Sanctuaire and Walsh impress at Kempton
Racing: Sanctuaire defied his doubters to produce a handsome victory in a remarkable renewal of the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton. No match for Sprinter Sacre on his reappearance in the Tingle Creek Chase, the 11/8 favourite could nevertheless renew rivalries with that horse in the Champion Chase in March after impressing with his attitude here.
Headed by the strong-travelling Wishfull Thinking coming out of the back straight, Ruby Walsh didn't panic and when the leader quickly capitulated soon afterwards, Sanctuaire swiftly shot back past to regain the advantage, going on to score by 13 lengths from Kumbeshwar.
For a horse who hasn't always looked entirely straightforward, connections of the winner were understandably delighted to see him knuckle down for victory.
"We won't go to the Victor Chandler with him - he's more likely to go for the Game Spirit at Newbury - but we could well meet Sprinter Sacre again in the Champion Chase and then go to Sandown," said trainer Paul Nicholls. "It's not as if he has many options and he seems to be growing up all the time. He started to pull himself up on the back straight and I thought that was it, but when the others had gone past him he took off.
"He is quirky and silly, but you can ride him accordingly. If we can ride him with more restraint he could be interesting."
The long odds-on favourite Simonsig made it two out of two over fences in the williamhill.com Novices' Chase. Barry Geraghty opted to give Nicky Henderson's exciting grey his head in the two mile Grade Two contest registered as the Wayward Lad Novices' Steeple Chase and the pair never saw another rival.
The 1/6 favourite got in a little close to the third fence allowing second favourite Hinterland to close up to about four or five lengths but that was as close as Paul Nicholls' four year old got to the winner.
Simonsig jumped a little out to his left at two fences in the back straight but that was a minor quibble about another impressive performance which saw the six year old win with his head in his chest for the second time in a week.
Henderson said: "You have to be pleased, it was a brave shout to run so quickly - very un-Henderson like, but I wanted to get the practice in. He's had a nice school. Hinterland is not a mug, he was giving him 11lb and it wasn't a contest. He will probably have one more run at the end of January. Sprinter Sacre ran in the Game Spirit and I wouldn't rule that out (for Simonsig)."
Menorah stayed on strongly under Richard Johnson to take the rescheduled William Hill Levy Board Peterborough Chase.
In a race twice abandoned in recent weeks due to bad weather, Menorah silenced doubts over his ability to handle the very testing conditions as he hit the front five out and kept on well to deny the staying-on Hunt Ball by three and a half lengths.
Trainer Philip Hobbs was absent, still nursing the broken ankle he sustained when staying with fellow handler Nigel Twiston-Davies earlier in the month, but owner Graham Whateley - who hailed King George runner-up Captain Chris as having "run like a lion" - was delighted to see the 7/2 winner return to form.
"I'm delighted, I knew he was in good condition and Philip said he'd never looked better," he said. "He jumped one fence very big but pinged the rest. We'd always aimed for the Peterborough, even when it was at Huntingdon, then Exeter and we're very pleased to see him win at Kempton. Everyone is asking if he is going to go to the Ryanair, but I never like to make any plans - the most important thing is to get him back home and see how he is tomorrow."
Paul Nicholls fired back after a quiet St Stephen's Day with an impressive winner in the opening contest.
Tweedledrum provided young trainer Tom Symonds and conditional jockey Ben Poste with a second high-profile victory in the William Hill — New iPad App Mares’ Handicap Hurdle.
A 33-1 chance when striking at Ascot last month, the mudlark was again rather discounted at 16-1 here but managed to scrape home by three-quarters of a length from Silver Gypsy.
“She was my first runner as a trainer, I couldn’t win with her last year but she’s repaying me in spades,” said Herefordshire-based Symonds. “She’s been very hard to figure out and she does need this ground, so we will have to keep trying to make hay while the rain falls.”
Irish Saint skipped 18 lengths clear of his rivals, headed by McVicar, to make a winning British debut in the William Hill - iPad App Now Available Juvenile Hurdle.
Sent off the 10/11 favourite to follow up his victory on his only previous appearance in France, Irish Saint earned a 14/1 quote with Sky Bet for the Triumph Hurdle.
"He's a horse I want to look after as we view him as a chaser but he deserves a chance to go for something better now," said Nicholls. "I suppose he could come out again at the end of January at either Cheltenham or Haydock."
However the reigning champion trainer stressed that he still has other bullets still to fire with well over two months still to go before the Triumph.
"At the moment, Far West is very much my number one, but there are others still to come out, a couple of ex-Flat horses and another horse from France called Caid du Berlais," he said. "He would have run at Chepstow on Welsh National day in the Finale and might wait for the rescheduled meeting there in a week's time."