspell said: “I had four weeks off with a fractured upper jaw and cheekbone.I started back on Wednesday and had a couple of placed efforts – but it is nice to get a winner, especially on a Saturday.”
The winning trainer added: “He was a bit keen early on – but that’s him. We are delighted and hopefully it is onwards and upwards.
“He will get an entry in the Fred Winter (at the Cheltenham Festival) – that’s the obvious race for him.”