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Aintree report: Top Notch triumphs under Nico De Boinville in thrilling finish

Sat 9 Nov 2019

Top Notch warmed up for the Peterborough Chase with a determined effort to score over hurdles for the first time in nearly four years when getting the best of a thrilling finish to the Bet And Watch At Virgin Bet Hurdle at Aintree.

Nicky Henderson’s classy dual-purpose performer made the running for his seasonal debut ahead of next month’s Huntingdon showpiece which he won in 2017, but looked booked for minor honours when tackled by Vision Des Flos and Roksana.

The eight-year-old got his second wind after Roksana hit the final flight and battled on dourly for Nico de Boinville to strike by a neck from the latter, with Vision Des Flos another neck away in third.

The win gave Henderson and owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede an across-the-card big-race double with Fusil Raffles lifting the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.

“I have to look after him. He’s been an absolute stable stalwart since he was a juvenile,” said De Boinville of the 2-1 winner.

“He’s never missed a day and it’s a pleasure to get a win on the board with him.

“He took a bit of a blow between two out and the last. He missed the last slightly and he found more. He battled his way back to the front.”

Henderson’s representative David Minton said: “He probably needed that. It was his prep run for the Peterborough.”

Dan Skelton said of Roksana: “We’ve been second here three times, it’s frustrating but the winner is a very good horse.

“She did hit the last. It was the wrong time for it to happen. She’ll improve.

“I think at that point it looked like she might go on and win, but the line is in one place.”

Watch the full replay as Roksana goes down to Top Notch

Riders Onthe Storm proved a hit for local owners Carl Hinchy and Mark Scott when making a winning debut for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies in the Virgin Bet Handicap Chase.

Bought by Hinchy out of Tom Taaffe’s Irish stable for £50,000 at Goffs UK Spring Sale in May, the six-year-old looks a steal after almost winning back his purchase price in one fell swoop.

Always travelling well for Sam Twiston-Davies, the 4-1 co-favourite landed the spoils from his market rivals Cepage and Oldgrangewood by one and three-quarter lengths and 12 lengths.

“It’s all down to Carl Hinchy. He bought the horse. He’s always worked well, always jumped well, but I didn’t know if he was going to win. I don’t know what he’s really like,” said Twiston-Davies.

“He was very free and he’s a lovely horse to have. We’re learning about him. He was highly thought of in Ireland.

“We thought about the Old Roan, but this was for more money but easier, very pleasing.

“The first initial thought would be the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham next month.”

The winning owners gave a rendition of The Doors' classic track on the podium after receiving their trophy.

It was a double for the Twiston-Davies team after the trainer had been delighted the way Mossy Fen dealt with older opposition, despite the lack of pace not helping the young stayer, in the Casino At Virgin Bet EBF Stallions ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle Qualifier.

The four-year-old was a reluctant pacesetter, but the 5-4 favourite kept finding more to follow up his Worcester debut triumph in good style by three and three-quarter lengths from Keep Wondering.

“He’s come back half a mile and you’d have thought someone would have helped him make the running. It was just a sprint,” said the winning trainer.

“Another novice hurdle next, maybe Cheltenham in December, something like that,”

“He appears to be high up our pecking order so far. Giving weight to older horses was a nice performance. The whole race was not run to suit him. He’ll do better next time.”

The Last Day (2-1 favourite) could be bound for Ascot after a likeable display from the seven-year-old saw him make a successful reappearance in the the In the Download The App At Virgin Bet Handicap Chase.

Trainer Evan Williams had to abandon plans to run him at the Berkshire track last weekend as the horse was off-colour, but he was fine for the trip to Merseyside where he ran out a ready five-length winner under Adam Wedge.

“It was a good performance. He travelled well and jumped well. He’s a horse that has improved for the summer physically,” said the Llancarfan handler.

“He came back looking big and well. We took him out of Ascot last week. He had a bit of a temperature on the morning of the race.

“He’s been fine this week, he’s had a quiet week, and came here fresh and well.

“There’s a good handicap coming up at Ascot in a few weeks’ time. I imagine we’ll go there and take our chance.

“He’s a two-miler, ideally with soft ground, heavy would suit him.”

Champagne Mystery (6-1) ran his rivals into the ground with a bold front-running display to win the Premier League Betting At Virgin Bet Novices’ Handicap Chase.

The Nicky Henderson-trained five-year-old was second on his last three starts over hurdles last term but made no mistake on his fencing debut as he relished the career move.

Coming home 11 lengths clear of 11-4 favourite Present Value in the hands of Nico de Boinville, Champagne Mystery’s success came as no surprise to owner Trevor Hemmings.

“I enjoyed that. When I was asked earlier, I said 'This horse is all right - I think you’ll find he’ll win today',” he said. “I was quite confident.”

Skandiburg (100-30) was a game winner over Diomede Des Mottes in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle Qualifier.

Olly Murphy’s charge came out on top by a length and three-quarters under Aidan Coleman after a terrific tussle on the run to the line. The pair pulled 17 lengths clear of long-time leader Rosy World in third place.

“He’s a proper tough, little horse, a yard favourite. He’s improved from last year and is clearly going the right way,” said Murphy’s assistant, Ger Tumulty.

Conditional jockey Alison Clarke was fined £650 for weighing out without a safety vest. After an inquiry she was allowed to be reweighed ahead of riding King Golan, who finished last of the six finishers.

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