Cool Dawn's owner and sometime jockey, Dido Harding, deputised, and confessed after the race that watching was infinitely more stressful than riding. She also admitted that she is likely to remain jocked-off the horse she partnered into second place in last year's Cheltenham Foxhunters as his talent has blossomed in professional hands.
She said: "I'm sorry to lose the ride, but he keeps winning, so I can't complain. It's wonderful to see his real ability coming through, and he seems to be getting better and better, and we're still not sure how good he is."
Team tactics came into play during the three-mile contest as the two stablemates set off in front. Andy Thornton, who sent Cool Dawn into the lead three out and brought him home nine lengths clear, said: "The idea was to help each other on the first circuit as the other horse is a bit quirky. We both like to be in front so we decided that Harwell Lad would go down the rails if we got the run of the race, which we did. It was ideal."
The lightly raced nine-year-old was winning his second successive race at Ascot and justified 5-2 favouritism without a repeat of the final-fence blunder that almost brought disaster last time. Cool Dawn earned a quote of 25-1 for the Grand National and may next tackle the Racing Post Chase at Kempton in February. The disappointment yesterday was the top-weight Unguided Missile, the winner two years ago and runner-up last time, and stablemate of the King George VI favourite One Man.
Christmas arrived five days early for the publican Paddy O'Donnell and the regulars at the Crown at Cricklewood with Paddy's Return's consummately easy victory in the Long Walk Hurdle. The joyous reception given by O'Donnell and his cronies to the winner, who had come into the final straight with Norman Williamson sitting up like a hussar and eased away to beat Pridwell by 19 lengths, reflected the magnitude of the bets landed.
O'Donnell's first reaction was to announce "Free drinks at the Crown until the New Year", and his second to nominate the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham as the next target for Paddy's Return.
Algan, winner of the King George VI Chase three years ago, finished a lung-weary fifth and will not now be taking part in the big Boxing Day showpiece at Kempton on Friday.
Champion Hurdle candidate I'm Supposin' could finish only third behind Mr Markham in the Knights Royal Hurdle, but the trainer Richard Rowe was not despondent. "He's 17.2 hands and a full horse, and is still too big and fresh," he said. "It will take a few races to get him straight, but the target is Cheltenham in March, not Ascot in December."
Mr Markham, who fought back after being headed on the home turn, has the Supreme Novices' Hurdle as his Festival target in which he is likely to meet Wahiba Sands, who made it two out of two over timber in the Kennel Gate Novices' Hurdle, but did not impress his trainer and part-owner John Dunlop enough to enter him in the Champion.
At Navan, Imperial Call warmed up for a meeting with Dorans Pride in the Ericsson Chase next weekend with second place to Cockney Lad in a 21/2-mile hurdle race. Imperial Call had a 15-length lead three out, but Cockney Lad had him covered by the last obstacle and asserted on the run- in.
At Haydock, Paul Carberry was given a 10-day ban for deliberately trying to prevent a rival winning. Carberry, riding Premier Cru, tried to block Festive Teak in the bumper.Reuse content