Jamie Snowden described Thebannerkingrebel as “a bit of a freak” after the six-year-old got back to winning ways in the Read Paul Nicholls Exclusively At Betfair Newton Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock.
This was a retrieval mission for Snowden’s charge following his final flight fall when holding every chance at Wetherby three weeks ago – and Thebannerkingrebel redeemed himself to stake an early claim for the Cheltenham Festival.
Leading after three out, he hit the second last, but it did not stop his momentum – and, after a fine leap over the final obstacle, the 5-4 favourite went on to win by five lengths from Calva D’Auge under Gavin Sheehan.
“It was a real shame at Wetherby, but it did him no harm because he’s jumped really cleanly today. I know he clipped the second last out of the ground, but on the whole he’s made a far better shape over his hurdles and he’s quickened away in the manner of a good horse,” said Snowden.
“He’s got a serious engine – he’s a bit of a freak. He’s got gears, he can go a good gallop and he can quicken off it. I think he’s very good.
“His wind was really bad after the Cheltenham bumper (in 2018) and he had a year off. I thought the horse had gone, but finally all came right.
“We gave him a couple of easy runs over hurdles at Warwick and Newton Abbot and came back to Wetherby, where he looked the winner jumping the last, and then came here today.
“There’s the Rossington Main back here. I know it’s a fair way away, but that’s what I’ve got my eyes on.
“It would be nice to have that as a springboard to Cheltenham. We’d have to think Supreme (Novices’ Hurdle).”
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies believes Crievehill could develop into a future Grand National contender after the seven-year-old defied top weight in the Cash Out In-Play With Betfair Handicap Chase.
The 4-1 shot followed up his seasonal debut success at Wetherby five weeks ago, for which he was put 7lb, with a sound jumping display.
Sam Twiston-Davies always had Crievehill handy and set sail for home with four fences to jump on the way to scoring by 10 lengths from Sharp Response.
“He’s a very nice horse and has always jumped well. He’s improving,” said the winning trainer.
“Our dream one day is for him to be a National horse. The way he jumps, perhaps he is.
“I don’t know if that will be this season. It’s a possibility. He’ll be rated high enough.
“There’s the Welsh National as well. That might be a bit of a slog. We’ll see.”
Warren Greatrex feels ‘the sky is the limit’ for Keeper Hill after the Westerner gelding showed his true colours on his first start since having a wind operation in the Racing Only Bettor Betfair Podcast Graduation Chase.
The 18-1 outsider of five outpointed Midnight Shadow by half a length in the hands of Adrian Heskin, to win over fences for the first time in nearly two years.
“In his novice chasing campaign he won a Grade Two and then had a bad fall at Musselburgh, fell again and was pulled up. He had a back operation that summer and when he came back we put him over hurdles, but he is a chaser,” said Greatrex.
“He’s been in really good form at home and we did his wind during the summer. We came here in a small field to give him confidence.
“This horse is seriously talented. Adrian (Heskin) said he was cruising all the way.
“He’s probably out of handicaps now and over three miles he’ll be even better.
“He’s still unexposed and the sky is the limit, I’d say.
“I’m in shock so we’ll go home and think about it. The plans I had are now out of the window.”
The Evan Williams-trained Bold Plan stayed on strongly in the closing stages to justify strong market support in the Betfair Exchange Handicap Hurdle.
Sent off the 11-4 favourite from a best early morning price of 10-1, Bold Plan made smooth progress for Robbie Power and went on to win by two and a half lengths from Whoshotthesheriff.
Power said: “I had a lovely position down the back and then got hampered, but fair play to Evan, he gave me great confidence and told me not to rush.
“He stays well, but over that two (miles and) three (furlongs) he has a turn of foot. He has plenty of gears. He’ll definitely jump a fence in time.”
Fergal O’Brien’s 12-year-old veteran Perfect Candidate landed the concluding Better Value On The Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Chase.
The 7-1 shot raced on the pace throughout the three-and-a-half-mile contest and passed the post seven lengths clear under Paddy Brennan.
O’Brien said: “He’s such a lovely old horse – we’ve had him since he was a four-year-old.
“He’s given us some great days, normally at Cheltenham, but it’s nice to come somewhere else.
“A lot of ours horses have improved since we moved yards and he has definitely sharpened up.
“It has revitalised him, so I’m absolutely delighted.”