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‘Terrier’ Top Notch battles to second Peterborough Chase victory at Huntingdon

Sun 8 Dec 2019

Top Notch demonstrated the best of his battling abilities and showed plenty of heart to claim a second Fitzdares Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon.

After claiming the Grade Two prize in 2017 when it was transferred to Taunton, the Nicky Henderson-trained eight-year-old joined an elite list of dual winners of the two-and-a-half-mile contest when following up his comeback win at Aintree over hurdles last month.

Passing long-time leader La Bague Au Roi going over the penultimate fence, the 15-8 favourite dug deep after the last to repel the late challenge of outsider of the field Kauto Riko by three-quarters of a length.

Watch a full replay of the Fitzdares Peterborough Chase

Henderson said: “It is great that he has come back and won this. If the general election was this morning this fellow would be Prime Minister because everybody just loves him.

“If you said what is the most popular stalwart in the place – I know there are better horses – this fellow would be the one, as he doesn’t know how to do anything wrong.

“You can go hurdling, you can go three miles or two miles, but you wouldn’t find a nicer person.

“You only need 10 horses like him and I’d love life.

“He has been placed in a Triumph Hurdle and he never looked remotely like a steeplechaser as he is not big enough, but he has just got a heart of gold.

Daryl Jacob gives his verdict to Stewart Machin

“They had gone hard which suits, as he stays. He had a tongue tie on him today as Nico (de Boinville) thought at Aintree he was a little bit raspy.

“He had worn a tongue tie at home, but he wasn’t sure about it early in the race and he wasn’t quite facing it. He is like a terrier and as soon as the scrap starts we are in good shape. If we can smell the rat he will get there.”

The Lambourn handler earmarked the recently-upgraded Grade Two Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton next month as the next port of call for Top Notch, who was cut from 25-1 into 14-1 for the Ryanair Chase by Paddy Power, while Fitzdares went 12-1 for the same race.

Henderson added: “That’s a good enough race (Silviniaco Conti) for him, but we will work him and see how he is and he will tell us where he wants to go.”

Earlier, Slate House pulled out all the stops to get his career back on track over fences in the Fitzdares Crosseys Jockey Coaching Novices’ Chase.

A faller when still in contention in last month’s BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham, the Colin Tizzard-trained seven-year-old made the most of a drop down in class on his first start over the extended two-mile-seven-furlong trip.

Jumping the last together with eventual runner-up Tarada, the 4-5 favourite saw his class eventually prevail, getting up close to the line to score by half a length.

Assistant trainer Joe Tizzard said: “I’m not worried about him having a harder race as he has got to learn how to do that.

“Harry (Cobden) said he didn’t want to launch him at the last. I think he has given 10lb to what is quite a nice horse (Tarada).

“The idea was to bring him here to have a nice jump round. He jumped well and settled well and he just had to shake him up to get him there, and then he has dug deep to win

“We half-wanted to get a confidence booster into him, thinking whether to go for the Kauto Star (Kempton) or the Dipper (Cheltenham). Whether we need to do that or not, we will have a think about it.”

Vegas Blue will make the switch to hurdles with an unbeaten record as she completed a double for trainer Nicky Henderson with a four-length success in the Listed Fitzdares Henrietta Knight Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race

The Lambourn handler said of the 7-4 shot: “Vegas Blue is owned by the same team that had Verdana Blue and she is by Getaway, like Verdana Blue is. Luckily Verdana Blue has come back to us and this is the next project.

“She is all schooled and ready to go straight over hurdles. I was going to go over hurdles, but I just spotted this Listed race and realised she would have a pretty good chance of getting that (black type) and once you do you are made for life.”

Tom Lacey will begin to get more adventurous with his plans for Tea Clipper (7-4 favourite), who maintained his unbeaten record this season when getting up close home to take the Fitzdares Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle by a neck.

Lacey said: “He just missed the last, but that is absolutely when you want Richard Johnson on board.

“He is learning all the time. He was still a bit big at one or two, but on the whole he jumped well.”

“We will probably give him a little bit of a break and then go again at something more adventurous. We might  go to Aintree with him as I wouldn’t want to go to Cheltenham.”

West Cork (6-4 favourite) restored his reputation after leaving behind two short-priced defeats by seeing off newcomer Marlborough Sounds by a length and three-quarters in the Fitzdares Lord Jim Culloty Novices’ Hurdle.

Tom Messenger, assistant to winning trainer Dan Skelton, said: “The drop back down to two miles and putting on a tongue tie has helped him see out his race.

“He came over with a reputation and he has shown why today, so hopefully he can build on that.”

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