Mister Fisher gave owner James Potter a welcome tonic with victory in the Napoleons Casino & Restaurant Owlerton Sheffield Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster.
Welshpool-based Potter could not make the trip to South Yorkshire as he is in hospital recovering from an operation, but news of his horse’s success should have given him a boost.
Mister Fisher (6-5 favourite) travelled well throughout the race, quickening to lead at the last and go on to score by a length from Al Dancer in the hands of James Bowen.
It was a win that gives Mister Fisher options in the Arkle Trophy and Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.
“The ground mattered. He’s a better horse on better ground,” said bloodstock agent David Minton of the Nicky Henderson-trained winner.
“We’ll have to look at both the Arkle and the Marsh at Cheltenham now.
“James Potter is in hospital so it will be a big boost for him. He had an operation on Wednesday which is why he’s not here.”
Henderson is favouring the two-and-a-half-mile Marsh over the Arkle at Cheltenham.
He said: “I only dropped him back in trip to get the better ground, as Doncaster always has better ground than anyone else. I risked dropping back in trip just for that.
“He wants another half a mile, but James has given him a very good ride and he gets on well with the horse. I would have thought we will go for the Marsh now.
“He was very good at Cheltenham (last time) and I thought he was very good there, short of his best trip on his ground, and he has beaten a couple of decent horses. Better ground is key to him.
“Nico (de Boinville, stable jockey) has always said he is a better horse on better ground. We were going to run him the other day at Haydock but then ducked out of it because of the ground.”
Smart long-distance chaser Ramses De Teillee continued his preparation for another crack at the Randox Health Grand National with a clear-cut triumph in the Albert Bartlett River Don Novices’ Hurdle.
The David Pipe-trained grey took his four rivals along over the extended three miles and found more on the run-in to skip away from Champagne Well and score by 17 lengths in the hands of Tom Scudamore.
“He’s very versatile. If anything he jumps a fence better than he jumps a hurdle, but he’s so quick from one side of an obstacle to the other,” said the jockey.
“He’s gone and won a Grade Two novice hurdle and at the beginning of the season all roads led to Aintree and he’s picked up two novice hurdles on the way. There’s no reason why we can’t pick up a few more.”
Speaking from Cheltenham, Pipe said: “It was a good performance. We had his wind done and he got taken on a long way out by Thomas Macdonagh and fought him off.
“Then I thought Champagne Well was going to come and do him. He is a good horse on his day. The plan was to go chasing again next, but we will speak to the owners and see. He was going away again at the line.
“He is a good horse and he has shown that when his wind allows him to. He is still only eight and it feels like he has been around for years.
“The Grand National Trial was what we were thinking of – he finished second last year, but we will see.”
Bridget Andrews had an inauspicious start to the meeting when she was unseated from Ferrobin who was subsequently withdrawn from the opening race, but she was all smiles when scoring on her next ride on Very First Time (5-1).
The Dan Skelton-trained gelding came from last to first to win the Sky Bet Britains Most Popular Online Bookmaker Handicap Chase by six lengths from Tanarpino.
Skelton’s assistant Tom Messenger said: “That was better than the start to the day. We barely got Bridget on before she came off.
“We fancied him for the Lincolnshire National on Boxing Day, but it just didn’t happen for him. We’ve freshened him right up since and he’s done it well.
“He’s hopefully a horse that will progress. We think he’ll make a nice staying chaser for the spring.”
Harry Reed cashed-in on Bootlegger (12-1) in the Alan Wood Plumbing & Heating Handicap Hurdle before heading to Cheltenham to ride The Twisler in the last race there.
Leading at the final flight, Neil Mulholland’s seven-year-old pulled clear of the always prominent Meteorite to score by five lengths.
Reed said: “I had a lovely ride round. He travelled well and jumped well. It makes a difference when they do that for you. Neil’s team are in great order.
“He’d run a nice race at Worcester in the summer, but made a bad mistake and it was just a case of getting confidence back into him. It’s all worked out today.”
The Jeremy Scott-trained Bellevarde Express (14-1) qualified for the Listed mares’ bumper at Sandown in March when opening her account in the British EBF Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.