Carole’s Destrier lunged late to claim a last-gasp victory in the William Hill Supporting Greatwood Veterans’ Handicap Chase at Newbury.
Neil Mulholland’s 11-year-old already had five victories over fences on his CV – including a course and distance success back in December.
After finishing a creditable fourth behind stablemate Impulsive Star in the Classic Chase at Warwick on his penultimate start, Carole’s Destrier was pulled up in the Grand National Trial at Haydock a fortnight ago and was a 6-1 shot to bounce back in the hands of Tom Scudamore.
Mulholland’s charge looked booked for minor honours rounding the home turn – with the admirable Theatre Guide appearing totally in control in front under Paddy Brennan.
However, he ploughed through the final fence and emptied on the run-in – allowing Carole’s Destrier to get up and beat him by a length and a half.
Houblon Des Obeaux was best of the rest in third.
Mulholland said: “He keeps galloping and it’s worked out well, thank God.
“A horse fell in front of him and he got stopped to a walk at Haydock a couple of weeks ago, so that was just unlucky.
“We decided we’d come here today as the ground and everything looked right for him and I’m delighted he’s won.”
Carole’s Destrier holds entries in the Ultima Handicap Chase and the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival, but will not be heading to Prestbury Park.
Mulholland added: “We’ll see what the ground is like nearer the time, but we can look at races like the Midlands National, the Scottish National and the bet365 Gold Cup.
“The earliest he’ll run will be in the Midlands National (Uttoxeter, March 16) and even that might be too soon.”
The Ben Case-trained First Drift was a 25-1 winner of the opening Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust H.O.P.E Programme Seniors’ Handicap Hurdle.
Betameche looks likely to deliver for favourite backers after cruising into contention early in the home straight, but First Drift refused to bend under 5lb claimer Max Kendrick and won a protracted duel by two and a half lengths.
Case said: “I’m delighted. He’s been running well over fences, but then we went to Cheltenham and it all went a bit wrong as he didn’t jump well.
“We thought we’d come back over hurdles and the conditions of this race suited him as it was for eight-year-olds and over and he’s only just turned eight.
“We thought he was on a reasonable mark and although his jumping still wasn’t perfect, he’s got a big engine and did it well in the end.
“He’s won six races for us now – he’s been a great servant – and this is our first winner at Newbury, so I’m really pleased.”
Richard Johnson was unseated from Tapaculo at the last in that race and missed his remaining rides, including the Philip Hobbs-trained Crooks Peak (11-2) who won the In Memory Of The Late Michael Yeadon Handicap Hurdle under Barry Geraghty.
Hobbs said: “It was a shame Dickie missed a winner but I am sure there will be plenty of others.
“He is sore. Apparently the edge of his body protector caught him in the back. It’s probably no more than that. A couple of days and he should be all right.
Hobbs and Geraghty were narrowly denied a double in the following Awdry Bailey & Douglas Supporting Greatwood Novices’ Handicap Hurdle, with 9-4 favourite Dostal Phil beaten just a short-head by Nicky Henderson’s 10-1 shot Laughing Luis – the mount of conditional jockey Ned Curtis.
The Alex Hales-trained Huntsman Son may have earned himself a late ticket to the Cheltenham Festival after running out a decisive winner of the BetVictor Novices’ Chase.
Having undergone wind surgery since finishing second at Doncaster on his latest outing in late December, the 11-4 chance travelled powerfully under Kielan Woods and passed the post five lengths clear of Slate House.
This victory earns him a 5lb penalty for the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on Tuesday week – giving him a much better chance of making the cut.
Hales said: “I’m chuffed to bits with him – he’s always been a lovely horse.
“I thought his Doncaster run was very good and he’s travelled sweetly and jumped well today, so it’s great.
“I had Cheltenham in the back of my mind before today. Whether that’s just being greedy or not, I don’t know.
“We’ll see how he is in the next few days, but at least we have a decision to make now.”
The Paul Nicholls-trained McFabulous obliged as the 5-2 favourite in the concluding ITM Supporting Greatwood Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race under 5lb claimer Lorcan Williams.