Mysilv digs deep

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MYSILV'S courage shone through the gloom here yesterday as she battled like a terrier in desperate conditions to become the first mare to win the Tote Gold Trophy Handicap Hurdle. She took the brunt of the driving wind and rain as she set off in front, and had enough in reserve to hold off Trying Again by three-quarters of a length.

The field of eight was the smallest ever assembled for the valuable contest, first run as the Schweppes in 1963, but the finish was as stirring as any on record. Mark Dwyer and Trying Again hunted Jamie Osborne and Mysilv up from the start, and came with a live-looking challenge two out, but the mare is as game as any to look through a bridle and simply refused to give in.

She managed to find another gear in the mud and was back in command at the last, where she made her only mistake, hitting the top and scattering timber. But when she put her head down on the slog to the line, she meant it. Osborne said: "I knew Mark would chase me along to test Mysilv's stamina in this ground, but in fact he helped me because it kept her up to her work and interested. She had her ears pricked again by the last, and she is so brave and tough it is hard to get past her."

Mysilv, trained locally by Charlie Egerton, started favourite for the £25,000 prize and was given a rousing reception by those of her owners, the 8,000-strong Elite Racing Club, who had braved the weather. The mare had cost them a world record price for a jumper in training of 155,000gns at auction nine months ago, but had been laid low by illness along with the rest of Egerton's string earlier in the season. But yesterday's performance showed she is back to the sort of form that made her last season's leading juvenile and her next run will be in next month's Champion Hurdle.

Egerton said: "She went through the mud today, but she had a hard race and there's no point in bringing her out again before Cheltenham. The Champion is what she was bought for, and she'll be better on better ground." Ladbrokes cut her big-race odds from 16-1 to 10-1.

Two-mile champion Viking Flagship blotted his copybook with a fall in the Game Spirit Chase, but remains favourite to retain his title in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. The eight-year-old, odds-on for his second successive Game Spirit win, had duelled with Nakir for much of the race and, though he had been outjumped a couple of times, had apparently taken his rival's measure approaching the fourth last.

Viking Flagship jumped the obstacle perfectly, but could not get his feet out of the soft, slippery ground after he landed, and sprawled sideways. Neither he nor Adrian Maguire was hurt. Nakir, last season's best two-mile novice, was left to win at his leisure and popped over the remaining three fences in the straight to come home 30 lengths clear of the Snitton Lane. He and Viking Flagship will renew rivalry at the Festival.

Uttoxeter, and with it the Grand National Trial featuring Miinnehoma, was abandoned shortly before the first race and at Newbury the stewards called it a day shortly after Maguire had notched his 500th career win on Gillan Cove.