Al Dancer did what was asked of him in returning to winning ways with victory at the first time of asking over fences in the squareintheair.com Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.
Beaten when joint-favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival in March, the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained six-year-old saw his class prevail on his return to the Cotswolds.
Last season’s Betfair Hurdle winner warmed to the task after surviving a bad mistake at the third fence, putting the race to bed when asked for an effort from the back of the last to cross the line four lengths clear of the running-on Not That Fuisse.
Twiston-Davies said of the 10-11 winner: “There was just one slightly noticeable sketchy jump. He was brilliant and I was really pleased with him.
“He is a good jumper. A faster pace would suit him again. He is just a lovely horse. It’s a relief to us, as you think they are going to win, but he had 12 fences to jump.
“He will improve for the run. It is exciting. We will stay at two (miles) for the moment.”
Assessing future plans, Twiston-Davies said: “It’s only three weeks (Arkle Trial) and that could be a bit too quick, so I think there is a novice chase at Newbury, we may do that. Something like that (Henry VIII) would be a good target.
“He came here for the Supreme Novices’ having won at Ascot, it was quite close and it definitely showed on him and we don’t want to do that again. He has put the marker down for the Arkle.”
Al Dancer was cut to 12-1 from 20-1 for the Arkle by Paddy Power, while SkyBet went 14-1 for the same race.
Champagne Well sparked wild celebrations from trainer Fergal O’Brien with a triumphant return to action in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
Never one to hold back, the Ravenswell Farm handler was left jumping for joy after the six-year-old gained a long-overdue first success over hurdles in the two-mile-five-furlong prize.
Having been stripped of victory by the stewards at Ludlow last season, the 13-8 favourite suffered no such issues on this occasion, pulling out just enough to hold Braid Blue at bay by half a length.
O’Brien said: “It’s fantastic. I’m so lucky to have such a lovely horse. Today we came here really confident. He was meant to run in the Persian War (at Chepstow), but he had colic on the day and this was Plan B.
“It was a bit frustrating at the time at Ludlow, but that has probably been the making of him as he is a novice for the rest of the season.
“He looks a proper Albert Bartlett horse and that’s what Paddy (Brennan) said, as he is a year stronger.”
Paddy Power introduced Champagne Well at 33-1 for the Albert Bartlett in March.
Leading Irish greyhound trainer Paul Hennessy can now boast training a winner at Cheltenham on his CV after Heaven Help Us made a successful debut over hurdles at the track on Friday.
Having sent out Priceless Blake to victory in the Greyhound Derby at Nottingham in June, the Garryduff handler celebrated a first winner at Prestbury Park, as the five-year-old defeated Master Debonair by two lengths in the Foundation Developments Ltd Maiden Hurdle.
Hennessy said: “We bred this one and reared this one, and John Turner, who owns her, owned one of our Derby winners at Wimbledon, Jaytee Jet.
“You have no idea how much this means to me to get this opportunity.
“For us to win a race at Cheltenham is just ridiculous. You have a better chance of winning the EuroMillions.”
On the 33-1 winner, he added: “She jumped the second-last a bit high, but I said, ‘if she jumps the last, John, she will win, as they won’t pass her’. She is as game a gander.”
Warren Greatrex has had his frustrations with Mulcahys Hill – but the seven-year-old finally came good when getting up to take the Matchbook Most Trusted Betting Exchange Novices’ Chase by a neck.
The Lambourn handler said of the 12-1 winner: “He has always been very quirky. He used to be trained on his own. He has been hit by a car in the village.
“I pretty much tear my hair every day with him, but he has always had an abundance of talent, as we saw in the Challow and what he did there.
“I would say we will come back here in November. He never missed a beat and stays very well.”
Select any odd to add a bet