Martha's Son on rise

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MARTHA'S Son confirmed his elevation to the top rank in fine style in the Victor Chandler Handicap Chase here yesterday, despite the usual gloomy prognostications of his trainer, Tim Forster.

The Ludlow handler, who could mount a serious challenge for the title of World's Most Pessimistic Man, declared after the eight-year-old's impressive victory: "I didn't want to run him. I never thought he'd jump these huge black fences against these goodhorses."

But Forster was delighted to be proved wrong by Martha's Son, who took to the Ascot obstacles like a seasoned gazelle to win his eighth successive chase. He put in some spectacular leaps - notably at the downhill fence, where he went from fifth to third place in the air - under Rodney Farrant and came into the straight, with Egypt Mill Prince in his sights, to take control of the race two out.

The Idiot's Delight gelding quickened well to relegate Egypt Mill Prince to the runner-up spot for the second time. The long-time leader Coulton stayed on in third, followed by Uncle Ernie and the top-weight Viking Flagship, 28 lengths behind the winner.Martha's Son, owned by Paddy Hartigan and his breeder Mike Ward-Thomas, was Forster's first runner at Ascot for six years.

The trainer said: "He is the kindest, sweetest, horse I've had anything to do with in 32 years. You could ride him into Windsor to do your shopping, and leave him tied up outside the supermarket. He's like a child's pony - until you put a fence in front of him, when he gets very excited. When he ran over hurdles he used to smash them out of the ground out of sheer exuberance."

David Nicholson was happy enough with the performance of Viking Flagship, under a cloud earlier in the week and giving 19lb to Martha's Son. He said: "It was the weight that beat him, and I think time will show that the winner is a very good horse."

At Cheltenham, Mysilv galloped right back into Champion Hurdle reckoning with a storming victory under Norman Williamson in the Bromsgrove Trisport Handicap Hurdle. The mare, with everything to prove, following a disappointing last place in her first race for her new connections after being sold for a world record jumping auction price of 155,000 guineas, set off as if the devil himself was on her tail and jumped with all her old fire.

She had most of her rivals at it coming down the hill and, although Pridwell closed turning into the home run, Mysilv quickened again up the hill. Her relieved trainer Charlie Egerton said: "She badly needed that run at Kempton Park, and it's marvellous

to see her back to her best."

The clash between the top northern novices in the Dipper Chase at Newcastle ended in favour of the flying grey Morceli, who jumped superbly and came home at his leisure in front of Northern Squire and Toogood to be True.

The winner's market rival Strong Deel was struggling when he fell two out.

At Leopardstown, there was a clean sweep for the home side and a great result for the bookmaker sponsors in Europe's richest handicap hurdle, The Ladbroke.

The 25-1 shot Anusha, trained by Michael Hourigan, jumped the last in third place, but quickened past the well-fancied Derrymoyle and the favourite Cockney Lad to take the £40,000 first prize by a length.

Of the two British challengers, Kadastrof was tapped for foot from the home turn and plugged on in sixth place behind Andante and Double Symphony, but Fatack faded badly and beat only one home.