Hen­der­son eye­ing the Ryanair for Top Notch

Western Daily Press - - Sport - GRA­HAM CLARK at Kemp­ton Park

NICKY Hen­der­son pointed to­wards a re­turn to the high­est level for Top Notch after he opened his ac­count for the sea­son in the 32Red Casino Chase at Kemp­ton on Satur­day.

After suf­fer­ing a bad reaction to a flu jab, the pop­u­lar eight-year-old only made his sea­sonal re­turn last month when fin­ish­ing third in the JLT Hur­dle at As­cot.

Switched back to fences, the Si­mon Mu­nir and Isaac Soude­owned geld­ing took a de­ci­sive step for­ward from his come­back as he found plenty to take the Listed prize by five lengths from the run­ning-on Black Cor­ton.

Hen­der­son said of the favourite: “He is very spe­cial. Si­mon and Isaac haven’t had the great­est run re­cently, but when you’ve got a horse like this you al­ways know he will get you out of trou­ble.

“He was very sick be­fore Christ­mas, only be­cause he re­acted to a flu vac­ci­na­tion. As­cot brought him on nicely, and there we go.

“Know­ing how much pace there was here, two-and-a-half miles around Kemp­ton – I could eas­ily see his lit­tle feet scam­per­ing along. They turned into the back straight, picked up the bri­dle and al­ways had them cov­ered off a right good pace.

“He hasn’t got the scope of other horses and he has his own way of do­ing it, but he is brave as well. He has been a won­der­ful ser­vant.

“If you had a straw poll in the yard, he would come out num­ber one. Ev­ery­one loves him. I know there is Al­tior, Might Bite and Bu­veur D’Air, who might be bet­ter horses, but there is not a nicer horse.”

RaceBets gave Top Notch a 9-1 from 20-1 quote for the Ryanair Chase at Chel­tenham in March.

Look­ing to fu­ture plans, Hen­der­son said: “We were think­ing As­cot Chase, then the Ryanair. That is the ob­vi­ous road.”

Bry­ony Frost, rider of Black Cor­ton, felt the Paul Ni­cholls-trained eight-year-old was firmly back on track after leav­ing his dis­ap­point­ing ef­fort in the Lad­brokes Tro­phy at New­bury be­hind.

She said: “I’m chuffed to bits. Like I said the other day, we were com­ing here as a con­fi­dence booster after the Lad­brokes Tro­phy and that is ex­actly what he has done. The trip pushed his gears the whole way, but what I loved to see was that he jumped un­der pres­sure. He trav­elled and stayed on all the way for me.”

Jonjo O’Neill ju­nior cel­e­brated the big­gest win­ner of his ca­reer with vic­tory aboard Big Time Dancer in the Lan­zarote Hand­i­cap Hur­dle.

The 20-year-old spent most of last year on the side­lines with a back in­jury and con­tin­ued to make up for lost time after tri­umph­ing in the Listed con­test aboard the 16-1 shot.

Son of for­mer cham­pion jockey Jonjo O’Neill, the 5lb claimer bided his time be­fore forg­ing the Jen­nie Can­dlish-trained six-year-old on late in the two-mile-five-fur­long con­test, cross­ing the line a length-and-a-half clear of Solomon Grey.

The win­ning rider said: “It is amaz­ing, re­ally, as you are dream­ing of these sort of things when you are off for eight months on the side­lines. To ride a nice win­ner like this means ev­ery­thing. I was al­ways con­fi­dent on him. He trav­elled re­ally well and jumped un­be­liev­able and ev­ery po­si­tion I put him in he an­swered my call straight away. He made it very easy for me.”

Con­nec­tions of the 16-1 win­ner hinted a trip to Ain­tree could be on the agenda later in the sea­son, should the ground be in his favour.

As­sis­tant trainer Alan O’Ke­effe said: “It is nice to get a big one like that. Jen­nie has done a great job with the horse. He has had a few prob­lems, his wind was one.

“I just thought we rarely get a Lan­zarote run on ground like that and he loves that ground.”

Im­pul­sive Star shed his maiden tag over fences with a de­ter­mined vic­tory in the McCoy Con­trac­tors Civil Engi­neer­ing Clas­sic Chase at War­wick.

Neil Mul­hol­land’s charge was win­less after five pre­vi­ous out­ings over the larger ob­sta­cles, but had run some fine races in de­feat, most notably fin­ish­ing fourth in the Na­tional Hunt Chase at Chel­tenham in March.

The eight-year-old was last seen chas­ing home Ok Cor­ral – a win­ner ear­lier on the card – at Plump­ton last month and was an 8-1 shot mak­ing his hand­i­cap de­but un­der a light weight in this pres­ti­gious con­test.

Last year’s win­ner Mi­lans­bar gave a bold sight in front for much of the three-mile-five-fur­long jour­ney, but was a spent force rac­ing down the back straight for the sec­ond time and Im­pul­sive Star took the lead un­der Chel­tenham Gold Cup-win­ning jockey Sam Wa­ley-Co­hen, car­ry­ing the colours of his fa­ther, Robert.

Calett Mad and Cross­park both threw down strong chal­lenges in the home straight, but Mul­hol­land’s charge dug deep and saw off the for­mer by three-and-a-quar­ter lengths.

Mul­hol­land, who also sad­dled the fourth home Ca­role’s Destrier, said: “I’m de­lighted with him (Im­pul­sive Star). We knew he’d im­prove, it all came to­gether on the day.”

Ju­lian Her­bert/PA

Im­pul­sive Star and Sam Wa­ley-Co­hen, right, go onto win the Clas­sic Chaseat War­wick

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