Smashing improves Cheltenham profile with Gowran win
Sempre Medici justifies short-priced favouritism to win the Red Mills Trial Hurdle in style
File photo, dated November 2013, of Smashing Image: Inpho/Morgan Treacy
Trained by Henry de Bromhead, the seven-year-old made all of the running under Davy Russell to impressively bring up a hat-trick.
Morning Assembly made an honourable fist of things but he could not live with Smashing, who drew handsomely clear three fences from home as the 9-10 favourite - eventually winning by 11 lengths.
Smashing holds an entry in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, for which he is now available at around the 10-1 mark.
Sempre Medici justified short-priced favouritism to win the Red Mills Trial Hurdle.
Rory O’Moore and Sizing Tennessee cut out most of the running in the Grade Two over two miles, but Willie Mullins’ 2-7 market leader always had the measure of that duo.
Bentelimar gained an advantage approaching the second-last flight, at which point Sizing Tennessee fell, but Sempre Medici and Ruby Walsh had more quality, with seven lengths the winning distance.
Patrick Mullins, the winning trainer’s son and assistant, said: “It was a little harder than expected.
“The ground is very tacky and being a Flat horse it probably wouldn’t suit him.
“He showed a good attitude and I’d imagine he’ll be on the boat for the Champion Hurdle. He should improve for better ground.
“Hopefully he should pick up plenty of races after Cheltenham as well.
“We were wondering a bit going to the last — would he capsize? — but he battled well.”
With Dodging Bullets having his first race since winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham last March, Richard Johnson made the most of Top Gamble’s fitness in the Grade Two heat, registered as the Game Spirit Chase.
Drawing the sting out of Dodging Bullets, Top Gamble, who was backed down to 11-10 favourite, made plenty of the running and pulled clear to win by 10 lengths and continue a tremendous first season for trainer Kerry Lee.
Johnson said: “This horse loves really soft ground and stays very well.
“You thought conditions were slightly more in our favour if we were going to turn the tables on him (Dodging Bullets).
“Come March on better ground, I’m sure Dodging Bullets is going to have a better chance.”
Lee said: “A brilliant performance from Top Gamble and Richard gave him a brilliant ride.
“He’s really enjoyed this ground, he loves Newbury and the row of fences.
“He was a Grade Two winner already last season and the key to him is what we do at home.
“He does something different every day.”
Agrapart gave Lizzie Kelly another big-race success when impressively winning the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.
The first woman rider in Britain to land a Grade One when taking the Feltham Novices’ Chase on Tea For Two at Kempton on Boxing Day, the 5lb claimer came out on top in one of the most competitive handicaps in the calendar.
Dicosimo led to the first but his jumping let him down and he fell at the fourth.
Sternrubin then went on but he could not last the furious pace and was eventually pulled up.
Kelly said: “It’s a surprise, in a way, because of the kind of race this is.
“I got a good run, but I have to say this is down to the stable staff at home.
“This horse is a little tricky and they’ve put in a lot of hard work.
“I thought he had a lovely weight. He’s lovely horse and we’ve always thought a lot of him.
“He’s a tricky animal but he works so hard.”