Scotton Banks cashes in

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The Independent Online
PETER EASTERBY, due to retire in 10 days time after 45 years as a trainer, took the honours at Haydock Park yesterday when Scotton Banks got the better of Smith's Band in a thrilling finish to the Peter Marsh Chase.

The 15-8 favourite took the field along in tremendous style on the sticky ground until a slow jump two out enabled Smith's Band to go past him in the air, and was still two lengths down jumping the last.

But Scotton Banks, conceding 13lb to his rival, fought back magnificently in response to Russ Garritty's urgings to get his head in front again 10 strides from the post and scored by half a length.

It was the seven-year-old's fourth successive victory, and he now has more big races on his agenda. He is likely to return to Haydock next month for the Greenalls Gold Cup, with the Scottish National a longer-term target. Easterby's son Tim will take up the reins at Habton Grange at the start of February, and said: "We didn't put him in the Gold Cup because we didn't think he'd be good enough. Maybe next year."

Smith's Band's performance earned him a 25-1 quote for the Grand National, the weights for which are published next month.

An American Cheltenham dream died when star US chaser Lonesome Glory could finish only fourth. The big chestnut, ridden by Blythe Miller, was not fluent over the big Haydock fences. His participation in the Gold Cup now looks unlikely.

Jamie Osborne was seen at his best on Mysilv, who returned to form to land the Champion Hurdle Trial with a classy front-running display. Osborne judged the pace perfectly as he came into the straight in front of Pridwell and Atours, and a superlative leap from the mare at the penultimate flight settled the issue as she stayed on resolutely to beat Atours.

Mysilv remains 8-1 for the Champion hurdle after the 10th victory of her career, the same price as Atours, who will meet her on 3lb better terms at Cheltenham. Mysilv's trainer Charlie Egerton said: "I was impressed - Jamie said she just kept pulling out more when the others came to her. There's still a long way to go before Cheltenham, but at least we're back on the rails now." Mysilv will miss next month's Tote Gold Trophy.

Scotton Banks' usual pilot Lorcan Wyer's journey south to Kempton was rewarded with victory in the Fulwell Chase on Master Boston, left clear at the last by the fall of Too Plush. Master Boston may turn out again in the Great Yorkshire Chase at Doncaster on Saturday.

Former Champion Hurdler Granville Again made his chasing debut at the age of 10 in the Bic Razor Novices' Chase, but was pulled up early behind Trying Again.

The retirement of another old stager, 15-year-old Docklands Express, winner of 20 of his 64 races and placed in a Gold Cup, was announced yesterday. But at Naas Jim Dreaper caused a greater surprise with the news that Merry Gale would not run again this season. The Irish champion was pulled up behind One Man in the King George.