While a respectable supporting role is the very least that beckons some of the young jumpers who entered the stage at Exeter yesterday, it may be premature to suppose that all the Flat season's Oscar winners are already in the wings.
For a gamble on the final Group One race of the domestic campaign suggests either that Aidan O'Brien has found another Derby colt – or that it will take one to stop him winning the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster on Saturday.
The Ballydoyle trainer won the race for a sixth time last year, with Camelot, and bookmakers had identified Battle Of Marengo as the most obvious of his six candidates this time. But heavy support yesterday for his stablemate, Kingsbarns, implied that they take a somewhat different view in Co Tipperary. Coral laid Kingsbarns all the way down to 5-2 favourite, from 6-1, ahead of Battle Of Marengo on 3-1. On paper Battle Of Marengo has certainly achieved more, counting Trading Leather among his victims to date; but Kingsbarns was undeniably impressive in his sole start at Navan, just a fortnight ago, albeit in relatively modest company.
Over the jumps at Exeter, meanwhile, testing ground and new eligibility restrictions in novice chases meant that there could be no such easy pickings. Both the beginners' chases looked fiercely competitive, so it was especially pleasing to see Harry Topper disclose the potential to restore Kim Bailey to the big time by rallying to get back past Rocky Creek over three miles.
Harry Topper won his first two hurdle races last season, before bumping into a subsequent Festival winner and then seeming low on fuel for his final start, but staying chases in the mud are as clearly his game as they once were for Bailey's Master Oats.
Rocky Creek had been backed to complete a treble for Paul Nicholls, who earlier won an equivalent race over shorter with Rebel Rebellion, and also saddled a winner for J P McManus at the first attempt in Mr Mole.
Mr Mole scored stylishly from Melodic Rendezvous, who had top-class bumper form last season, and Nicholls indicated that he retained much scope for improvement – as could easily be surmised from the way he pitched over the first hurdle, and jinked approaching the last. "He's very green," the trainer said. "He finds everything so easy that he doesn't really concentrate."
The champion trainer's former assistant, Harry Fry, celebrated a first winner in his own name, from only his fifth runner, when Highland Retreat landed the opener under Jack Barber. Nicholls credited Fry with the day-to-day supervision of Rock On Ruby before the Champion Hurdle last season when running his satellite yard.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Good Authority (8.50 Kempton) Easily excused his failure when dropped in trip on soft last time, having previously beaten several subsequent winners at Leicester.
Interior Minister (7.20 Kempton) Well bred, in good hands and shaped with promise on his debut at Wolverhampton, learning all the while as he kept on from off the pace.
Where the money's going
Waaheb is 12-1 from 16s with Paddy Power for the Supreme Novices Hurdle after an impressive start over timber at Fairyhouse yesterday.
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