Impressive Darlan shows his credentials
RACING:Darlan laid down his marker for top honours with an emphatic win in the williamhill.comChristmas Hurdle at Kempton yesterday.
One of four winners on the card for trainer Nicky Henderson, the JP McManus-owned five-year-old was promoted to 7 to 2 favourite from 8 to 1 for the Stan James Champion Hurdle with the sponsors as he beat several other leading players in great fashion.
The winner’s stablemate Punjabi set a steady pace after no one wanted to make the running. There was all to play for as they turned for home with two flights to jump and it was Darlan (3 to 1) who quickened impressively for Tony McCoy to stride away on the run to the last and score by four and a half lengths from Raya Star (8 to 1).
Dodging Bullets was third while the Fighting Fifth winner Countrywide Flame only fourth. McCoy said: “The race was run at a slow pace and Nicky said to be aware and ride him handy. I was just keeping out of trouble and making sure he got a nice run.
“It’s nice that he won and his jumping was pretty good on the whole. He looks like a smart horse and I’m pleased we’ve got him.” Henderson said: “We’ve always thought he had a lot of ability.
“Although he was good at Aintree, you wouldn’t think he’d be suited by a sprint, but he’s beaten them fair and square. There’s Grandouet and Binocular to fit in, but you’d think he’ll have one more run before Cheltenham.”
As well as Long Run’s win, Henderson picked up two races on the undercard. River Maigue built on a promising seasonal reappearance in the novices hurdle. Barry Geraghty punched the 4 to 6 favourite clear to beat New Year’s Eve by seven lengths.
“It was a very good run at Cheltenham and he takes an awful lot of work,” said Henderson. “I know he has won a point-to-point but he doesn’t want to go further than two miles at the moment.”
Rajdhani Express (3 to 1 joint-favourite) carried the Long Run colours to a 34-length success in the William Hill Download The App Novices’ Handicap Chase for the same team.
“We started him off over two miles as he always showed a lot of pace, but it looks as if two-and-a-half is his trip,” said Henderson. “He was awfully unlucky at Taunton and comes from a good family.”
Dynaste set the standard in the young stayers’ division when he stretched his 100 per cent record over fences to three in the Kauto Star Feltham Novices’ Chase.
Tom Scudamore held up the 8 to 13 shot in the early stages before moving the David Pipe-trained grey into a more prominent spot.
Leading four out, Dynaste had the opposition at full stretch as he powered to a nine-length win over Hadrian’s Approach to strengthen his claims for the RSA Chase.
Loose Chips (8 to 1) put up a brave front-running performance to land the William Hill iPad App Now Available Handicap Hurdle.