Big-race options open as Saphir Du Rheu returns to winning ways at Kelso
Thursday 16 February 2017
By Racinguk.com staff
Saphir Du Rheu gained a confidence-boosting first success for 15 months when disposing of three rivals with the minimum of fuss in the Ivan Straker Memorial Chase at Kelso.
The eight-year-old grey has been disappointing at times, despite being a Grade One winner over fences, but things went perfectly as he made the most of ideal race conditions to get back in the winning groove.
Sam Twiston-Davies had the 1-7 shot close to the pace-making Bernardelli until going on some way out, and pulling clear from the third-last, the Paul Nicholls-trained gelding went on to score unchallenged by 15 lengths from Firth Of The Clyde.
"He needed a confidence booster and won as he should have done," said Nicholls.
"He jumped well and travelled well. He's starting to get his act together now.
"He's in everything - a handicap at Cheltenham, the Gold Cup, the Grand National. He could go back to Kelso on March 4 for another race like that (Premier Chase).
"I'll have a chat with Andy (Stewart, owner), but he's quite keen to run him in the Gold Cup. We'll make a plan, but basically nothing's ruled in and nothing's ruled out."
Cyrus Darius got back on track in his second race since returning from a 16-month lay-off when landing the Timeform Morebattle Hurdle.
His task may have been made much easier by the fall two out of the 8-11 favourite Born Survivor, but the 5-2 winner did everything asked of him.
The first two in the betting looked like fighting out the finish after Knockara Beau had led to three out, until Born Survivor stepped at the obstacle and came down. Harry Skelton was furious (see above) at the exit of the odds-on favourite.
That left Malcolm Jefferson's eight-year-old to stride home by seven lengths under Brian Hughes from One For Harry, who was also second 12 months ago.
"We thought he'd improve quite a lot from Haydock. He is a big horse and took a bit of getting ready and I think he'll come on a lot more for today," Jefferson told Racing UK.
"It was a pity, as if the other horse hadn't come down it would been a good race. I'm glad he won, but it would have given him a real blow.
"No plans for him at the moment. I want to see how he is in a week's time because he did have a little problem with a leg. It hasn't bothered him and it's tightened up since Haydock.
"We just want to make sure everything is right with him before we make any plans. He is a good horse and we like him."
Nicky Richards took the training honours with a short-priced treble courtesy of Reivers Lad, Takingrisks and Better Getalong.
Reivers Lad, an expensive failure on his jumping debut at Ayr, made amends with a cosy victory in the Au Revoir Jim & Judy Novices' Hurdle.
The 4-5 chance appreciated a drop back to two miles as he skipped six lengths clear of Lycidas in the hands of Craig Nichol.
"He's a lovely horse and will make a smashing chaser. I just want to get some experience into him this season. He'll go chasing next season," said the Greystoke handler.
Takingrisks (11-10 favourite) stayed on dourly to overtake the tiring long-time leader Vicenzo Mio on the run-in and lift the Miller Celebration Novices' Limited Handicap Chase.
The eight-year-old kept on for 5lb claimer Ryan Day to open his account over fences by two and a half lengths from Spanish Fleet.
"It wasn't looking two promising two out, but it's a fair climb from the second-last and he's seen it out well," said Richards.
"He stays well but he travelled well up at Ayr, so I'm not sure what his trip is, probably two and a half to three miles. We'll find out."
Day completed a double when Better Getalong (1-4 favourite) denied Some Reign by three-quarters of a length in the bumper.
Premier Portrait (12-1) got up on the line to pip 1-8 shot Black Thunder by a short head and cause an upset in the hunter chase for trainer Dr Charles Levinson and his 18-year-old son, amateur rider Gus.
Premier Portrait was given a quote of 25-1 Cheltenham Foxhunter with BetVictor.
Another successful father and son partnership were trainer George Bewley and 5lb claimer Jonathon, who struck with Forty Crown (6-1) in the Brewin Dolphin Handicap Hurdle.