Antartica De Thaix completes good weekend for Paul Nicholls

Sun 5 Mar 2017

Antartica De Thaix inched Paul Nicholls another step closer to his best seasonal total of winners after gaining the most valuable success of her career in the 188Bet Lady Protectress Mares' Chase at Huntingdon.

After saddling an across-the-card treble on Saturday, the 10-times champion trainer moved on to the 130-winner mark for the campaign as the seven-year-old provided Sam Twiston-Davies with a victory on his only ride at the track.

Biding his time aboard the 9-2 shot, Twiston-Davies moved his mount past favourite and long-time leader Desert Queen over the last, before crossing the line nine lengths to the good in the Listed event.

Nicholls said: "I thought she would go OK today. She needed a bit of a confidence booster at Bangor last time out and was beaten by the horse that won the big race at Kempton last weekend (Pilgrims Bay) at Sandown in December.

"On the ground today I thought she would question Desert Queen as she is a good mare. She has just taken time to settle and relax in her races, but she is getting there. Sam took his time and gave her a good ride.

"She will probably go for a mares' race at Cheltenham in April. It has been a good weekend, we have had four nice winners and that was our 130th of the season.

"I want to try and beat our record of 155 and we will do the best we can and if we can get four or five each weekend, that would be great."

Court Frontier (11-4) put the disappointment of missing the cut for last month's Eider Chase behind him when completing a hat-trick of wins with victory in the 188Bet Cambridgeshire National Handicap Chase.

Taking full advantage of the final-fence fall of Wood Yer with the pair upsides, the Paul Morgan-trained nine-year-old galloped on resolutely for a 14-length success.

Former jockey Christian Williams, representing the winning trainer, said: "He missed the Eider Chase by two and I think he would have loved that. We were short of options before the Midlands National and this was a £25,000 race.

"Ground is key to him, he wants really soft ground. Hopefully he will sneak into the Midlands National."

Azzuri (4-11) was forced to survive a stewards' inquiry before atoning for his surprise defeat at Wetherby on his seasonal return with a front-running victory in the opening maiden hurdle.

Although making hard work of the two-mile contest, the Dan Skelton-trained five-year-old, who holds entries in both the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and County Hurdle at Cheltenham, eventually scrambled home by a length from Hint Of Grey.

Assistant trainer Tom Messenger said: "The ground just held him up a bit, especially with his style of running. He was a bit disappointing at Wetherby, but he ran with the choke out slightly.We came here to get back on track. He has won so we can't complain too much.

"He is entered in the County Hurdle and that will help him get in. We will have a look at that race, but we were hoping he would win more impressively if we were thinking in terms of going that way."

A spin over the famous Grand National fences could be in store for Dig Deeper next season after he ground out victory in the extended two-mile-seven novice chase.

Backed into 15-8 favouritism, the lightly-raced eight-year-old completed a double for Azzuri's jockey Harry Skelton when staying on strongly in first-time cheekpieces to defeat Weststreet by 11 lengths.

Trainer Caroline Bailey said: "He dug deep and deserved that as he has been running some solid races.

"We just put the cheekpieces on to sharpen him up a bit as he is a bit lazy. We might go for another novice, but he is not a fast-ground horse.

"He could be a Midlands National-type horse, as he just keeps galloping, while Harry mentioned the Becher Chase as he jumps so well."

There was more success for the Skelton brothers, with the pair teaming up to good effect to take a fortuitous success in the mares' maiden hurdle with Listen To The Man.

Victory was gifted to the 10-11 favourite following the late fall of likely-looking winner Rosie McQueen, completing a double for the Alcester handler and a treble for the winning rider, whosaid: "I've had a few trebles and I will take every one that comes.

"Aidan (Coleman) looked like he was going well but my filly galloped all the way to the line."

Braw Angus (10-1), from the yard of Kim Bailey, claimed the extended two-and-half-mile handicap hurdle, while the Jonjo O'Neill-trained Lithic (7-4) opened his account for the campaign in the two-mile handicap hurdle.

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