The rain poured and the mud flew at Exeter yesterday where Paul Nicholls saddled a double. Truckers Lodge is a confirmed mud lark, having won on heavy at Chepstow in December, and he relished the conditions in the gg.co.uk Cheltenham Festival Tips National Hunt Novices’ Hurdle where he saw off his 12 rivals to land three quarters of a length’s success under Lorcan Williams.
Owners Gordon and Su Hall will run Friend or Foe at The Festival™ presented by Magners next week but are likely to give the meeting a miss with Truckers Lodge in favour of Aintree.
“He needs a lot more rain at Cheltenham,” explained Su.
Third in the race was Becher Chase winner Walk In The Mill who started the 9-4 favourite but won’t have disappointed connections with the Grand National the target while Unwin VC put up a much improved performance to finish second.
Nicholls doubled up in the second division with Angela Tincknell’s Billy Whizzbang who easily won in the hands of Harry Cobden with Truckin Away second and the favourite, Present Value back in third.
Nicholls’ assistant Harry Derham said; “He’s a staying chaser. He’s big and he’s been growing. That was a massive step up on what he achieved last time. A real test of stamina suits him best and he’ll be a smart chaser one day.”
Smarty Wild, trained by Philip Hobbs, took the opening conditional jockeys’ hurdle under Conor Brace scoring an easy 11 lengths success. The five-year-old started favourite and jumped well to score convincingly. “Conor worked for us last year and this is third ride for us. He’s point-to-point trainer David Brace’s grandson and has had a lot of success in point-to-points.”
The Ben Case-trained J’Ai Froid and Max Kendrick outstayed Firebird Flyer to win the GG Fast Results Handicap Hurdle with trainer Evan Williams gaining compensation for defeat with Billy Bronco, under Sean Bowen, winning the following Weatherbys Hamilton Chase.
Big Time Frank registered his sixth consecutive second place when just failing to reel in the Fiona Shaw-trained Kiwi Myth who was running in the well known colours of John and Heather Snook. Next week they’ll run three at Cheltenham, including Thistlecrack who goes in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, but this win was particularly pleasing. “That was very special as we bred her. She ran a dream of a race and my nephew Michael Legg rode her.”
Concluding race of the day went to the Simon Earle-trained Tom Scudamore-ridden Kavanaghs Corner who was registering his second success at the course having won in April.
Exeter next races on Monday, March 18 at Property & Construction Raceday and then all roads lead to the course on March 24 when it hosts Gentleman’s Day in support of the Armed Forces which will double up as a fund raiser for the Army Benevolent Fund.