Grandturgeon rolls back the years to keep Cheltenham dream alive

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The Artful Cobbler jumps the final fence in the Whitson Bloodstock Olly Murphy Racing Handicap Chase. Photo: David Pratt (dwprattracingphotography.co.uk)

AGE proved no barrier for Grandturgeon at Warwick‘s Throwback Thursday, as the striking grey graduated from the point-to-point field in style to land his first race under Rules at the age of 11 and set up a possible tilt at the Cheltenham Festival in March, writes David Hucker.

A multiple scorer between the flags, Grandturgeon was a red-hot favourite to take the Willoughby De Broke Open Hunters’ Chase and, after jumping past long-time leader Lord Heathfield at the penultimate fence, he came right away from the rest of the field to score by six lengths from Fourovakind, with Mon Parrain back in third.

There was a blow for favourite backers in the opening Premier Thoroughbred Racing Juvenile Hurdle when Night Of Glory failed to build on his promising debut run, finishing only third behind comfortable winner Mister Chow.

Jumping to the front at the second-last flight, Mister Chow ran on strongly for Joshua Moore to deny Swaffham Bulbeck, who looks sure to add to trainer Olly Murphy’s tally before the season’s end.

Mister Chow crashes through the last flight in the Premier Thoroughbred Racing Juvenile Hurdle. Photo: David Pratt

Alcester trainer Dan Skelton finished out of the placings with his runner in the opener, but looked to have a good chance of getting on the scoresheet in the following British Stallion Studs EBF Mares’ “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle with Molly The Dolly. A wide-margin winner over the course and distance in November, Molly The Dolly was subsequently beaten in a Listed race at Haydock Park, but was dropping back in class for this contest.

Second-favourite Sensulano made the running, being joined by Molly The Dolly down the back straight and the pair matched strides over the third-last. Coming into the straight, it was Sensulano who was going the better and, despite wandering around on the run to the last, Wayne Hutchinson was able to straighten her out with the stands rail to run against and she put three lengths between herself and the favourite.

Last year’s winner Ms Parfois has progressed to the larger obstacles, winning a Listed chase here at the last meeting and it will be interesting to see if Sensulano follows the same path.

The Artful Cobbler was strongly fancied for the Whitson Bloodstock Olly Murphy Handicap Chase, but was joined at the head of the market by Talk Of The South just before the off. Punters were spot on, as the two dominated the race from the start, with Ludlow winner The Artful Cobbler putting up a good round of jumping over the three mile trip to see off the challenge of his rival by two lengths.

Sensulano clears the last in the British Stallion Studs EBF Mares’ ‘NH’ Novices’ Hurdle. Photo: David Pratt

Winning trainer Henry Daly was chasing a quick double in the following Racing UK Free For A Month Handicap Hurdle, the feature race of the day, as Crucial Role was a well-backed 11-8 favourite to defy a 7lb penalty in the hands of champion jockey Richard Johnson.

Always prominent as King Uther set the pace, Crucial Role put in a good leap at the third-last hurdle to put himself right in contention, but the leader wasn’t for stopping and, despite diving at the final flight, ran on strongly with Tom Cannon to land the Class 3 event.

Ten lined up for the closing HM Equine Insurance Intermediate Open National Hunt Flat Race and, with not much form to go on, it was debutant Granard, who headed the betting, being backed from 7-2 into 2-1. Prominent throughout, he couldn’t find another gear when challenged by Stoney Mountain and Not Normal inside the final furlong, having to settle for third spot.

It was Stoney Mountain who proved the stronger to give trainer Henry Daly his second winner of the afternoon and take jockey Johnson onto 135 for the season.

Stoney Mountain goes clear of Not Normal Inside the final furlong of the HM Equine Insurance Intermediate Open ‘NH’ Flat race. Photo: David Pratt