Odds-on Picanha edges out Trincomalee in Warwick Racecourse's £20,000 feature
ODDS-ON favourite Picanha just prevailed in a close battle with Trincomalee to land the £20,000 South West Syndicate Handicap Hurdle, feature of Molly Ollys Charity Raceday at Warwick on Thursday, writes David Hucker.
Run over a trip of three miles and one furlong, it was top-weight Flemcara and course winner Trincomalee who took the runners out on the final circuit.
Trincomalee won the battle for the lead down the back straight, but was tracked by 10/11 favourite Picanha and they were locked together over the last two hurdles with just a length between them at the post.
The eight-race card got under way with the first division of the Join Racing TV Now Maiden Hurdle over two miles and three furlongs and there was a strong favourite in the shape of odds-on Mortlach.
Disputing the early lead with Gone To Texas, Mortlach went clear at the third-last flight and, although outsider Missfit gave chase in the home straight, he ran out a ready winner with Betterforeveryone running on for third after an untidy jump down the back.
Mortlach was giving trainer Fergal O'Brien his 125th winner of the season, well ahead of last season's tally of 104, as his stable continues on an upward curve.
The absence of likely favourite Young Buster, due to make his British debut for O'Brien, robbed the second division of some of its interest and, without him, it was Drash On Ruby and Patagonia who headed the market at 2/1.
In another race run at a steady pace, Patagonia took them along, tracked by Drash On Ruby on the inside. The pace noticeably quickened at the fourth-last flight which caught out a number of the runners and, in a close finish, it was the eight-year-old Commander Miller, sent off at 22/1, who broke his duck and gave trainer Danni O'Neill her first win under Rules at the 46th attempt.
Hat-trick seeking Regaby, a drifter in the betting market, made the running in the Watch On Racing TV Novices' Handicap Chase over three miles with the grey Stinggrey and Great D'Ange joining him up the home straight on the first circuit.
It was 16/1 shot Great D'Ange who asserted over the five fences down the back straight, turning for home with a clear lead and running on strongly in the hands of Ciaran Gethings to beat Bunny Boru and Another Mystery.
Elham Valley set a good gallop in the £10,000 Visit racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle tracked by Petticoat Lucy, but it was Ashoka, the choice from four entries for Alcester trainer Dan Skelton, who led over the final flight to follow up his win at Market Rasen three weeks ago.
Mucho Mas and favourite Hyland both finished strongly, but Ashoka, another sent off at 16/1, held on to win.
Winning jockey Bridget Andrews said that the stable wasn't sure at the start of the season if Ashoka retained his ability, but good ground is essential for him to show his best form.
Shortcross Storm and One For Billy cut out the early running in the Bet At racingtv.com Handicap Chase over two miles, but it was One For Billy who forged clear at halfway and, by the time he lined up to face the last two fences, his only threat came from Atlantic Storm, having his first run since December.
Fitness told in the end and One For Billy, running here from a rating of 112, compared to 145 at his peak, stayed on strongly to score by one-and-three-quarter lengths to bring up a Skelton double.
In the absence of Trixster, it was San Agustin who headed the market in the Racing TV Profits Returned To Racing Handicap Chase over three miles, but the race went to bottom-weight The Late Legend who made all the running to repel the late challenge of Young Offender before Don't Tell David took the closing racingtv.com Open National Hunt Flat Race.