A third musketeer has appeared in the ranks of Champion Hurdle contenders in Nicky Henderson's yard. The Lambourn trainer already has the ante-post favourite, Binocular, and last season's third, Punjabi, under his care, and yesterday at Wincanton Chomba Womba staked her claim for consideration for the Cheltenham crown with a thoroughly efficient defeat of Takeroc and the reigning champion, Katchit.
The mare is racing this term becauseshe did not take to motherhood, having failed to get in foal to leading sire Presenting. But though Henderson thinks the world of her, he was not getting carried away by her comeback; she was, after all, receiving 18lb from Katchit. "She's a very good mare," said Henderson, "but we must remember she was getting a lot of weight. We've seen what speed she's got, though, and we'll have to do a lot more thinking about her future now."
Chomba Womba, bought by her owners, Richard and Lizzie Kelvin Hughes, for £160,000 18 months ago, was beaten last season only in the mares' contest at the Festival in March. With no sign of ring-rustiness yesterday, her hurdling under Barry Geraghty was slick and, after covering the brisk pace set by Takeroc, she quickened smartly away after the last to win by three-and-a-quarter lengths.
Katchit was a further six lengths back in third, staying on typically gamely under his burden after being under pressure from Choc Thornton for more than half the race, but Alan King was not disheartened. "We knew he faced an impossible task at the weights," said the trainer, "but he needed more match practice before Cheltenham next month." In an increasingly open Champion Hurdle market, Katchit was eased and ChombaWomba introduced at around 20-1.
Though Takeroc went under, seven of his Paul Nicholls stablemates succeeded – Tchico Polos (5-4), Oracle des Mottes (3-1), impressive novice chaser Breedsbreeze (4-6), Cornish Sett (12-1) and Express Leader (2-1) scored at Wincanton, and Free World (5-4) and Take The Breeze (9-2) won at Sandown.
After the Flat season's last-day feature, the November Handicap at Doncaster, went to David Arbuthnot, Martin Dwyer and 20-1 shot Tropical Strait, just £50-worth of tickets remained chasing the £1.3m Tote Scoop 6 pool. Cornish Sett's last-stride nose victory reduced that to two. Their holders hopes were dashed when neither Axiom nor Flipando could win the last leg at Doncaster, but a record pot, likely to top £3m, will now be up for grabs at Cheltenham on Saturday.
Last year Seb Sanders and Jamie Spencer dead-heated for the senior Flat jockeys' crown; this time it was the apprentices David Probert and William Buick who tied for their title, each ending the season on 50 winners. Probert came close to pipping his friend, who was sitting out a suspension yesterday, when narrowly beatenin the Doncaster opener on his only ride of the day.
The most appropriate winner of the day was Harry Patch in the nursery on Town Moor. The Michael Jarvis-trained two-year-old is named after the 110-year-old from Somerset who is the last British survivor of the battle of Passchendaele, and who will be at the Cenotaph on Tuesday on the 90th anniversary of Armistice Day.