Jockey James Bowen may have failed to secure a full house during an evening playing Bingo on Thursday but he ensured those in the stands at Kempton Park had plenty to cheer about after steering Mister Fisher to glory in the Coral Silviniaco Conti Chase.
The Nicky Henderson-trained eight year old went up further in the estimations of the 20 year old rider after bouncing back form to provide the Seven Barrows handler with a record-extending fourth success in the Grade Two contest over an extended 2m 4f.
Bowen missed the ride aboard the James and Jean Potter-owned eight year old in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at the track on Boxing Day after being knocked unconscious in a schooling session at Henderson’s Seven Barrows base last month.
Determined to make up for missing out on his previous outing Bowen ride the perfect race aboard the 15-8 market leader to deliver him with a perfectly timed run to secure a third Grade Two success aboard him.
Having tracked the leading pair of Eldorado Allen and Rouge Vif for much of the race, Mister Fisher moved into a slender lead past the former approaching the last.
Meeting the final fence on a good stride Mister Fisher found enough when it was required to keep the rallying Eldorado Allen at bay by a length and three quarters.
Bowen said: “I went to Mecca Bingo with Fergus Gregory when I stayed in Stockton-on-Tees on Thursday night between riding at Catterick and Sedgefield but we didn’t win anything. I’ve got a membership there so we will have to go again as it has appeared to keep me sharp.
“He is very simple and he jumped really well. He has travelled really well and loves getting ridden like that by just getting there as late as possible. He pulled himself up in front but he had done enough at that point. He has been a good horse for me.
“I’ve sat on him since that incident on the gallops but you don’t forget him when you sit on him as he always leaves a good impression. He is a stunning horse and he has a fair level of ability.
“I schooled him and then that fall happened. Luckily Sean (Bowen) was able to ride him and he looked after him that day in the King George. That made a hell of a lot of difference today as if he had had a hard race that day he wouldn’t have won, so I’m glad they put Sean on him.”
As for winning trainer Henderson he hinted that an outing in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, which he was made a 16-1 chance for by Coral, is likely to be on the agenda.
Henderson said: “I think two and a half miles is his trip. He ran a good race in the King George as it was his first run of the season. Turning out the back straight he was going really well.
“You could say was it stamina or just the fact it was his first run (that he failed to get home in the King George). I wouldn’t be in a rush to go back three miles.
“He has a Gold Cup entry but I would think the Ryanair is more realistic than anything else. That race is made for him today.
“If the Ryanair was on good ground he would be competitive. He could do a Cheltenham and Aintree programme.
“He deserves a pot like this. He has got to go fly in the top flight now.
“We think he is top class and always has been. I love him and he is a beautiful horse.”
Harry Fry watched on with delight as Ree Okka moved a significant step closer to an outing at Grade One level at the Randox Grand National Meeting at Aintree in April following a facile success in the Watch Racing Free Online At Coral Novices’ Hurdle.
The gelded son of Getaway barely had to get out of second gear under Sean Bowen to justify his 8-13 price tag and follow up his last time out victory at Chepstow on his first attempt over an extended three miles.
Sweeping to the front down the home straight the odds-on favourite continued to pull further clear during the closing stages before crossing the line six lengths clear of Dash Full Of Cash.
Fry said: “We are delighted with the performance but I love everything about him, his attitude and he is a trier. He showed a very willing attitude at Chepstow last time and he jumps for fun. He just showed how straightforward he is.
“Today they have gone a good gallop and Sean (Bowen) had one or two horses under him the whole way. Then when he wanted to come into the race, he just came on the bridle.
“He is just a lovely young horse that we hope will make a chaser and that we will have some fun with in novice hurdles this season.
“We were keen to see him step up to three miles today as that is where the rest of our season is hopefully heading.”
Ahead of an end of season trip to Aintree an appearance in the Grade Two Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock Park on 19th February could be next on the agenda for Ree Okka.
Fry added: “I know for a fact we don’t want to go down the Albert Bartlett route. We could go to Haydock in February (Prestige Novices’ Hurdle) then on to Aintree (Sefton Novices’ Hurdle).
“The Albert Bartlett is a tough gruelling race as I know from experience and I don’t think he is the horse for that at this stage.
“When he was second to Gelino Bello at Aintree I thought straight away back there at Aintree over three miles is made for him.”
Milton Harris appeared to unleash another talented prospect in Silver Shade (2m) who vindicated his trainer’s faith with a ready success on his hurdling debut in the opening Play Coral “Racing-Super-Series” For Free Juvenile Hurdle.
With leading JCB Triumph Hurdle contender Knight Salute already among his ranks, the Sutton Veny handler looks to have an equally exciting prospect in the gelded son of Kendargent judging by his length and three quarter victory today.
Harris said: “I don’t know if he is my best juvenile but I’ve made no secret that I like him. He is a different type to Knight Salute. He is a big strong horse. He has always done everything right.
“To be fair to Mark Johnston he recommended him to me and then he bid me up which annoyed me a bit as he said he was going to be cheap but in hindsight he was right.
“His jumping could be improved upon. The ground for these young horses today could be quite tiring. I was a little surprised to see Richard Hannon’s horse being so close up but he was OK on the Flat.
“He has jumped OK at home, if a little careful if that is the right phrase. He is a funny horse and he just bit me saddling up but he is a nice horse that has got plenty of size and scope.
“He knows how to race. His jumping is a bit ponderous but he has jumped 60 to 80 hurdles at home. That will sharpen him up.”
An outing in the Grade Two JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day (Saturday 29th January) could now beckon for Silver Shade, who was introduced at 66-1 for the JCB Triumph Hurdle and 33-1 for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Festival by William Hill.
Harris added: “We will talk to the owners but I would say he will go to Cheltenham on the 29th for the Triumph Hurdle trial.
“I think Knight Salute would come here for the Adonis I’d say. We’ve had nice horses before and we might be in a year where we have got the best horses in not the best year. This year they (juveniles) might not be that strong but you can only beat what you beat.”