Sam Twiston-Davies gave members of the Options O Syndicate something to celebrate ahead of watching Ballyandy contest the Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham after steering Kapgarry to glory at Stratford.
Having found life tough since scoring at Wetherby in November, the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained seven-year-old took advantage of a drop in the weights with a game success in the feature £50 Free Cheltenham Bet Via Low6 App Handicap Chase.
Racing front rank throughout the extended two-mile-six-furlong prize, the 11-4 favourite had to be kept up to his work to hold off the late challenge of Not A Role Model by a length and three quarters.
The winning rider said: “I’m delighted to get his head back in front as he was running well last time before making a mistake. He has had some tough races, but he has come down the weights a little bit, which has helped.
“He relaxed well through the race and got into a good rhythm and that was key to him today.”
Although Ballyandy is a double-figure price to claim his first top-level success since landing the 2016 Champion Bumper, the Grade One-winning rider is optimistic about his chances.
He said: “It’s a dream at the end of the day to run him in the Champion Hurdle. The rain will only help him because he likes it soft. Hopefully they will go off fast around there and he will be the one finishing off the best of them.”
Fergal O’Brien broke new ground after Hunny Moon became his 61st winner of the season, getting up by a head to make a winning debut in the bumper.
O’Brien said: “That’s our 61st winner and we have hit 60 winners twice before. It is great for the team to have our best season in our first one at the new yard. It bodes well for the future.”
On the 9-1 winner, he added: “We bought her as a three-year-old and she has been a work in progress. There have been lots of downs, but this is a definite up.
“This wouldn’t be her track, but we had to run and she might be one for Aintree.”
Richard Hobson warmed up for a potential breakthrough first Festival success with Lord Du Mesnil in the National Hunt Chase in perfect style, as Fanzio (7-2) opened his account over fences in the Download The Low6 App Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Hobson said “He is a lovely horse, it has just taken a while for it to click.”
On Lord Du Mesnil, he said: “If it keeps raining he has a magic chance. He is a novice, but he has had 17 runs over fences so he is hardened to life.”
Champion jockey Richard Johnson had more than one reason to celebrate the nine-and-a-half-length success secured by Tidal Flow in the Read The aidan-coleman.com Blog Novices’ Chase.
Sarah Hobbs, wife of winning trainer, Philip, said: “I bred him with Richard Johnson and he has lots of supporters here today, as Laura Parker, our travelling head girl, along with Charlotte Richards and Molly White, who both ride him, are here.
“He would stay three miles, but he had the cheekpieces on as he does get lazy in front. He could be one for Aintree and Punchestown.”