Nick Scholfield has enjoyed many memorable Sandown moments – but no victory there in the past 1,828 days, until Champagne Court ended his drought in the Virgin Bet Follow Us On Twitter Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.
Jeremy Scott’s six-year-old had finished second in a Grade Three hurdle at Chepstow on his seasonal return, and looked a natural on his chasing debut as he ran out a convincing six-length winner.
Scholfield said: “I’ve had some brilliant days here.
“I rode plenty of nice winners for Paul Nicholls here and I won the Tolworth here – which was my first Grade One winner – so it is great to get another winner here again.”
He has high hopes too that the 13-8 victor can provide him with further success.
“I always thought Champagne Court would be an exciting prospect for chasing, and he proved that today,” said Scholfield.
“Jeremy’s horses are in great form, and that has been a big help.”
Houblon Des Obeaux showed he still has plenty of life left in him at the age of 12, securing a third course victory – by three lengths in the Casino At Virgin Bet Veterans’ Handicap Chase.
Trainer Venetia Williams said of the 11-4 winner: “He has won three times around here, and they have all been in veterans’ races of a varying kind.”
Houblon Des Obeaux won the series final last season, and the plan is to return.
Williams added: “We are only in November now, so he will have another run in between.”
Lord Of The Island (4-1) gained his first win since Grade Three glory at the same track more than two years ago – initiating a double for Fergal O’Brien by taking the Premier League Betting At Virgin Bet Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.
O’Brien said: “Sally (Randell, partner) has had this horse forever and she brought him to us. She has done all the work, and Jason Maguire did a great job pre-training.”
It was a first victory at the course for jockey Connor Brace.
O’Brien added: “It shows how good Connor is, and we are lucky to have him on our side.
“To me, he is as good as anyone riding at the moment – conditional or professional.”
It was a case of ‘as you were’ in the Best Odds Guaranteed At Virgin Bet Handicap Hurdle as O’Brien’s even-money favourite Totterdown landed back-to-back wins in the two-miler – slamming his rivals by 10 lengths.
The delighted trainer said: “This was always going to be his target, because he won it last year and was only 1lb higher.”
Keen On (15-8) carried the silks of the Queen to glory, recording the first leg of a double for trainer Nicky Henderson and jockey Nico de Boinville – which was completed when Santini scored his hard-fought success in the Listed Virgin Bet Future Stars Intermediate Chase.
Keen On also prevailed by a head in the Bet And Watch At Virgin Bet Maiden Hurdle.
Henderson said: “In this ground, it seemed a sensible place to come to.
“This was the Queen Mother’s hunting ground – and she loved it. This is out of one of her old mares, and it’s lovely The Queen has kept breeding out of them.
“He has grown into a lovely looking horse – but he wasn’t a lovely looking horse last year. He will go two and a half miles next time.”