Philip Hobbs was pleased with what he saw from the in-form Celebre D’Allen (5-2 Favourite), who extended his perfect start for the yard when winning the Virgin Bet Warwick Castle Handicap Chase (2m 4f) under a well-timed ride by Tom O’Brien at Warwick today.
Celebre D’Allen was a multiple winner during his time in France with Louisa Carberry and he has certainly hit the ground running since switching back to the UK, winning for the third time in three months for Hobbs.
The 10 year old still had plenty to do when rounding the bend for home, but he stayed on well under Tom O’Brien and ultimately looked to have won with something in hand as he scored by three-quarters of a length from Wishing And Hoping.
And Hobbs confirmed after the race that his charge would likely now take his chance in next month’s Paddy Power Plate at The Festival™ at Cheltenham.
He said: “I’m very pleased with that, he did it well. I just thought for a second off the last bend that maybe we weren’t going to get there in time but in the end it was alright and he stayed on well. I suppose hopefully he’ll run in the two and a half mile handicap at Cheltenham (the Paddy Power Plate Handicap Chase).
“We thought that if we didn’t run him today he probably wasn’t going to get in with the way the race has been over the last 10 years, but he will now.
“He’s had plenty of experience over fences in France and that was the other thing I thought about when he came here, that he could experience some English fences too. In the end though I don’t think he needed it!”
Meanwhile, he confirmed that stable star Thyme Hill would go straight to the Grade One Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at next month’s Festival. He said: “Thyme Hill is in very good form and he goes straight to Cheltenham. You’d like to think he goes there with every chance.”
There was a record amount of £170,000 in offer across the seven races and elsewhere on the card, which was witnessed by a record crowd of 5,344, was the Virgin Bet Handicap Hurdle (2m), which brought a welcome return to form for the Alastair Ralph-trained Osprey Call (12-1).
It was just under a year since the seven year old had last tasted victory coming into this, but she showed much improved form on his first three starts of the campaign, displaying a good attitude to out-battle the Tom Lacey-trained Dibble Decker (3-1) by three-quarters of a length under Alex Edwards in a pulsating finish.
And his trainer is hopeful that he can kick on now off what he feels is a workable mark over hurdles.
Ralph said: “It was a change of luck, we know the engine is there and he was unlucky at Newbury and it was just a case of getting him to back off and respect his hurdles a little bit. Alex gets on well with him and we know the engine is there so it’s just a case of getting it to come together and the two-mile gallop suited him really.
“He will go over fences at some point but we’ll keep him over hurdles for the time being as we think there’s a bit of mileage on his mark. We haven’t looked much further than today really as we were just keen to get back on track with him but we’ll have a look at what’s next.”
Meanwhile, the opening race was the Virgin Bet Novices' Hurdle (2m) and five furlongs, which saw Fair Frontieres (5-1) return to winning ways for the Kim Bailey team.
The seven year old struggled when last seen in Grade Two company at Sandown Park in December, however this performance was much more like it and he looked like the smart prospect that had won on yard debut at Worcester in October.
And winning jockey Johnny Burke feels that there ought to be plenty more to come yet from the son of Sans Frontieres. He said: “He wasn’t at his best last time but I think he had reasons for that, he was obviously very impressive in the Worcester race but what depth that had I don’t know. He was good and honest today though and very straightforward and when he had to dig deep he really did.
“He was a much happier horse today and in the past he was over-racing a little bit too much, whereas today he was idling enough in front and when you needed him to pick up he really did. It’s nice that he’s reverted back to racing relaxed and picking up on the jockey’s terms.
“He’s a smart horse and jumps really well. He’s good and tough and honest and I’d definitely forgive him for Sandown, that was a reflection of the Worcester run today and he’s only going to progress. He’ll do well over hurdles but he jumped those big and bold so when he gets a fence he’ll be decent.”
Burke went on to record a 35-1 double on the day and bring up his 50th winner of the season when Gaelic Park (5-1) came home the two-length winner of the concluding Virgin Bet Open National Hunt Flat Race (2m). The Charlie Longsdon-trained six year old, a half-brother to dual Grade One winner and Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Chantry House, was making a winning Rules debut having won an Irish point-to-point in November.
The remaining race on the card, the Virgin Bet Fives Handicap Hurdle (3m 2f) saw the Jane Williams In Rem (7-4 Favourite) record his fifth victory in succession under Chester Williams.