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Mercian Knight shines for Amy Murphy at Doncaster

Fri 13 Dec 2019

Mercian Knight reversed recent form with Terrierman to claim top honours in the Fight For Good Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster.

Dan Skelton’s Terrierman got the better of Amy Murphy-trained Mercian Knight by three-quarters of a length when the pair clashed at Southwell late last month, but 7lb better off at the weights for the rematch, the even-money favourite exacted his revenge with a half-length verdict under Jack Quinlan.

“I’m delighted, I can’t even tell you how big a baby this horse is,” said Murphy.

“He’s 18 hands and he’s still just learning his trade. He’s come on leaps and bounds from every run and he probably wants much softer ground than this, but he’s a really exciting horse for the future.

“I think he’ll make a lovely staying chaser one day. He came off the bridle a mile out, but they didn’t quite go quick enough for him, so he was probably only just getting there at the line.

“He’s a through and through homebred. The mare he’s out of is homebred, so it’s hugely exciting.”

Skelton did get a winner on the board when 5-6 favourite Knight In Dubai won the Sport Society Success Novices’ Chase after a faultless round of jumping on Town Moor’s soft ground.

The Conor Shoemark-ridden six-year-old followed up a 12-length victory at Bangor in November with another decisive win, comfortably seeing off Schiehallion Munro to triumph by six lengths.

“It was nice for him to win under a penalty, while he goes in that soft ground as well,” said Skelton, looking on from Cheltenham.

“He fell at Cheltenham last year over fences, then when he came back over hurdles he had a little infection in his leg.

“By the time he came back it was halfway through the season, but you can see chasing was always going to be his game. Now he has won under a penalty he will step up in grade – we will look at the Altcar Novices’ Chase at Haydock next.”

Horatio Hornblower (13-8 joint-favourite) followed up success at Ffos Las with a battling victory in the Steel City Foundation Conditional Jockeys’ Veterans’ Handicap Chase over three miles.

Trained by Nick Williams, the 11-year-old locked horns with Joanne Foster’s Chase The Wind on the approach to the line, ultimately surging clear to secure a one-and-a-quarter-length victory.

“I’m thrilled,” said Williams.

“He’s an 11-year-old and that’s two wins in a row. It’s absolutely fantastic, he’s a lovely horse.

“It’s (the veterans’ chase series) a great initiative and a lovely system for older horses.”

Williams’ son Chester was on board, with several members of the ownership group Chasing Gold Racing Club there to witness the success.

“It makes it doubly good, doesn’t it?” Williams said.

“And the owners are so enthusiastic and very supportive.”

The Luke Gale: Kicking For Grassroots Handicap Chase, run over two miles and three furlongs, went the way of Sam England’s 4-1 shot Well Smitten.

Ridden by England’s husband, Jonathan, the seven-year-old battled past eventual second Fiddlers Bow to claim a three-and-a-quarter-length victory on his first run since joining the England yard in November.

“He did think about dropping himself out,” said England after the run.

“Off his best form he wouldn’t lack a bit of class, but for one reason or another he’s not shown it.

“We’ve never been too hard on him. We do a lot of cantering around the field, trying to keep him fresh and happy.”

Bryony Frost piloted Methag (7-2) to a wide-margin win in the Richard Fahey: Take The Reins Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.

The Alex Hales-trained mare ran prominently throughout, easing to a six-length victory when uncontested between the last hurdle and the line.

“She got toughness on her side,” said Frost of the diminutive six-year-old.

“She doesn’t know she’s little. She didn’t miss a beat. I can’t fault her, she was perfect.”

Elsewhere on the card, Charlie Hammond steered Storm Rising (9-2) to victory in the Next Generation Handicap Hurdle for Dr Richard Newland.

The last race of the day went to Tim Vaughan’s Copper Gone West (7-2), ridden by Charlie Price to win the Paul Shaw And Sporting Associates Mares’ Handicap Hurdle.

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