Annie Mc maintained her unbeaten record over fences with a facile victory in the Tote Placepot First Bet Of The Day EBF Mares’ Novices’ Chase at Bangor and booked her ticket to Cheltenham in the process.
Only three went to post, with the Paul Nicholls-trained If You Say Run posing a serious threat to Jonjo O’Neill’s 4-5 favourite.
The two had met on Boxing Day, with Annie Mc winning by four lengths, but there was a big turnaround at the weights on this occasion.
That mattered not a jot, as although If You Say Run was moved into a challenging position by Bryony Frost, her rider was flat out at the time and Jonjo O’Neill junior just gave his mount a squeeze and she responded.
Annie Mc cleared the last well and came home to win by five and a half lengths, eased down. The win provided her young pilot with his 50th of a breakthrough season.
“The ground was fairly sticky, but she jumped away well,” said O’Neill senior.
“They didn’t go a mad gallop, but those three-horse races are hard to ride. You couldn’t but be pleased with how she did it, as she jumped well, and I’m very happy with her.
“She just seems to really enjoy jumping fences and she just wants to please you.
“It would have been ideal if she was a novice next year for the new race at Cheltenham (mares’ chase), but we’ll find something for her there this year.
“She’s in the Marsh and we’ll put her in the handicap over two and a half, she might have two or three options there.
“I think she deserves to be there, we don’t know how good she is and what has she beaten, but she can’t have done more than she has.”
It was a mixed day for title-chasing Brian Hughes, who could have ridden a double but had to settle for one.
He was first past the post on Minella Trump in the Tote’s Back Novices’ Hurdle, getting the better of Nicky Henderson’s 1-6 favourite The Cashel Man.
However, the stewards deemed Hughes caused enough interference on the run-in to amend the result, although the offence did not see a suspension handed out.
The verdict of the stewards meant it was an 100th winner of the season for Henderson, who said from Kempton: “It is always good to reach 100 winners – I was surprised, as I didn’t think we had won. I was rather annoyed he got beat at first, but he (Minella Trump) had given him a fairly rough time.
“He will definitely go to the Albert Bartlett. It was a messy race, him having to canter around on his own like that. I did plan to give him a run between the Challow and Cheltenham as he takes so much work so I wanted him to have a race.”
Hughes and Minella Trump’s trainer Donald McCain were later successful when Gaelik Coast (3-1) won the two-mile novice hurdle.