Classy novices fly flag for Henderson

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The Independent Online

Though Paul Nicholls has already broken the £1m barrier, and holds a lead of nearly £300,000 over Nicky Henderson, both trainers know that the championship will not be settled until the spring Festivals.

In the meantime Henderson continues to introduce fresh prospects at a fairly frightening rate, yesterday saddling the winners of both novice hurdles at Ascot.

Hadrian's Approach, yet another point-to-point winner imported from Ireland, showed a good attitude in tiring conditions to take the maiden hurdle, while Molotof rallied from a last-flight blunder to beat Peckhamecho in a Grade Two event. Back in third was Hazy Tom, previously unbeaten but palpably struggling in the ground.

But the day's most striking winner had actually been moved on from Seven Barrows. Zaynar, winner of the 2009 Triumph Hurdle for Henderson, has been sent to Nick Williams in the hope of prompting some kind of renewal – and, after three defeats, the grey suddenly clicked in the novice chase, jumping exuberantly in front to demoralise five previous winners.

But not all the best young horses in Ireland have been exported, and four of them contest a Grade One novice hurdle at Navan tomorrow. Mount Belbulben, indeed, went for £250,000 at a Cheltenham auction in April, only to find his way back across the Irish Sea to Gordon Elliott's yard. It would not be apt to say that he has not put a foot wrong there, as he slipped up when clipping heels on his hurdling debut, but impressed in both runs since.

Meanwhile spare a thought for Robert Thornton, who suffered his latest injury setback when fracturing an arm at Hereford last Sunday. With Alan King's stable hitting top gear, Thornton was aghast yesterday to learn that he faces three months out.